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Career And Educational Counseling

Career counselors use theories and assessments to help others make career choices, think through career problems, find jobs, and explore opportunities.

Career counselors help people understand their employment options, find jobs, work on career development. One of the simplest definitions is just: the counseling activities related to meaningful and purposeful work.

Some other definitions include:

  • “A process that will help you to know and understand yourself and the world of work in order to make career, educational, and life decisions.” –Boise State University
  • “Counseling with a focus on issues such as career exploration, career change, personal career development and other career related issues.” –Wikipedia
  • “Counseling that provides career information resources, discusses career development, and administers and interprets aptitude and ability assessments.” –
  • “Advice and information about what type of job someone could do or how they could progress to a better job.” -Cambridge Dictionary

There are many different theories of career counseling. These theories date all the way back to Frank Parsons in 1909. He is largely considered the father of modern career counseling and was one of the first people to come up with a theory of career counseling. His theory was very simple, you observe and talk to an individual and then you match them with the best career for them based on what you have observed. This thinking is still the basis for many career counseling theories today. Although there are dozens of theories still in use today, we will cover five that are the most popular.

Popular career counseling theories:

  • Life Span/Life Space (Super)
  • Social Cognitive Career Theory (Lent, Brown, & Hackett)
  • Trait and Factor (Parsons; Williamson)
  • Career Typology (Holland)
  • Constructivist-Narrative (Peavy; Savickas)
  • Positive Psychology Strengths-Based Approach (Seligman)
  • Marginality and Mattering (Schlossberg)
  • The Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) Approach (Peterson, Sampson, and Reardon)

Super’s Life Span/Life Space Theory

In our life we cycle through various roles (son, daughter, spouse, student, worker, leisure role, citizen,etc.) and we go through exploration, establishment, maintenance, and disengagement. Clients can be encouraged not to view their career as one occupation whether they see it as a success or failure, but rather they have many roles over their lifetime and that is the career over their lifetime.

Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT)

Refers to an individual’s personal beliefs about his or her capabilities to perform particular behaviors or courses of action. People are likely to become interested in, choose to pursue, and perform better at activities at which they have strong self-efficacy beliefs, as long as they also have necessary skills and environmental support to pursue these activities.Counseling is centered around helping people develop self-efficacy. Outcome expectations are addressed by counselors as well. These are the personal beliefs people have about what will happen as a result of their career actions. Finally, counselors help people address personal goals so that these goals can help guide and sustain someone’s behavior. Even just the process of generating goals is thought to be helpful for building up a sense of efficacy. Essentially, this theory is all about helping clients create a sense of agency related to career choices and issues.

Trait-and-Factor Theory

Every person has a unique pattern of traits made up of their interests,values, abilities and personality characteristics, these traits can be objectively identified and profiled to represent an individual’s potential. Every occupation is made up of factors required for the successful performance of that occupation. These factors can be objectively identified and represented as an occupational profile. Identify a fit or match between individual traits and job factors using a straightforward problem-solving/decision-making process. The closer the match between personal traits and job factors the greater the likelihood for successful job performance and satisfaction.

Theory of Career Typology

Focuses on individual characteristics and occupational task. Holland’s theory expanded the concept of personality types and posited that: Personalities fall into six broad categories: RIASEC. Since certain personalities are attracted to certain jobs, the work environments then reflect this personality and can be clustered into six similar populations (RIASEC). Although each individual is made up of all six types, one type is usually dominant. Most personalities tend to resemble one to three of the six personality factors. Personalities can be matched with similar combinations of work environments using a problem-solving approach. The closer the match of personality to job, the greater the satisfaction.

Constructivist Theory / Narrative

There are no fixed meanings or realities in the world, there are multiple meanings and multiple realities. Individuals create or construct their own meaning/reality of the world through the experiences they have. People “construct” themselves and the world around them through the interpretations they make and the actions they take. These “constructs” or perceptions of events may be useful or may be misleading. Individuals differ from each other in their construction of events. Two people may participate in the same or similar event and have very different perceptions of the experience. People are self-organizing and meaning-makers. Their lives are ever evolving stories that are under constant revision. An individual may choose to develop “new constructs” or new ”stories“ in their life. To be an empowered or fulfilled person requires critical reflection of the assumptions that account for our daily decisions and actions.

The Field of Positive Psychology

Scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. Founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.Success doesn’t yield happiness. Happiness yields success. The pleasant life: A life that successfully pursues the positive emotions about the present, past, and future. The good life: using signature strengths to obtain abundant gratification (through activities we like doing) in the main realms of life. The meaningful life: using signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.

Marginality and Mattering

Based on theory that when we transition into anticipated or non-anticipated role changes in life Need to feel that we belong and matter in new roles.

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