Career Counseling

This section summarizes the development of career counseling, the most widely used career counseling interventions, the typical settings in which career counseling occurs, important differences among clients who seek career counseling services, the focal issues examined in career counseling, and the career counseling process. The articles appearing in this section describe these topics in greater detail.

Development of Career Counseling

The theoretical underpinnings of career counseling were first recorded around 360 B.C. when Plato observed in The Republic that different jobs require different types of workers for optimal performance. Today we regard this as obvious; the jobs of elementary school teacher, truck driver, opera singer, and accountant each require a different set of skills and interests.

Career CounselingFrank Parsons formalized this theory of the relation between people and jobs in the late 19th century. He wrote that effective career placement requires knowledge of the special talents of the worker, the requirements of various occupations, and the relations between these sets of knowledge. Over time Parsons’s ideas have been codified into the person-environment fit model and trait and factor counseling. The overlapping disciplines of counseling psychology, vocational psychology, and career counseling emerged from this beginning.

Three crises, World Wars I and II and the Great Depression, helped shape career counseling. Prior to World War I, French scholars Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon developed a test to measure cognitive ability. Their work paved the way for modern intelligence tests. Entry into World War I suddenly confronted the United States with the need to place hundreds of thousands of workers into suitable jobs. Using the Binet-Simon approach as a starting point, the U.S. Army developed a series of tests (e.g., the Army Alpha and Army Beta) to measure cognitive aptitudes. Scores of these tests were used to place military recruits into suitable jobs. This work developed and validated a model of vocational placement that has been a key component of career counseling for over 90 years.

The Great Depression focused attention on the nation’s workforce and provided another stimulus to the development of career counseling. Under the leadership of Donald G. Paterson at the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Employment Stabilization Research Institute (MESRI) undertook a decade of research on the optimal relation of workers to jobs. MESRI research demonstrated that workers perform better and are less likely to quit or be terminated when placed in occupations that match their interests and aptitudes. The MESRI also developed an extensive library of aptitude tests for use in job placement. MESRI research demonstrated unequivocally that skilled career counseling using a trait-and-factor approach produces beneficial results.

The entry of the United States into World War II again created a need to assign millions of workers to jobs in an efficient manner. The career counseling procedures and instruments developed and validated by the MESRI were applied in the most massive application of career counseling in history.

Following the war, the GI Bill enabled veterans to enter colleges and universities in unprecedented numbers. This created a strong need for career counseling services in those institutions. An even larger number of veterans sought civilian jobs. This created a demand for career counseling services for civilians and stimulated the development of the United States Employment Service.

Clinical psychology was a well-established specialty for treating the mentally ill by the end of World War II. Insightful leaders such as University of Minnesota psychologist John G. Darley recognized that normal individuals sometimes need assistance in dealing with problems confronting them in daily life. Clinical psychologists were ill prepared to provide this assistance, but that is the type of assistance career counseling personnel had been providing. The contemporary specialty of counseling psychology is an outgrowth of the MESRI research, military experience in vocational placement, and Darley’s recognition of healthy individuals’ needs for developmentally oriented services.

As the United States became more affluent during the 1950s and 1960s, two social movements furthered the development of career counseling. Early 20th-century generations experienced the strife and deprivation of two world wars and the Great Depression, but the baby boom generation experienced a time of relative affluence and tranquility. The earlier generations’ survival concerns were replaced by the baby boomers’ desire for an occupation that would enhance their quality of life and contribute to a better world. Established workers also began to consider a midlife career change to a more meaningful occupation. Workers who in earlier times would have unquestioningly followed in their parents’ footsteps or taken a job that satisfied their basic survival needs now turned to career counseling for assistance in achieving these goals.

At the same time, leaders like Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Betty Friedan were exposing the glaring inconsistency between the public endorsement of equality and the harsh realities of colonialism, racism, and sexism. Minority group members, women, and immigrants whose parents had few choices were now confronted with increased opportunities, and many turned to career counseling for help in making informed decisions.

The last 2 decades have seen a growing concern about the aging American workforce. In earlier decades relatively few workers achieved retirement age, and most who did died shortly after retirement. Today a steadily increasing proportion of the workforce lives for a decade or more after retirement. The importance of maximizing the efficiency of the workforce is steadily increasing as the proportion of the population in the workforce decreases. Industrial nations cannot afford to ignore the potential contributions of any segment of their workforce. Handicapped and disadvantaged individuals, Native Americans, displaced workers needing retraining, people having limited English proficiency, single parents, criminal offenders, and chronically unemployed workers—the contributions of all are critical to the health of the nation’s economy. All must receive the assistance they need to make the most of the opportunities available. The need for skillful career counseling is as great as at any time in history.

Career Counseling Interventions

Modern career counseling is a multifaceted specialty that provides a rich array of services. This section provides a synopsis of frequently used career interventions: individual counseling, group counseling, computer-based interventions, and career education. It is important to understand, however, that basic activities such as assessing interests, values, and aptitudes; providing occupational and college major information; and providing instruction in job search skills are included in each of these types of counseling interventions.

Individual Counseling

Individual career counseling involves a professional counselor working in a one-to-one relationship with a single client. The objectives of individual counseling may focus on helping clients increase their self-knowledge, decision-making skills, or knowledge of occupational opportunities and the world of work. Often this involves the administration and interpretation of psychological tests and the use of reference sources to obtain detailed occupational information. Individual counseling may also involve other activities under the supervision and coordination of a psychologist. For example, clients may use computer guidance systems such as the System of Interactive Guidance Information (SIGI), may participate in workshops on topics such as study skills or time management, and may participate in structured groups that deal with issues such as assertion training, resume development, or job interviews.

Individual counseling is a desired and important component of effective career counseling. Several studies have shown computer-assisted guidance systems to be effective in enhancing career outcomes. However, clients prefer to use them in conjunction with individual career counseling, and their use in combination with individual counseling is more effective than their use alone.

Group Counseling

Group counseling differs from individual counseling in one important respect; group members learn from each other in addition to learning from their interactions with the counselor. This can be particularly valuable to individuals who are early in their career exploration and lack career-related experience and information.

Group career counseling takes a variety of forms. Career development groups include most of the components found in individual career counseling, and they have similar objectives. Group participants typically take tests and participate in a group discussion of their test results. In addition, they may be assigned to complete a computer-based activity, prepare a resume, complete a homework assignment, or interview a potential employer or a person employed in a career of interest. Clients complete these activities outside the group and discuss their experiences during a group meeting.

Structured group interventions are more narrowly focused on a specific issue. The goals of structured groups are limited only by the needs of clients and the imagination of psychologists. For example, structured groups are commonly offered to teach assertiveness skills, resume preparation, time management, study skills, and interviewing skills. Sensitivity groups focus on interpersonal topics such as sexism, racism, and other workplace behaviors.

Electronic Media

Computer-based career counseling modules are delivered via computer or online via the Internet. Computer-based career assessment inventories are now common. Among the most widely used online career interest inventories are the Strong Interest Inventory, the Self-Directed Search, the Kuder Interest Inventory and Career Planning System, the ACT’s Interest Inventory (UNIACT), and the Interest Profiler found in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET). The online administration of aptitude tests is increasing and some, such as the Graduate Records Examination (GRE), now require special arrangements for any other than an online administration.

Career information is also widely available via electronic media. Meta-analyses reveal that access to accurate occupational information is among the most important predictors of a positive outcome. The O*NET contains a comprehensive set of databases that permit on-line searches of occupational information using criteria such as interests, values, and employment growth. ACT and the College Board maintain free sites that permit users to search for a college using criteria such as admissions requirements, tuition costs, and geographic location.

Computer-based guidance systems now offer the full range of career guidance services. DISCOVER and SIGI house instruments for measuring interests, abilities and values. Also included are databases containing detailed information about occupations (both military and civilian), majors (ranging from short technical training programs to graduate programs), colleges and universities, and financial aid. Individuals can complete a DISCOVER or SIGI assessment tool to learn about themselves; use the programs’ databases to relate their scores to their choices of a school, college major, or career field; and then access information about the education, skills, and background required for their selected options.

Psychologists now provide online career counseling services using online chat, videoconferencing, voice over Internet protocol (VOIP or Internet phone), e-mail, and weblogs. These options make career counseling services available to people who might not otherwise have access to counseling (e.g., homebound individuals and those living in areas not serviced by professionals). Some caution is advisable because these approaches to service delivery have not yet been evaluated sufficiently. There is reason for optimism, however, because preliminary evidence suggests that e-mail, chat, and videoconferencing can provide effective career counseling services for some clients.

Career Education

Career education refers to an organized program of instruction designed to increase vocational self-knowledge, provide occupational information, teach effective decision-making skills, and improve the individual’s ability to deal with life transitions. Ideally, children will be introduced to career education during their early years and have continued exposure to career education as they progress through the educational system. Critical considerations in the design of career education for children are the learner’s developmental stage, knowledge of the types of activities that are appropriate for learners at each developmental stage, and an understanding of the intended outcomes.

Exposure to career education continues to be important after the completion of formal education. The last 3 decades have seen a shift away from the view of employment as a lifelong commitment between worker and employer. Workers are now regarded more as independent contractors who move from job to job across their work life. Career education for mature workers helps them develop and maintain transferable skills that are useful in multiple employment contexts. Mature workers continue their career education by enrolling in continuing education programs and by maintaining a lifelong commitment to learning.

Career Counseling Settings

Career counseling is widely available in colleges and universities; in the United States many offer career counseling services for faculty and staff members in addition to students. Career counseling services also are available in a variety of alternative settings in contemporary American society. This section describes career counseling in schools, colleges and universities, businesses, nonprofit and professional organizations, and private practice settings.


Career counseling in schools begins in the elementary school years and continues through high school graduation. The purpose, particularly in the elementary and middle school years, is to inform students about career-related issues and to spark the career development process. Successful activities are consistent with the students’ vocational maturity (i.e., their stage in the career development process). Most elementary school students have not yet begun to think realistically about career issues; career education initiates the transition from career fantasies (i.e., being a ballerina or baseball player) to realistic career planning.

Much of the early career-related instruction appears in examples in assigned reading materials (e.g., readers and social studies books). As students progress through the elementary grades, career education activities become more common. Many of these take the form of special assignments or modules introduced by the teacher. Other career education activities include career days and speakers who talk about career-related topics.

The pace of career development varies greatly as adolescents progress through the middle school and high school years. Many can benefit from group activities such as workshops, but others require more specialized attention such as that provided by group counseling or individual counseling. The objectives during the middle school years are to broaden the range of options students consider and to provide the information they need to think realistically about careers.

During high school, students begin to plan for their entry into the workforce or to attend a college or university. Individual counseling, group counseling, and structured workshops are more common during these years. It is only at this age that most students begin to be able to relate career issues to their personal situation. The goals are to sensitize students to the vocational significance of their personal values, interests, and skills and to provide information about the demands and benefits of alternative career options.

Colleges and Universities

For most students, the entry into college demarks the beginning of their ability to act upon career choices. Although many have given considerable thought to their career plans, their ability to explore their ideas in a meaningful way has been constrained by their age, dependence on their family, and limited work experience and high school curricular offerings. Thus, many enter higher education with an understanding of the importance of career choice and with feelings of anxiety regarding their relative lack of progress.

Most college students engage in a period of exploration during which they try out various courses, part-time jobs, and volunteer activities to learn more about themselves and their career options. Often they recognize a need for increased personal understanding of their interests, values, and aptitudes. The need for greater self-knowledge may also involve gaining a more mature understanding of their own unique circumstances as a women, racial minority group member, disabled individual, or gay, lesbian, or bisexual person. Older adults returning to college after an absence from school often face additional issues such as work-family conflicts, stress, and age discrimination.

A wide variety of career services are available in campus settings, including individual and group counseling, structured workshops, internships, student work opportunities, and assistance with job placement. In aggregate, these services strive to achieve the goals of Frank Parsons’s model: helping students learn about themselves, the world of work and the relation between the two sets of knowledge.


Among the earliest organizations to provide career counseling services were the corporations that emerged with the industrial revolution. Until recent years the primary focus of these organizations was employee selection and individual career advancement (often referred to as career management).

Corporations began to offer a wider range of services in the late 1980s, and many now offer a program of career counseling services.

Government agencies such as the military, rehabilitation agencies, and correctional facilities also provide career counseling services. Career counseling on military bases tends to emphasize the transition from a military specialty to a civilian occupation. Rehabilitation counseling helps people identify suitable training and employment options so that they can become self-supporting. The focus in correctional and mental health facilities is on helping clients develop work attitudes, behaviors, and marketable skills that will permit them to secure and maintain employment following their discharge.

Many organizations employ staff members (often in their human resources department) to provide career services. Specialists employed as independent contractors may supplement the routine services by providing specialized services such as psychological assessment and work evaluations. Other organizations contract with independent professionals or corporations (e.g., an employee assistance firm) for career counseling services.

Private Practice

Until recently there was little opportunity for career counselors to work exclusively in private practices. Free career counseling is available to most individuals through schools, colleges and universities, services organizations (e.g., B’nai Brith and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America) and government agencies (e.g., the United States Employment Service, the Rehabilitation Services Administration, and the military). However, expansion of the range of career services offered by corporations in the late 1980s increased the opportunities for psychologists in private practice to specialize in career counseling. Organizations often find that contracting with private practitioners is cost-effective because career services can be purchased on an as-needed basis.

The career counseling services most frequently provided by private practitioners are those specialized or time-intensive services that are not cost-effective to provide in house. These include individual counseling, psychological assessment, assistance with career decision making and coaching, and career management.

Private practitioners also have organizations as their clients. Their functions in these arrangements often include assistance with staffing decisions (e.g., evaluating candidates for employment or promotion), the development of succession plans and programs, assisting employees in dual-career and dual-partner relationships with their career transitions and career search, and outplacement. Organizations often seek the assistance of an independent contractor when issues such as sexual harassment, sexism, or racism require attention.

Career Counseling Clients

Psychologists and counselors who provide counseling services recognize and value the uniqueness of each client. They approach their counseling interactions with clients without preconceived notions, but they also recognize that all people are influenced by their cultural and social experiences. This section briefly reviews some of the critical issues that psychologists and counselors consider when providing career counseling services to selected groups of clients.

Work-Bound Youth

Work-bound youth have limited life and work experience to draw upon in making life-shaping career decisions. To become successful employees, they must possess basic academic (e.g., reading, writing, and mathematics) and cognitive (e.g., decision-making and problem-solving) and social and personal (e.g., conscientiousness and self-management) skills. Psychologists and counselors counseling work-bound youth formulate an approach for career counseling based on their evaluation of the client’s vocational maturity and proficiency in these domains. The choices made by these youngsters are the initial steps in their career, so career counselors help them make decisions that will maintain their future options rather than foreclose future possibilities.

Adults in Transition

The cohort of adults making career transitions is varied because any passage that causes a change in status (e.g., marriage, birth of a child, death of a loved one, termination from employment, and decision to retire) can trigger a career transition. Transitions such as school-to-work and a change in job title and responsibilities can be anticipated. This permits the development of a strategic plan that allows some control over the timing, pace, and details of the transition.

Nevertheless, anticipated transitions require some changes in behavior and relationships, and they involve both losses and gains.

Unanticipated transitions catch people by surprise. They can result from events (e.g., downsizing and health issues) or planned events that fail to occur. Unanticipated transitions allow little or no time to develop plans for minimizing negative consequences, and they often cause a sense of personal crisis.

Clients with Disabilities

Disabilities can be classified as physical, psychiatric, or cognitive in nature. Physical disabilities limit people’s ability to perform the full range of typical motor functions. They can result from congenital conditions, physical injuries, or progressive conditions such as diabetes. The environment is an important factor in determining the effects of a condition. For example, the inability to stand is not a limitation in most situations where keyboarding is performed because most people perform that activity while sitting.

Psychiatric disabilities affect the person’s ability to reason and to deal successfully with typical life events. Cognitive disabilities affect the individual’s problem-solving and decision-making abilities. Contrary to stereotypes, people’s ability to perform many occupations is unaffected by these disabilities.

Psychologists and counselors working with individuals having a disability evaluate both the nature of the disability and the individual’s adjustment to the disability. Adjustment takes time, and people also differ in their ability to accept changes in their status. Clients who have not yet made a realistic adjustment to their present status typically require different counseling services than those who have adjusted to their status and are committed to making the best of their life.

An individual’s adjustment to a disability may vary over time. Conditions that require careful attention to a medical or physical regimen are susceptible to variations in adjustment. For example, some people with a psychiatric disability may function successfully for a period of time, but then relapse because they discontinue their medication.

Another consideration is whether the disability is stable or progressive. Stable disabilities allow the counselor and client to make career plans based on the client’s present status. Progressive conditions require career plans that anticipate the progression of the disability.

Regardless of these differences, however, psychologists and counselors avoid making the disability the focus of their attention. The goal of counseling is to identify vocational options that provide an optimal fit for the client. This determination is made in the context of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to enable persons with disabilities to perform jobs successfully. Psychologists and counselors help clients understand their rights under the law, identify the accommodations that will allow them to perform desired occupations successfully, and help them practice constructive ways to communicate this information to employers and prospective employers.

Ethnically and Culturally Diverse Clients

Differences attributable to cultural and social experiences are universal. For example, collectivist cultures endorse values and behaviors that differ from those preferred by individualist cultures. Important cultural differences exist even among groups many unthinkingly regard as homogeneous: Euro-Americans who trace their ancestry to Scandinavian countries (e.g., Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians), the British Isles (e.g., Irish, English, Scots, and Welsh), and Germanic countries (e.g., Dutch, Germans, and Austrians). Some groups (e.g., Irish and German) have suffered from pervasive discrimination in recent memory, and others are still targets of discrimination (e.g., African Americans and Native Americans). Some groups are still targets of negative stereotypes (e.g., Jewish, Irish, homosexual, and Native American individuals).

Psychologists and counselors avoid stereotyping, but they recognize that members of social, gender, and ethnic groups are likely to have had common experiences and to share similar views of the world. Psychologists and counselors attempt to understand and respect the influence of their client’s cultural heritage. The following sections describe factors psychologists consider when providing career counseling to individuals from selected segments of American society.

African Americans

Understanding the African American culture in the context of White American culture is critical to success in counseling African Americans. Developing an understanding of the differences in the way African

Americans experience American society is necessary to work effectively with them. Variables that are important include the client’s racial identity development, social network, role models, family influences, and perception of the barriers that racism and lack of economic resources impose to reaching their career goals.

Asian Americans

The stereotype that Asian Americans are a model minority is as harmful as the more negative stereotypes attached to other groups. Asian Americans’ reticence to disclose personal problems to avoid “loss of face” may account in part for this stereotypic impression. Nevertheless, this stereotype suggests that Asian Americans need less attention than other segments of American society. That view encourages neglect, and it contributes to the fact that relatively little is known about Asian Americans’ career development and career behavior.

Asian Americans’ career interests, values, and vocational behavior tend to differ from those of the typical Euro-American. For example, parental influence plays a greater role in their career decision making. Asian Americans rely more heavily on collectivist approaches to work-related tasks, a difference that is sometimes interpreted as reflecting insecurity and a lack of leadership qualities. From an Asian American perspective, however, these behaviors reflect their cultural emphasis on collectivist approaches to problem solving.


Latinos form a diverse group of individuals whose ancestry derives from Spanish-speaking countries in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. As a group, their career aspirations are as high as those of other segments of American society, but their expectations to achieve their aspirations are lower than those of other groups. This lack of confidence is attributable in part to a lack of self-efficacy beliefs and to their perception of barriers to their career goals. These factors cause Latinos to eliminate desirable career options from consideration.

Latinos value family strongly; many place greater importance on being a part of the family unit than on meeting their individual needs. Latinos are likely to make career decisions in consultation with family members. They give strong consideration to the effects of their choices on their family, and they may sacrifice personal needs to the family’s welfare.

Latinos are concentrated in the working class and in working-class neighborhoods. They are underrepresented in many desirable high-paying and high-status occupations. These factors limit the occupations to which they are exposed and influence the quality of the education they receive. Many obtain a less than average education from the public school system and lack the resources to pursue additional education or other career training. In addition, discrimination may pose a barrier to considering some career options.

Native Americans

Success in pursuing educational and career objectives requires Native Americans to balance their commitment to their traditional culture with the need to become comfortable in the dominant Euro-American culture. This challenge is unique to Native Americans, and it calls into question the cultural validity of some mainstream career development constructs such as career maturity.

Native Americans often live in rural locations in impoverished communities. They have the highest unemployment rate and the lowest rate of academic achievement among minority groups in America. Many Native American tribes emphasize a sense of physical place and view their relation to the environment differently than Euro-Americans. Many also emphasize collectivist values, and they regard competition less favorably than Euro-Americans. They value the advancement of the social unit rather than efforts by a single individual to stand out above the rest.

These factors influence Native Americans’ approach to career development. For example, they involve family and tribe in their career decision making and in the career development process. Career counseling that considers the culture, context, and constructions of the Native American culture may be more successful than counseling from the perspective of the majority culture. It may be important to include family members and even tribal leaders in the career counseling process.


Although many immigrants share a racial heritage with African Americans, Asian Americans, or Latinos, they differ in that they are new to the country in which they reside. They may not speak the dominant language, may not have a locally accessible network of friends or relatives, and may not be aware of the resources available to help with their career and related issues. Regardless of their educational level and technical training, administrative barriers such as work permits and licensing requirements may limit the types of positions they can hold. Counselors may need to assist immigrant clients in dealing with the bureaucratic requirements that impose barriers to career development.

People immigrate to a new country for a variety of reasons including better economic prospects, political persecution, and a natural disaster. In some instances, families arrive intact; while in other instances, immigrants arrive alone. Many immigrate legally, but approximately half of the immigrants enter the Unites States illegally. These factors influence immigrants’ willingness and ability to benefit from career counseling.

In addition to discrimination, language skills, and administrative barriers, subtle factors also influence the career development of immigrants. Career counselors may need to deal with personal issues such as loss of power and status, changes in role appropriate behavior, and feelings of impotence from loss of ability to provide for the family. Interpersonal styles that are accepted in the immigrant’s native culture may be considered inappropriate in the United State. Immigrants from male dominant cultures may find that their values and role expectations are inconsistent with Euro-American values. Females from these cultures may feel uncomfortable making decisions without the permission of the significant males in their lives. Individuals from collectivist societies may need to include their entire family in the career decision-making process.

Gay and Lesbian Clients

In contrast to other segments of American society, gay men and lesbians must contend with the reality that discrimination against them is legal and institutionalized. Those who are employed often have to contend with discriminatory institutional policies (e.g., limits in healthcare coverage) and a workplace climate that is unwelcoming or hostile. Some segments of society even regard such discrimination as a sign of the moral superiority of the person practicing the discrimination.

Because discrimination against them is legal, many homosexual persons feel threatened and are reluctant to participate openly in psychological research. As a consequence, information about their vocational interests, career aspirations, and other aspects of their career development is not readily available. For example, stereotypes suggest that gay men and lesbians tend to value gender nontraditional occupations, but there is little scientific research to illuminate this possibility. It is not clear whether homosexual individuals possess genuinely nontraditional interests and aspirations, or whether they are attracted to occupations they perceive to be more accepting of homosexual individuals.

Career counselors take care to ensure that their personal values do not interfere with their work with homosexual clients. They refrain from imposing their values on the client and remain sensitive to their clients’ needs, values, and aspirations. They are comfortable discussing their client’s sexual identity. They help their clients consider how negative stereotypes and covert and overt discrimination may affect their career choices and career development, how open their clients plan to be regarding their sexual identity, and the potential consequences of that decision.

Career Counseling Issues

Psychologists and counselors place no artificial limits on the issues clients can raise in career counseling. Clients often come to career counseling wanting help with a specific issue and intending to talk only about a limited range of topics, but achieving a beneficial outcome often requires the examination of a wide range of issues and topics. For example, unhappiness at work can have negative consequences at home and vice versa. Resolving problems that involve work often require dealing with problems in other aspects of life.

Career Counseling Process

Career and personal counseling evolved from the job placement and vocational guidance models that psychologists developed during the first half of the 20th century, and career and personal counselors use many of the same helping skills. Although the external appearance of counselor-client interactions may differ across these specialties, the underlying elements that account for much of the success of the counseling interaction are the same. Both specialties require proficiency in basic interviewing and psychological assessment skills.

Success in career counseling depends upon the skillful use of active listening skills and the development of a therapeutic counselor-client relationship. This involves establishing an emotional bond between the counselor and client based on mutual respect and trust and reaching an agreement on the goals of therapy and the tasks that will be undertaken to achieve those goals. Development of the therapeutic relationship begins in the first interview and continues throughout the course of counseling.

Success in career counseling also depends upon the skillful use of assessment procedures to assist the client’s self-exploration. An individualized interpretation of the test results and knowledgeable assistance in relating the test results to occupational information leads to the identification of a narrowed range of potential occupational alternatives for the client to consider. This enables the client to gather more detailed information about those occupations and ultimately to make informed career decisions.

Throughout the career counseling process psychologists and counselors provide emotional support, help their clients establish goals, and provide assistance in developing problem-solving and decision-making skills when needed. Many career counselors also help their clients develop resumes, interviewing skills, job search skills, and social support and career networks.


Career counseling theory and practice is an effective psychological specialty that has benefited from over 90 years of innovation and experimentation. Meta-analyses of decades of research reveal that career interventions produce measurable benefits. Individual career counseling, structured career counseling groups, career workshops, and career education are all effective interventions that are useful for helping clients explore options and make career decisions. Nevertheless, efforts continue to identify even more effective career counseling interventions that can be used to assist an increasingly diverse clientele.


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