Counselling Integration practice essay
The following post is an essay researched and written in anticipation of an exam question for the module Career Counselling Theory & Practice (later called "Career Counselling & Coaching") in pursuit of the Organizational Psychology Master's qualification within the University of London's International Programmes (Birkbeck College). Excerpts may be be used with the citation:
Aylsworth, J. (2008). Differences in training and provision are barriers to integration between career and therapeutic counselling. (url) Accessed: (Month year).
Exam essay question:
"Critically discuss the call for more integration between career counselling and therapeutic counselling."
Differences in Training and Provision
Are Barriers to Integration
Between Career & Therapeutic Counselling
After defining key terms, we will explore arguments for and against integration of career and therapeutic counselling as well as practical application in the context of five key issues: Theoretical and practical overlap, how integration might be pursued, counsellor- and client-resistance, training and provision. We will conclude by arguing for integration, with caution, while stating that training and provision are the most serious barriers to be overcome before significant advancement can occur.
We will understand career counselling as “a process that enables a person to recognize and manage career-related problems” (Nathan & Hill, 1992). We will define therapeutic counselling as “an action-oriented, career-non-specific process that occurs in the context of a contractual, empowering and empathetic professional relationship” (Zeig & Munion, 1990).
Theoretical and practical overlap. Career counselling developed in the U.S. from Parson’s work in vocational guidance. Therapeutic counselling emerged in Europe, where it was rooted in psychoanalytic traditions. Although the two developed separately, they are related theoretically, nevertheless. Blustein and Spengler (1995) write that career counselling is a subset of therapeutic counselling and that trying to separate the two creates an artificial distinction. Herr (1997) insists that the two should fuse, most appropriately from a developmental perspective, while Spokane (1989) writes that the two domains are most interdependent during times of change.
Yet despite theoretical overlap, room for caution exists. Blustein and Spengler (1995) acknowledge that career interventions have been associated with improved mental health outcomes; yet, a worsening of mental health problems has also been reported (Campbell, 1965). Betz and Corning (1993) write that effective counselling treats the whole person, yet Neff (1985) notes that personal adjustment does not always lead to improved work performance. Finally, work-related problems can exist independently from personal problems (Lucas & Epperson, 1988).
The conclusion here is that theoretical overlap argues for integration but with a caution to allow for domain differences where they may exist.
How integration might be pursued. Several frameworks exist to be utilized at the discretion of both career and therapeutic counsellors. Each could offer value in helping counselors from either domain identify issues that are more appropriately addressed in the other domain and, thus, identify when to refer beyond the counsellor's own practice.
First, we have Ali & Graham’s (1996) chain of career guidance activities, consisting of advice, guidance, counselling and therapy. Next, Tyler’s (1961) counselling for choice-versus-change distinction can help separate clients who only need information from all others. Super’s (1993) continuum with situational counselling at one pole and personal counselling at the other is another framework.
And finally, we have Blustein and Spengler’s (1995) domain-sensitive approach. The idea here is for the counsellor to determine the most appropriate domain based on client context, i.e. the social, cultural and historical environments in which client issues may be rooted. The counsellor is free to move back and forth between domains as needed, and the client is at liberty to explore solutions in the least threatening domain. A point in favor of a domain-sensitive approach is the idea that career counselling and therapeutic counselling may have shared processes, the most salient being affective and relationship factors. In fact, the only major difference may be the provision of information, which has traditionally been associated with career counselling. The variety and availability of these frameworks argues for integration.
Counselor- and Client-Resistance. Therapeutic counsellors may believe that career counselling is not “true” counselling” and, consequently, may be disinclined to use their affective skills when they are most needed (Meara & Patton, 1994). In addition, Spengler (1995) writes of “vocational overshadowing,” in which the counsellor perceives career concerns as less interesting, prestigious or profitable than therapeutic issues.
Client resistance can also occur, referring to anything the client does to interfere with the counselling process (Meara & Patton, 1994). Client resistance can take the form of fear of the counsellor, fear of the counselling process or fear that something will be revealed about oneself. For career counsellng specifically, client resistance can manifest in feeling stigmatized at having to consider therapeutic counselling as well as a reluctance to invest financial and emotional resources when the only perceived need is for information.
Client resistance is a basic issue of counselling as are ruptures of the working alliance (McLeod, 2003). Thus, these and other counselling-related potential obstacles just come with the terrain of counselling, in general, and do not necessarily argue against further integration between career and therapeutic counselling.
Training. Training differences between the two domains, as well as within each, represent a serious barrier. Essentially, therapeutic counsellors must be credentialed, and that credentialing can only be sought and earned after completing higher education degrees, typically at the master’s and doctoral levels. However, for career counselling, at least in the U.S., no specific training or certification is required to call oneself a career counsellor and begin practicing. However, credible certification programs are available, for example, through the National Career Development Association (ncda.org).
Another problem is that each domain, as an ideal, has unique areas of knowledge. The more obvious argument is that career counselors cannot possibly acquire the theory-informed academic knowledge that therapeutic counselors have spent years acquiring, but the reverse point is also well-taken. Imbibo (1994) writes that career counselling should be reserved for only the most experienced therapeutic counselors because the former requires such extensive knowledge of testing and interpretation. He also believes that master’s and doctoral level students should have additional training in testing and interpretation. Therefore, training differences represent a serious barrier to be overcome if integration is to be pursued further.
Provision. Because therapeutic and career counselling are not connected with the same provider networks (at least in the U.S.), provision represents a serious barrier to integration between the two forms of counselling. For example, as in the U.K., (Kidd, 2003), career counselling provision occurs through the educational system, employers and the free market. The educational system is the most intentionally broadly delivered, but it lacks. To illustrate, high school guidance counsellors in U.S. public schools do not have the time or the training to deliver theory-informed career guidance (U.S. Department of Education, 2003). According to a report commissioned by the USDE, counsellors’ top three time-invested activities were course-scheduling assistance, post-secondary admissions assistance and handling discipline problems. Lack of opportunities for professional development, specifically education in testing and assessment, were also significant. Like training, provision differences must be seen as a serious barrier to integration.
In addressing the arguments for and against integration as well as practical issues, we have presented theoretical and practical overlap and available frameworks as arguments for integration, counsellor- and client resistance as non-precluding barriers, and work and provision as serious barriers.
So far unacknowledged has been the contribution of writers who have already proven that some degree of integration is possible by adapting counselling theories for career counselling (e.g. Watkins & Savickas, 1990; Krumboltz, 1979; Crites, 1976; Cochran, 1997). While their work represents a major, collective step toward integration, it does not address the barriers of training and provision. We conclude that further integration should be pursued, but that it will be unrealistic to expect further significant progress if these barriers cannot be overcome or at least moved aside. If they can, then perhaps integration between career counselling and therapeutic counselling can begin to deliver in practice the alignment that it represents in theory.
Exam performance: This essay was memorized and used under exam conditions and was marked at merit level despite the fact that it is missing a topic sentence.