Within a generation, cultural shifts have transformed the American workforce – and so too the field of career counseling.

Today’s young adults are attending college in greater numbers than their parents, and if they get married at all, they’re much more likely to tie the knot later in life than previous generations have. At the same time, the baby boomers are reaching their 60s and 70s and facing the adjustments of retirement or semi-retirement.

“Far from being a standard or rote procedure, career counseling, in response to these social and economic changes, has become a dynamic, creative and highly individualized process,” write the authors of Career Counseling: Holism, Diversity and Strengths in the book’s introduction.

Career_Counseling_brandingThe first edition of Norman Gysbers, Mary Heppner and Joseph Johnston’s book Career Counseling was published in 1998. The American Counseling Association released a fourth edition this year.

Although each edition has featured updates addressing the field’s changing landscape – for instance, a chapter on using social media was added to the most recent edition – the authors and counselor educators have always retained their focus on taking a holistic approach to career counseling.

The issues that career counseling clients present with are complex and “interwoven with personal, emotional, family and work issues,” the authors write. “… Many client problems addressed in career counseling originate in the work world and then spill over into other arenas of life.”

Counseling Today caught up with Norman Gysbers to talk about the fourth edition of Career Counseling, as well as the importance of taking a holistic approach – a “wide angle lens,” he explains – to career counseling.


Q+A: Career Counseling: Holism, Diversity and Strengths

Responses from co-author Norman Gysbers


What do you and your co-authors hope counselors will take away from the book?

We would like counselors to take away that, contrary to the classic stereotype, career counseling belongs in the general class of counseling because it has the same basic characteristics and qualities that all forms of counseling [have].

The interaction in career counseling is psychological in nature, and the working alliance is critical. At the same time, it differs from the rest of [counseling] in that presenting problems often focus on work and career issues — although personal, social and emotional problems often emerge as the counseling relationship continues to evolve. In addition, quantitative and qualitative assessments and career information are used more often in career counseling.


What prompted you to create a fourth edition of this book? What updates or changes will readers see in the new edition?

Since the third edition was published in 2009, new information, new ideas and new techniques have emerged to help counselors work with individuals’ career issues and goals. Also, while the basic themes of holism, diversity and strengths were embedded in the third edition, we wanted to highlight and emphasize them in the fourth edition. In addition, continued career development theory building focusing on postmodern theories also prompted a fourth edition. Finally, social media has become a fixture in the way we relate with others, so we added a chapter on using social media in career counseling.


The book advocates for taking a holistic approach to clients’ career development. From your perspective, why is this important?

We believe that we need a wide-angle lens to first view our clientele so we can see them both individually and contextually. Unfortunately, there has been a tendency among some counselors to first view their clientele within the silos of the career, academic and personal/social/emotional domains.

The holistic approach offers us a way to see and understand that these domains are really interrelated, not separate. While it may be appropriate to work with specific problems/concerns/goals in each of these domains, the holistic approach tells us that we also need to continue to see and understand them holistically in the context of clients’ overall lives. Sometimes we need to focus on the figure (the individual), sometimes on the ground (contexts) and sometimes on both the figure and the ground.


Who is your target audience for this book?

The book is designed for practicing counselors in many different work settings. It is also designed for counselors-in-training in counselor education, counseling psychology and other helping relationship programs because it provides them with the prerequisite knowledge and skill they need to do career counseling.


A chapter of the book focuses on dealing with resistant clients. Is this common in literature on career counseling?

The answer is no, but it should be! Anytime client change is part of the counseling process, client resistance is possible. Since career counseling often deals with clients making transitions, it is important for counselors to understand what resistance may look like in clients’ behavior. In the chapter in our book on resistance, we describe various forms of client resistance and some possible ways to deal with it. We believe it is important for counselors to know what resistance may look like so that when it takes place during counseling, it will be recognized and can be dealt with.


What originally inspired you and your co-authors to collaborate and write this book 16 years ago?

The first edition of the book that the three of us wrote was based on an earlier book that I had written with Earl J. Moore in 1987 titled Career Counseling: Skills and Techniques for Practitioners. A number of years after the publication of this book, the three of us talked about the need to take the basic ideas in the 1987 book and expand and extend them, given the continued and expanding interest in career development and career counseling in the 1990s. As a result, the first edition of our book was published in 1998.


What would you want all counselor practitioners — marriage and family, school, addictions counselors, etc. — to know about the book’s subject matter?

We would like counselor practitioners to know that the book presents a theory-based, practice-focused approach to career counseling. It presents career counseling from a holistic perspective using the concept of life career development as a way to understand overall human development in general and career development specifically. It is a strengths-based conception of career development and career counseling, and it focuses on working with diverse clientele of all ages and circumstances.

Specific attention is given to the ever-changing work world. It emphasizes the importance of the working alliance in career counseling. It describes selected modern and postmodern career theories, and it presents a number of qualitative and quantitative assessments. Client resistance is discussed, and the use of information in career counseling is described. How to use social media in career counseling is also featured, as is information on how to close career counseling relationships.





Career Counseling: Holism, Diversity and Strengths is available from the American Counseling Association bookstore at counseling.org/publications/bookstore or by calling 800-422-2648 x 222




About the authors

Norman Gysbers is a professor in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri.

Mary Heppner is a professor of counseling psychology at the University of Missouri.

Joseph Johnston is a professor in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology at the University of Missouri as well as director of the university’s career center.




Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at bbray@counseling.org


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