A difficult task facing career counselors concerns applying abstract career theories to concrete problems presented by clients. Over the years, counselor educators have voiced concern about their trainees’ ability to accurately assess client problems and make sound clinical decisions. In practice, novice career counselors also become perplexed by the multitude of career methods and materials available to them. Conceptualizing a client’s career problem requires a map to guide the selection of appropriate career services, and vocational scholars have proposed diagnostic classifications of career problems. A recent theory-based classification by Savickas was designed as a matrix to strengthen the connection between theory and practice as well as to ease the transaction between researchers and counselors. This model, summarized here, elaborates upon the Savickas model for career services and offers a practical schema useful for counselors who provide career counseling services. This taxonomic model has two conceptual domains, interpersonal and intrapersonal, that each encompasses three developmental levels. These domains and levels constitute six career service areas:
- career guidance,
- career placement,
- career education,
- career counseling,
- career life-development, and
- career adjustment.
Career problem assessment begins by locating a career problem in one of two conceptual domains for further exploration. Within the interpersonal domain, there is active negotiation with the environment or a high degree of contact with other persons. The implicit problem in career guidance involves making a career choice. The counselor often explores whether the client wishes to begin a new job or change an existing position. The objective is to assist clients in learning how to explore matches between their clarified self-concept and jobs. The implicit problem in career placement involves starting a career. The counselor is concerned with how clients attain their chosen positions. The objective is to assist a client after he or she has made an occupational choice: preparing and refining self-presentation behavior. The implicit problem in career education involves developing one’s career. The counselor focuses on the individual’s dispositions and problem-solving abilities.
The intrapersonal domain is growth seeking and discomfort reducing. It involves contact with one’s feelings, emotions, and cognitions. The implicit problem in career counseling involves one’s self-conception. The counselor explores the client’s self-concept, approach to meaning making, and cognitive structure. The objective is to prepare a client to articulate and develop his or her vocational self-concepts and public identities and to develop career decision-making skills. The implicit problem in career development involves managing and coping with work. The counselor explores how the client has been and is adapting to multiple life roles in the context of work. A primary objective is to prepare a client to anticipate, become aware of, and cope with concerns arising within the stages of the career life span. The implicit problem in career adjustment involves adaptation to a career. The counselor explores how the client is adapting to thwarting conditions. The objective is to help a client adjust to unanticipated and unique events within his or her work position by developing coping skills and resilience.
Assessment begins with a focus on how a client experiences his or her career problems and aids in determining the experiential level of the presenting problems. Level A problems involve choosing an occupation (i.e., career guidance and career counseling). Level B problems involve preparing to enter a chosen occupation (i.e., career placement and career development), and Level C problems involve coping with a career (i.e., career education and career adjustment).
Career guidance shows clients how to gather information about themselves and the world of work.
Career counseling helps a client with intrapersonal barriers to career choice closure. Career placement helps a client develop and plan ways to attain a new position. Career/life development applies theories and measures to assist clients in coping with, preparing for, and managing concerns primarily related to balancing work with other life-role activities. Career education engages students and clients in discussion about their competencies such as planning and decision making, and fosters self-management attitudes such as future orientation and autonomy. Career adjustment explores client’s work personality and work competencies.
Although not presented here, this model locates the major theories and common measures applied as they relate to the six service areas. As this framework aids in the understanding of a client’s presenting career problem, it also serves to guide intervention planning, provides a perspective to guide further inquiry, and intends to stimulate necessary research efforts to investigate its effectiveness for counselors.
- Busacca, L. A. (2002). Career problem assessment: A conceptual schema for counselor training. Journal of Career Development, 29, 129-146.
- Nelson, M. L., & Neufeldt, S. A. (1998). A pedagogy of counseling: A critical examination. Counselor Education and Supervision, 38, 70-88.
- Rounds, J. B., Jr., & Tinsley, H. E. A. (1984). Diagnosis and treatment of vocational problems. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Handbook of counseling psychology (pp. 137-177). New York: Wiley.
- Savickas, M. L. (1996). A framework for linking career theory and practice. In M. L. Savickas & W. B. Walsh (Eds.), Handbook of career counseling theory and practice (pp. 191-208). Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black.