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Psychotherapy, counseling, and career

Chapter January 2015
DOI: 10.1037/14438-022




1 author:
Peter McIlveen
University of Southern Queensland

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Psychotherapy and Counseling

RUNNING HEAD: Psychotherapy and Counselling

Psychotherapy, Counseling, and Career Counseling

Peter McIlveen
University of Southern Queensland

This is an authors pre-press version of the chapter. This version may be slightly
different to the final version. Please cite as:
McIlveen, P. (2015). Psychotherapy, counseling, and career counseling. In P. J. Hartung, M.
L. Savickas & W. B. Walsh (Eds.), APA hanbook of career intervention (pp. 403-417).
Washington, DC: APA Books.

Dr Peter McIlveen
University of Southern Queensland
Toowoomba QLD 4350

Psychotherapy and Counseling

First, you, the reader, take a moment reflect upon these three terms that constitute the
title of this chapter: psychotherapy, counselling, and career counseling. Now, take a moment.
What do you think? How might you describe their differences and similarities? What
key terms or constructs might you deploy to differentiate or integrate them? By posing the
questions, is it a simply a matter of rhetorically positing differences that do not exist? What
practical differences are there? Are they merely different labels for the same thing? What
societal value might you ascribe to each? Does it really matter that much anyway? These
questions underpin the reflective purpose of this chapter: an opportunity for you the reader to
(re)consider vocational psychology and career counseling, and counseling and
This chapter presents a philosophical analysis of psychotherapy, counseling, and
career counseling, and takes into account history and epistemology. Methodologically, this
chapter is an inspection of vocational psychologys discourse (cf. Richardson, 2012b; Stead
& Bakker, 2012); for it is the discourse of vocational psychology that establishes and delimits
the questions that generate research endeavours, the knowledge that identifies and
differentiates the field from other branches of applied psychology, how its knowledge is
transmitted, and the activities that constitute its professional practices such as career
counselling and career education. Rather than merely rehearsing explicit knowledge of
theories of psychotherapy, counselling and career counselling that can be read in a book or
journal article, the chapter reveals issues pertaining to tacit knowledge/s and their
paradigmatic roots.
Defining Psychotherapy and Counseling
To begin, it is apposite to consider specific definitions of the two terms psychotherapy
and counseling from authoritative sources. Stop. Why should one need to consider
definitions, particularly from authoritative sources? This question is the first act of the

Psychotherapy and Counseling

philosophical analysis, not because starting with definitions is the scholarly thing to do, but
because it causes one to reflect upon the owners of knowledge. The term definition is itself
instrumental of discourse because it sets limits around what is known and done within a
discipline and profession. Theorizing, researching and practice are thus limited within the
definitions discursive parameters. The converse of what a definition prescribes as something
outside of its boundaries is equally important. This epistemological issue comes to light in
arguments over whether career counseling is personal counseling (i.e., what is or is not
counseling) and who/which institution controls the discourse, that is decides, defines, and
disseminates the doctrine.
In its Resolution on the Recognition of Psychotherapy Effectiveness, the American
Psychological Association (APA, 2012) states:
Psychotherapy (individual, group and couple/family) is a practice designed varyingly
to provide symptom relief and personality change, reduce future symptomatic
episodes, enhance quality of life, promote adaptive functioning in work/school and
relationships, increase the likelihood of making healthy life choices, and offer other
benefits established by the collaboration between client/patient and psychologist
In its 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling, the American Counseling Association
(ACA, 2010) states:
Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families,
and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.
The Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA, 2012) states:
Counselling is the skilled and principled use of relationship to facilitate selfknowledge, emotional acceptance and growth and the optimal development of
personal resources. The overall aim of counsellors is to provide an opportunity for
people to work towards living more satisfyingly and resourcefully.

Psychotherapy and Counseling

On the difference between the psychotherapy and counseling, the CCPA (2012) states:
It is not possible to make a generally accepted distinction between counselling and
psychotherapy. There are well-founded traditions which use the terms interchangeably
and others which distinguish between them. If there are differences, then they relate
more to the individual psychotherapist's or counsellor's training and interests and to
the setting in which they work, rather than to any intrinsic difference in the two
If one were to conduct an international scan of definitions in nations with advanced
infrastructure of professions that provide counseling and psychotherapy (e.g., United
Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong, Israel), substantial similarities would be found, along with
subtle differences too, for those other nations have a rich history of counseling. For the sake
of space in this chapter the North American perspective will prevail, albeit with due
acknowledgment of any potential differences among the APA, ACA, the CCPA, and other
professions (e.g., psychiatry). Notwithstanding psychiatrys crucial medical role in
rehabilitation, which is a field of practice that overlaps with career counseling, the American
Psychiatric Associations definition of psychotherapy is not included here because psychiatry
has no substantive interests or stake in career counseling.
Rather than endure a rehearsal of the arguments that have gone before, consult the
excellent expositions of this question in the special issues of the journals of the The
Counseling Psychologist, 2002, 30(6) and The Career Development Quarterly, 1993, 42(2).
The similarities and differences between scholars preferences for the meanings of
psychotherapy and counseling are important. However, the differences are not germane to
the current enquiry into the knowledge/s, purposes, and value of counseling and
psychotherapy to the individual and society. Therefore, for convenience sake, hereafter the

Psychotherapy and Counseling

term counseling will suffice for both, unless there is a need to use one or the other
specifically for clarity.
One interpretation of these three definitions indicates three important functions of
counseling: curative, restorative, and preventative. The curative function is to resolve
clients dysfunctional behaviors, illness and its symptoms; the restorative function is to
extend the client beyond symptom management and their disability to a return (or almost
return) to pre-morbid life or a new way of living; the preventative function is to educate
clients toward developing and maintaining health and well-being. The words chosen for this
interpretation (i.e., curative, restorative, and preventative) allude to the so-called medical
model that is based in the positivist/post-positivist paradigm. This paradigm, which has its
roots in the Enlightenment and its grand narrative vision of humanity, the arts, and sciences,
is the forge of a century of theory, research, and practice in counseling. An additional term,
proactive, implies a function of personal growth as distinct from and in addition to a focus
upon recovery and prevention of illness, disorder, dysfunction, or failings of a person to cope,
adjust, and commit to personal decisions and change. Proactivity may well be a function that
distinguishes career counseling from conceptions of counseling that are embedded in the
medical model. To adumbrate the conclusion of this chapter: Emerging approaches to career
counseling, such as the Emancipatory Communitarian Approach (ECA, Blustein, 2006)
promise new conceptual vistas and practices that transcend the curative, restorative, and
preventative functions of counseling because they are based in a different set of values that
foster a reconsideration of vocational psychology and career counseling.
Counseling: A Modern Technology for Humans
Use of the term modern in the subheading is quite deliberate, for it has a specific
meaning in regard to the philosophy of knowledge and positivist/post-positivist psychological
science of the 20th century. Further, the term technology is an allusion to the work of

Psychotherapy and Counseling

Foucault who wrote of the technologies of the self (Foucault, 1988) of which counseling, and
its core process of disclosureconfessionis central to a person caring for himself/herself
through intimate processes of self-elaboration and self-reflection. Also, the generic term
human is chosen to subsume other terms with various psychological meanings when used in
particular psychological theories of the late 20th and 21st century (i.e., identity, self, being,
The main schools of counseling can be classified as: psychoanalytic, Adlerian,
existential, person-centered, gestalt, behavioral, cognitive-behavioral, reality, feminist, postmodern, and family systems (Corey, 2013). Of course, there are other classifications. The
different schools and theories of counseling are representative of different epistemological
paradigms and have evolved in different eras and zeitgeists of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Understanding the historical context of the counseling theories can extend ones
understanding of the career counseling theories that emerged contemporaneously or
A Technology Of and For Its Time
Each era brings its psychological zeitgeist that is manifest in talk, texts, and symbols,
in art, technology, and science. Thus, it is important to consider the world in which a theory
and practice is produced as a technology in the service of humans. The mid to late 19th
century can be understood as an era of immense technological change in which the machine
and growing industry are emblematic. The beginning of the 20th can be understood as no less
tumultuous, however industry turned itself toward the production machinery for mass
annihilation. World War Idestruction, dread, and deathpsychologically brings humanity
and human fragility and mortality to the fore, and life is to be lived to the fullest. Yet again,
there is more destruction, dread and death in World War II. The psychological zeitgeist: the
world is insecure; governments must bring peace and productivity; rebuild with the Marshall

Psychotherapy and Counseling

Plan and Five-year Plans. Not againdestruction, dread and deathKorea and Vietnam.
The mood is turning; governments cannot bring peace and productivity; they failed to ensure
happiness and satisfaction in life; governments cannot be trusted. Arise corporate capitalism,
anarchism, and technology. Oil shock, inflation, stagflation, AIDS! Nothing can be trusted!
Tear down the grand narratives. And now? September 11, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the
global financial crisis, the Arab Spring, and the psychosocial maladies of hyperconsumerism
identified by contemporary philosophers: affluenza, the bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled
feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses . an unsustainable addiction to
economic growth (Hamilton & Denniss, 2005, p. ii) and status anxiety, a worry, so
pernicious as to be capable of ruining extended stretches of our lives, that we are in danger of
failing to conform to the ideals of success laid down by our society (de Botton, 2004, pp. 34). Thus, counseling should be philosophically considered contextually and temporally.
Whilst not perfectly delineated by events and time periods, the zeitgeists may be
understood metaphorically as mechanism, formism, organicism, and contextualism (Pepper,
1942). Take the mechanical metaphor as an example. Seen through its lens, classical
psychoanalytic theory can be seen to draw upon machines and hydraulics, of pressure
building and adjustment in the (psychological) system by transferring energy elsewhere. This
is the vision of a mechanical world, an industrial world. Stripped to bare bones, modernist
conceptions of the world and, the mechanical view imbues the great theories of learning that
focus precisely upon stimulus-response contingencies, reinforcements and punishments, and
arising from this technology came the behavioral school. From iron and steam to valves and
silicon, the science of data and information processing emerged. Like its progenitor school,
the cognitive-behavioral school treats thinking like a computer programing language whereby
bugs in the system are eliminated by reprogramming, by changing the language of thoughts
and thinking. Other schools may be conceived of differently. Jungian therapy may be seen

Psychotherapy and Counseling

through the lens of formism, of ego and psychological types as distinctive ways of
functioning in the world. Client-centered therapy may be understood through the lens of
organicism in a period of postwar growth and development, of rebuilding after trauma, of
unfolding toward a whole, new way of being. Feminist and postmodern counselors see a that
is world too complex to simplify in terms of stimulus-response, reward and punishment,
types and growth, through their wide angle contextualist lens they see a psychological world
of complex, unpredictable, interacting systems in which people live.
As technologies of and for their time, it is crucial to understand counseling theories
and practices in context inclusive of era. In the current era, it only fair to consider the old
theories and practices in light of their historical era and not fall into the trap of the presentist
bias (Thorne & Henley, 2005), of criticizing and judging them according to the standards of
current theories and practices. Listening to Billy Joel (1989, track 2) sing We Didnt Start
the Fire serves just as well as a modern history lesson on the pace and diversity of change in
which counseling evolved after World War II. The song also guards against presentist bias
and each generations criticism of its predecessors. For example, there is no shortage of
criticism against Freud and his theory. But, when read in fairness without presentist bias,
through the lens of a mechanical root metaphor seen in industrial century, and constructed in
the discourse of a mechanical paradigm, his works are genius writ large. Imbued in an
industrial world, it is little wonder that Freud chose the hydraulic metaphor to explain
psychological processes. Therefore, it is necessary to consider counseling theory and
practices as technological achievements of their time.
To summarize, the theories of vocational psychology can be understood and
organized in terms of the four root metaphors and three paradigms (McIlveen, 2009). Table
1 presents a selection of theories of counseling (Corey, 2013) and career organized according
to their root metaphor (Pepper, 1942) and paradigm, which may be positivist/postpositivist,

Psychotherapy and Counseling

constructivist/interpretivist, or critical/ideological (Ponterotto, 2005). Of course, the

organization of the theories in this particular table is contestable too.
-------------------Insert Table 1
-------------------Paradigm Shifts: Power/Knowledge
Paradigm shifts are not mere transitions toward a new epistemological lens and ways
of solving scientific puzzles. Psychological science is a social, cultural entity beholden to the
paradigmatic discourse and regulations of the day. Psychological science is also subject to
the politics of knowledge and the systems of power that decide what is accepted and rejected
as knowledge and way of knowing (Foucault, 1972). Institutional review boards, journals
editorial boards, ad hoc reviewers, doctoral committees, are just a few of the entities that
control the discourse of a field and concomitant access to resources. They are the protective
bulwarks and selective gatekeepers of a paradigm.
On a human, personal level, paradigmatic revolutions can be cruel as the old is swept
aside for the new; but there are always some men [sic] who cling to one or other of the old
views, and they are simply read out of the profession, which thereafter ignores their work
(Kuhn, 1996, p. 19). Pragmatically, being read out of the profession means that a theory
receives increasingly less space in publications and falls into a living death, a slow spiral of
disappearing from the canon of a discipline. An example of being read less and less and
eventually disappearing from key works in the literature can be seen in the internationally
regarded text book that brings the theories and practices counseling and career development
together, Applying Career Development Theory to Counseling (Sharf, 1997). In the preface
of this second edition of the book, Sharf wrote added to Chapter 13 Social Learning
Theory is a section on career self-efficacy theory, which has been the subject of much

Psychotherapy and Counseling


research (v). Sharf was of course referring to the Social Cognitive Career Theory which
had been promoted to its own chapter in the fourth edition (Sharf, 2005). This is little
wonder given the volume of research evidence the theory has accreted. On the other hand,
one witnesses the death of a chapter. In the second edition psychodynamic approaches to
career development had their own chapter. In the fourth edition the chapter is gone and the
word psychodynamic does not appear in the books index. Furthermore, Sharf stated I have
dropped David Tiedemans developmental approach because no research or attention has
been given to his work in about 15 years (x). Whilst never expunged from the literature,
because there is always a physical record, if only resting on a dusty shelf of a library, and an
occasional nostalgic piece, to be not read by students and up-and-coming scholars of a
discipline is a path to theoretical oblivion.
Indeed, when the Young Turks of a discipline turn on their paradigmatic
progenitors they do so viciously, if not voraciously, in their argument and rhetoric, for they
are not just fighting for their ideas, they are fighting for resources dearly held by the ingroup: publications, research grants, tenure, etc. They will wield their new paradigmatic
rhetoric with such withering force that the extant dominant paradigm must react by
welcoming, subsuming, and accommodating the new, or eventually yield a space for the new
to operate without hindrance, or succumbing through attrition.
From quiet beginnings in the early 1980s and 1990s, proponents of the social
constructionist paradigm for vocational psychology eventually prevailed in winning the
acceptance of their paradigm. Yet, it is their rhetoric that must be brought into a critical gaze,
for it may well show signs of presentist bias, and it is this bias fuels the powerful discursive
force that may ultimately pushes aside a competitor paradigm. Fortunately, the social
constructionists have not torn down and replaced the old paradigms of vocational

Psychotherapy and Counseling


psychology. They never intended to do so; they just wanted acceptance as an additional way
of knowing and doing the discipline, but their words were cutting.
In her paper that can be regarded as the coup de grace for vocational psychologys
resistance to new theories and isolation from developments in mainstream psychology,
Richardson (1993) articulated a critique laden with notions such as disciplinary
ethnocentrism, complacency and enslavement under positivism and empiricism. These were
strong words that fired a generational assault on traditional theories in order to advance social
constructionism as a paradigm in vocational psychology. The fruits of that vigorous
scholarship are evident in a variety of emerging social constructionist theories (see McIlveen
& Schultheiss, 2012).
Reclaiming Heritage and Turf: Counseling and (not v.) Career Counseling
In order to further the analysis and extend toward new questions relevant to
counseling and career development there is a need to concentrate upon a point of overlap
between the two. This now begins with a lamentation of the present and a journey into the
In what can be thought of as a diagnostic heritage overtaken and now ignored, it is
pertinent to note that clinical psychology and counseling psychology owes a debt of gratitude
to the pioneers of vocational psychology who significantly contributed to and refined the
applied science of psychometrics through conditions of economic depression and war
(Savickas & Baker, 2005). But, it is not psychometric tests per se that should be brought into
focus; instead, it is the positivist/post-positivist paradigmatic tenets of reality that leads to the
reification of psychological constructs (McIlveen & Patton, 2006). For sure, the Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM, American Psychiatric Association, 2000)
and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th
Revision (ICD-10) (World Health Organisation, 2010) are the paramount achievements of

Psychotherapy and Counseling


psychological medical nosology. Whilst it is true that the DSM and ICD evolved technical
products of psychiatry and clinical psychology quite independently of vocational psychology,
there can be little doubt that conceptions and measurement of intelligence and personality
constructs met clinical psychologys need to measure, classify, and differentiate individuals
and their pathologies.
For good or ill, the debt has been honored. Clinical diagnoses pertaining to careerrelated problems designated on Axis I and IV according to the DSM. Diagnoses given under
the V Codes in the DSM cover problems and these may be classified as V62.2 Occupational
problem, V62.3 Academic problem, or V62.89 Phase of life problem. Within the ICD-10,
career-related problems may be covered by the category Persons with potential health
hazards related to socioeconomic and psychosocial circumstances (Z55-Z65) under lower
categories such as Z55 Problems related to education and literacy or Z56 Problems related to
employment and unemployment. These DSM and ICD diagnostic categories are not used
merely to formulate diagnoses. In an era of managed health care, they play an important role
in determining insurance coverage for illness. A psychologist may use psychometric tests of
a vocational constructs (e.g., career interests, abilities, or satisfaction) to affirm these
diagnoses; however, it is as if clinical psychology has established its own purview over the
psychology of career-related problems and has no need to reference extant vocational
diagnostic nosologies (e.g., Boreham, 1967; Gati, Krausz, & Osipow, 1996; Multon, Wood,
Heppner, & Gysbers, 2007; Rounds & Tinsley, 1984). Vice versa, the DSM and ICD-10
diagnostic categories of career-related problems do not appear to be used in the literature of
vocational psychology and career counseling.
This is just another example of the separation of disciplinary knowledge and practice,
and the much lamented lack of correspondence between the vocational psychology and the
other divisions of psychology (Savickas & Baker, 2005). Indeed, when it comes to the

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politics of knowledge within the profession, it is worth contemplating the meanings of the
word division. To wit, although vocational psychology resides within Division 17 [my
italics] of the APA, it receives little support from counseling psychologists in the APA
(Savickas & Baker, p. 43, 2005).
Consider one of the divisions that troubles vocational psychologists. The questions
that introduced this chapter have dogged scholars for at least two decades. Scholars have
attempted to minimize the differences and highlight the similarities between counseling and
career counseling to show the clinical intimacy and personal nature of career counseling.
Discursively, the two have been juxtaposed in the literature as personal counseling and
career counseling, as if adding the words personal and career were sufficient to differentiate
intended meanings. The titles of some of the main articles in this literature are quite telling,
if not demanding, in their tone, for example: Career counseling is personal
counseling(Manuele-Adkins, 1992, p. 313); The inseparability of 'career' and 'personal'
counseling(Betz & Corning, 1993, p. 137). Paragon of counseling psychology, Donald
Super (1993), asserted that psychotherapy, counseling, and career counseling are a complex
intertwining, overlapping, interlocking combination that defies characterization (p. 132).
Super went on to suggest that a fellow luminary, Carl Rogers, obfuscated the fields
terminology, psychotherapy and counseling, by amending the titles of his books in order to
attract political favor within his university. Again, this is but another example of the politics
of knowledge and how professions go about controlling the field through discourse.
As far back as the 1950s, when counseling psychology emerged as a separate division
of professional psychology, there was recognition of the holistic approach to intervention.
And, again, Supers (1955) words are prescient and relevant today as when first written:
While [the new field of counseling psychology] includes vocational guidance, it
goes beyond it to deal with the person as a person, attempting to help him with all

Psychotherapy and Counseling


types of life adjustments. Its underlying principle is that it is the adjusting individual
who needs help, rather than merely an occupational, marital, or personal problem
which needs a solution. (p. 4)
Whilst describing the profession counseling psychologist, Super also staked a claim
over psychotherapy, all the while recognizing the professions emergence from vocational
guidance. The evolution from guidance to counseling psychology is important historical fact.
Super went on to state the counseling psychologys purview extended beyond a focus upon
the normal person (p. 5) and that it is focused upon handicapped, abnormal, or
maladjusted persons (p. 5), and that it concerns itself with hygiology, with the normalities
even of abnormal persons (p. 5) in a proactive manner focused upon strengths and resources,
rather than diagnostics and psychopathology. It is thus easy to understand why Super (1993)
saw few definitive differences among psychotherapy, counseling and career counseling and
instead preferred to conceptualize a continuum of intervention with counseling focused upon
problems emanating from situations (e.g., career, relationships, school) at one end and
problems emanating from personal approaches to coping at the other.
Harnessing the Philosophical Problem of Cause-and-Effect
One of the great problems in philosophy is that of causality. Causality may be
formulated from different philosophical perspectives, but perhaps the most striking for
psychology is that proffered by philosopher David Hume (1748/2007). Hume argued that
cause is a psychological construction. A cause is inducted (i.e., mentally created) upon the
basis of a persons successive observations of two or more events the observed evidence
that appear to be constantly associated with one another (i.e., constantly conjoined). His
argument implies that humans can and do make meaning of the observed world by mentally
constructing associations between events. Thus, a cause-and-effect proposition is just an
idea. As an idea, it becomes an explanatory tool for the past and present, and a predictive

Psychotherapy and Counseling


tool for the future. Accordingly, it would not be unreasonable to claim Hume to be a very
early cognitive scientist who saw in humans an innate cognitive capacity to inductively
theorize their living in the world and to use their personal theories of causation between
phenomena to get one with the everyday tasks of living.
A little more than 200 years later, Kelly (1955) published The Psychology of
Personal Constructs. Kellys theory formally theorizes how individualsacting as nave
scientistsgenerate cognitive rules to understand, anticipate, and control their living in the
worlds. Indeed, the notion of cause-and-effect is discursively embedded in the canon of
counseling and it is perhaps most famously expressed in Rogers (1957) words the necessary
and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change (p. 95). The words necessary
and sufficient are same used a branch of philosophy, logic, when referring to causality.
Rogers use of the word conditions implies the same as cause. There are other causal
presuppositions held aloft by the various schools of thought: unconscious conflict produces
anxiety, behavior is contingent upon reinforcement schedules, traits predict interests, and
thoughts of efficacy enhance performance. Despite social constructionisms slippery
discursive practices (e.g., eschewing definitions of technical terms on the pretext that they are
socially constructed, contested and forever subject to change by consensus), it too is beholden
to cause-and-effect thinking in its presupposition that stories create psychological reality.
It is at this juncture that the philosophical analysis takes a sharp focus on
philosophical problem of cause-and-effect and its implications for counseling practice.
However, a short detour is required in order to finally designate the crucible of cause-andeffect in counseling.
Psychotherapy Integration
The integration of counseling theories and practices is a substantive sub-disciplinary
field of scholarship with its own APA journal, Journal of Psychotherapy Integration. There

Psychotherapy and Counseling


are four main approaches to integration: technical eclecticism, theoretical integration,

assimilative integration, and common factors (Norcross, 2005). Technical eclecticism draws
upon what may be considered the most effective techniques.
In career counseling, a technical eclectic counselor may be inclined to use a
combination of different counseling techniques rather than adhere to a theoretical framework.
For example, workbooks, written tasks, individualized interpretations of assessment data,
information about the world-of-work, modelling of strategies, and mustering support for the
client may chose by a counselor because of the weight of empirical evidence in their favour
of these techniques (e.g., Brown & Ryan Krane, 2000). Technical eclecticism is not
atheoretical, however. All counselors operate out of some kind of theoretical framework,
whether it be a formal theory or a personal theory, or a combination embedded in a sociopolitical perspective (e.g., feminism). This assertion becomes crucial for counselors
reflective practice.
Theoretical integration aims to build new theories out of two or more extant theories.
Three notable examples of integration in vocational psychology include (a) the systems
theory framework (Patton & McMahon, 2006) which presents an organizing metatheory of
the multiple systems of influences that constitute career, (b) the developmental/motivational
model of career development that draws upon mainstream development theory (Vondracek &
Kawasaki, 1995), and (c) the career construction theory (Savickas, 2005) which draws upon
the tri-level framework of personality (McAdams, 1996) to connect: Level I, individual
differences, such a personality traits; Level II, efficacies, strategies, and concerns; and Level
III, personal narratives that constitute the existential singularity of a persons individuality.
The career construction theory is one of the conceptual bases for the emerging life design
counseling (Savickas et al., 2009) which takes an integrative stance to practice.

Psychotherapy and Counseling


Assimilative integration is an approach in which a preferred theory is retained and

techniques from other theories are adopted if conceptually and practically palatable to the
foundation assumptions of the theory. For example, trait/factor assessment and narrative
assessment may be combined to produce a more meaningful assessment for clients (e.g.,
Hartung & Borges, 2005). Krumboltz (2009) theory of career counseling assimilates
objective assessment procedures as stimulants for learning, as distinct from their traditional
application of determining congruence between traits, interests, and occupations. Recent
scholarship has seen steps toward assimilation of clinical techniques into career counselling,
such as the assessment of suicidality (Popadiuk, 2012), mindfulness-based stress reduction
(Jacobs & Blustein, 2008), acceptance and commitment therapy (Hoare, McIlveen, &
Hamilton) and recasting the differences problem as one of counselors operating in different
domains of client need (Blustein & Spengler, 1995; Richardson, 2012a).
The common factors approach, or therapeutic factors approach, sets aside specific
theoretical preferences and instead highlights what is predominantly effective among all
therapies, such as client factors and counseling relationship (Hubble, Duncan, & Miller,
1999). The common factors approach asserts that there are no substantive differences in the
effectiveness of different therapies (Wampold et al., 1997) and emphasizes the importance of
the counseling relationship (Lambert & Barley, 2001) and the client per se as critical factors
(Bohart, 2000). At this juncture, the phenomenology of personal change from the clients
perspective becomes crucial, for it is the clients theory of change that manifests her
understanding of the cause-and-effects of her condition.
Whose Cause? Whose Effect?
Whilst it may seem patently obvious that the client is a factor of the change process,
there is a need for research into client factors (Bohart, 2000; Knight, Richert, & Brownfield,
2012), including career counseling research (Heppner & Heppner, 2003). How clients

Psychotherapy and Counseling


construct theories of their problems and strategies of change in counseling (cf. personal
construct theory; Kelly, 1955) is a new avenue of enquiry and practice. For example, clients
may formulate theories of change as adaptation to crises or on-going problems, making
definitive personal choices, and delimited choices constrained to immediate exigencies
(Knight et al., 2012). These three lay theories of change are all too familiar in career
counseling. Thus, it is apropos to consider whose personal theory of change is really
experienced by the client and whose theorys propositions, hypotheses, tests are put into
action genuinely and experientially. Is it the counselors, the clients, either in parallel
existential universes, or co-constructively together? What thoughts churn through a clients
mind when she leaves the consulting room? What if-then propositions shall occupy her mind
as she goes about her daily activities pondering the career concern that is the lens through
which she sees her future? What personal truths will prevail and free the client of her
existential torment?
The notion of therapeutic truth is present in this conundrum of (co-)constructing
personalised theories of explanation and action that enable the client to make sense of her
condition, and to choose and engage in actions for her future. If one accepts the social
constructionist version of knowing and knowledge, then therapeutic truth is a construction of
counselor and client. From a philosophical perspective on knowing and knowledge,
therapeutic truth is a peculiar example of pragmatism in the tradition of philosopher,
psychologist William James (1907/2000). According to pragmatism, if a theory seems to
work in every day life then it has cash value. Moreover, therapeutic truths constructed in
counseling are instruments for practically dealing with the world and its challenges. As such,
career decision-making (as a way of knowing) and career choices (as personal knowledge) is
a function of pragmatic truth compiled from a complex of cause-and-effect thinking.

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The intimate dialogue between counselor and client is the crucible of growth for the
client; yet the dialogue between counselor and client is a complex of assumptions held by one
another and power-relations between one another; it is not an objective, mechanical
interlocution. Together, counselor and client bring their respective historical and present
systems of influences (McMahon & Patton, 2006) into counseling. It is here, at the
therapeutic meeting point, where counselor and client adjoin, that the axiological nature of
career counseling is revealed as a psychopolitical, cultural practice (Prilleltensky & Stead,
2011; Stead & Bakker, 2012). Consciously or unconsciously, and in accord with the ethics
and lore of her profession, the counselor brings her morals, values, and emotions into
counseling, solely for the benefit of the client. Yet, despite her intention, she is at once an
actor and an agent of values, assumptions, and practices of psychology. Thus, the counselor
is not a neutral agent and she is not powerless, she is powerful. How will she use that power?
She makes choices, judgments, and performs actions that are consistent with theoretical
formulations and her professional experiences. Indeed, career counseling is not an objective,
value-free activity; it is a socio-political activity imbued with tacit assumptions of moral
Beyond Epistemology: The Moral Axiological Turn
Vocational psychology has long been a proponent of the good life and what should be
done to establish an interesting, well-balanced career that brings wealth, health, and
happiness. Yet, the morality of this ostensibly noble objective, its values and assumptions,
the discipline and its practices, were not explicitly analyzed until relatively recently, and the
results of the critical analyses (Richardson, 1993) called for an epistemological overhaul;
which has in the two decades hence borne fruit as a diverse range of social constructionist
approaches (Young & Popadiuk, 2012). It is the inherently value-laden nature of vocational
psychology that has drawn scholars to propose explicitly values-driven theoretical and

Psychotherapy and Counseling


professional frameworks. Of course, none of this is new to counseling. Earlier challenges

involved a shift from the objectivity of psychoanalysis to the engaged and caring personcentred counseling (Patterson, 1958). But, the era and the zeitgeist are different in this socalled postmodern era. There has been a critical shift from debates about the epistemology of
vocational psychology and the establishment of social constructionism, to the axiology of
what is valued in vocational psychology and its professional activities that go toward
securing the good life for those in paid or unpaid work, performing market work or care work
(Richardson, 2012b). Similarly, psychology as a whole has been challenged to re(assess) its
moral foundations (Prilleltensky, 1997).
The psychology of working perspective and the ECA (Blustein, 2006) is overtly
values-driven and advances the as an alternative paradigm for conceptualizing the role of
work and the professional practices of vocational psychology. The ECA calls for counselors
to instill critical consciousness and engage in social advocacyto wear her values on her
sleeve. At first glance this approach appears to be more like social work than psychology
because of its emphasis upon societal problems and structures. The ECA brings into the
foreground the assumptions, values and practices that are deemed to constitute the discipline
of vocational psychology. Leading scholars advocate for a re(vision) of vocational
psychology to make it relevantas if it were ever irrelevantand salient once again. In yet
another special issue devoted to the future of the field, the Journal of Career Assessment,
2011, 19(3), Blustein states:
The choice point for vocational psychology is to continue to create knowledge and
services for the middle-class populations with some degree of choice in their lives or
to expand our inclusiveness to include people with as much volition about education,
training, and work. (p. 316)

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Let Blusteins words hang upon your ears for a moment longer. These words may be read as
political discourse laden with intentions for societal change. Blustein is not merely urging a
shift in client-focus for service-delivery away from the middle class and its problems (e.g.,
affluenza, status anxiety), he is calling for a change in the very epistemological foundations
of vocational psychology is his critical words: create knowledge and for the middle class.
The word for in particular implies a relationship of service to one class and not another.
Blustein is demanding that the discipline critically reconsider what it values for
individuals and society, which is inherently an exercise in moral philosophy. The ECA is
vastly different from the great traditions of vocational psychology that have taken the
psychological constructs of individuality (e.g., traits) as their unit of analysis because of the
zeitgeists from which they emerged and evolved. Indeed, the ECA runs the risk of denying
individuality and sacrificing uniqueness in favor of the community (Prilleltensky, 1997, p.
525); however, Blustein (2006) preserves self-determination in the liberal tradition of
philosopher John Stuart Mill (1863/1972), that the liberty of the individual is thus far
limited; that he [sic] must not make himself a nuisance to other people (114). In the modern
era, philosopher Bertrand Russell (1949) may well come down on the side of the ECA
because it emphasizes community over the individual as way of achieving a fair and just
society. Against this philosophical backdrop, vocational psychology has not yet grappled
with the conundrum thrown up by the ECA: changing vocational psychologys vision of (a)
the individual and (b) the communities in which individuals relate to one another, and,
moreover, (c) how these two may be adjoined as the core business of one science and
profession. Metaphorically, this conundrum may be thought of as the discipline wielding
centripetal and centrifugal forces that will transforms its epistemology and axiology.

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Centripetal Transformation
With regard to centripetal transformationto inward transformationvocational
psychology has already commenced a paradigmatic change that will see its science of the
individual include new perspectives. Indeed, the past three decades have seen the progressive
acceptance of social constructionism as a legitimate alternative to postpositivism. Yet, even
within social constructionism there is a conservatism that holds it to the traditional constructs
of the individual as the unit of analysis (e.g., thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and values) and
narrative counseling in which stories are the focus of counseling. Progress beyond these
traditional foci has been energized through the relational approach (Richardson, 2012a) and
the contextual-action approach (Young, Valach, & Collin, 2002) which take as there unit of
analysis and focus of counseling to be the interactions between individuals. Furthermore,
integration with other domains of counseling (e.g., clinical) (cf. Blustein, 2006) has promise
to invigorate career counseling and bring vocational psychology closer to mainstream
Blustein (2006) calls upon counselors to attend to their counter-transference because
many therapists have little exposure to their own inner life with respect to working (p.
290). There is emerging scholarship that takes an overtly critical stance (Irving & Malik,
2005; Stead & Perry, 2012) which requires a counselor to engage in reflective practice that
entails a critical deconstruction of the discourse and taken-for-granted assumptions and ways
of working in practice (including scientific and academic practices of research). Toward that
end, there is emerging scholarship on how practitioners might manage the moral challenges
they confront in their counseling work (e.g., Prilleltensky & Stead, 2011).
Instillation of critical consciousness within clients is an example of career counseling
practice that overtly stakes a political claim on building psychological resilience and
resistance to the social determinants of career (Diemer & Blustein, 2006). This entails the

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co-construction of therapeutic truth that is similar to feminist counseling, but radically

different from tradition of values-free counseling. Fostering critical consciousness in practice
requires a new vision of the individual-in-context, culture, and class. It also requires a
profoundly honest approach to reflexivity and countertransference in counselors, and a
concomitant awareness that professional work, in this case counseling, may well be the
psychodynamics of sublimation (Freud, 1930/2010).
The force of centripetal transformation may throw up questions and challenges that
are beyond the scope of psychology to answer. Although a psychology of psychology, a
meta-psychology, is an intriguing possibility, it seems that a better option is to introspect
through the lens of another discipline such as philosophy. In this chapter I have introduced
but a few ideas drawn from philosophy as a way to understand the epistemology and axiology
of counseling and vocational psychology. There are other philosophers (e.g., Nietzsche,
Kierkagaard, Rawls) whose ideas and works may productively, not just critically and
destructively, be read and applied to foster methods of reflexivity and countertranference.
Centrifugal Transformation
Although career counseling that takes an overtly socio-politically stance is one way
forward, it may ultimately be inadequate to the task of meeting a reformist agenda to change
the societal structures that create disadvantage and disenfranchisement. Regardless of moral
intentions to improve the plight of the marginalized and dispossessed, vocational psychology
and career counseling are focused upon the psychology of the individual and of counseling
individuals. Even if couple, family, and group counseling were to be invigorated as forms of
career counseling, albeit laudable and admirable, this too would be a piecemeal approach to
the challenge transforming the world-of-work and career on a larger scale (cf. Roberts, 2005).
Vocational psychology needs, yet again, a new paradigm to prosecute a socio-political
agenda of the type advocated by Blustein (2006). Most importantly, however, the discipline,

Psychotherapy and Counseling


as a community, has to first agree that it wants to pursue the socio-political agenda on a large
scale, or stay with its traditional ground of counseling (for middle-class individuals).
Secondly, the discipline must review its capacity to engage in practices that are demonstrably
effective. Counseling does not take social structures, bureaucracies, systems, and policies as
the unit of analysis and intervention. These entities are the grist of disciplines such as
community psychology, organizational psychology, and social work, and these are the
entities that hold the most potential for change and realization of ECA in practice.
How, then, will vocational psychology move outward and away from its gravitational
center that is counseling? For starters, it may be prudent to engage in interdisciplinary
dialogue to learn from other counseling professions that take a wider, systems perspective on
well-being, work, learning, and counseling practice, such community psychology (e.g., the
APAs Division 27, the Society for Community Research and Action). Furthermore, there is
an economic dimension inherent in the ECA, yet it has not been fully articulated as a
scholarship pathway toward macro-level interventions (e.g., government policy).
Interdisciplinary dialogue with economic psychology (e.g., Division 9, International
Association of Applied Psychology) may bring new theories and methods of research to
better prepare vocational psychology and counseling to grapple with the priorities of large
organizations and government that ultimately insist upon prudent financial bottom lines.
Counseling is one of humanitys technological achievements. As vocational
psychology celebrates one century in the modern era, there is reason to be optimistic that
career counselingor however it be described and defined in the futurehas a bright future.
For it is likely that humans will go on as paradoxical beings, as fallible and fragile beings
capable of astounding strength and achievements, both personally and collectively. As it is
likely that learning (formal and informal), work (paid and unpaid), and people learning and

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working in relationships with one another, will go on as activities of daily living and as
activities for constructing meaningfulness in life, and they will go on as sources of great
torment and triumph. Thus, there will be counseling for curative, restorative, and
preventative purposes, and counseling in the domains of learning, work, and the social spaces
in which they occur, will be the focus of counseling too. Yet, with a sociopolitical reform
agenda in the offing, vocational psychology may very well be recast for proactive purposes
and aims to change organizational or societal structures. However, career counseling must be
reformed for the objectives of that agenda through creative solutions to problems thrown up
by the centripetal and centrifugal forces pressing for its transformation.
I shall leave expression of the concluding caveat to Lent (2001), who, in a special
issue of the Journal of Vocational Behavior, 2001, 59(2), devoted to the future of vocational
psychology, wrote:
To articulate a future vision for vocational psychology is an audacious task. It is also,
perhaps, more than a little foolhardy. Prognosticators are invariably limited by their
own biases and blind spots, and their crystal balls are rarely crystal clear. They tend
to predict the future they would like to see, rather than one based on a dispassionate
analysis of trends and possibilities. (p. 213).
Such perspicacity and sagacity! Given my assertion that vocational psychology is necessarily
blinded by its moral vision, I should state that my conclusions are indeed the future I would
like to see.
Thanks go to Dr Gavin Beccaria for his comments on drafts of this chapter. No grants
supported the writing of this chapter.

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Table 1
A selection of theories of counseling and vocational psychology classified by root metaphor
and paradigm
Root Metaphor















Behavior Therapy














Realitiy Therapy

Family Systems





Note. SCCT = social cognitive career theory (Lent, 2005); CIP = cognitive information
processing model of career decision-making (Sampson, Reardon, Peterson, & Lenz, 2004);
RIASEC = Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprizing, and Conventional person

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and environment types (Holland, 1997); P-E = person-environment correspondence (Dawis,

2005); TWA = theory of work adjustment; LSLS = life span/life space theory (Super, 1992);
CTC = chaos theory of career; CCT = career construction theory (Pryor & Bright, 2011); STF
= systems theory framework (Patton & McMahon, 2006); CAT = contextualist action theory
(Young et al., 2002); ECA = emancipatory communitarian approach (Blustein, 2006); REL =
relational (Richardson, 2012a).