Part 1 of our three-part blog series on Career and mental health: Addressing the false dichotomy introduced readers to our viewpoint that effective career-life development is a mental health and wellness intervention. In Part 2, we continue our commentary on the symbiotic relationship between career development and mental health. We highlight notable theories that help dispel the myth of the person-versus-career dichotomy.
The division of career counseling into the separate classes of personal-emotional and career is artificial and cannot stand in practice because many clients are dealing with multiple personal-emotional and career problems simultaneously, many of them are all connected together. (Gysbers et al., 1998, p. 3)
Theoretically bridging the career-mental health divide
There are various theories that are holistic in nature, focusing on wellness and mental health. Coverage of all of these theories is outside the scope of this article; however, we will concentrate on key theories that inform our practices, teaching, research and identities as career development practitioners (CDPs).
Super’s Life-Span, Life-Space Theory. Donald Super developed this theory, which summarizes stages of career development across the lifespan. People change over time and with experience – this includes their competencies, interests, values, career-life preferences and self-concepts. Super articulated developmental tasks that align with life stages. Mastery of tasks associated with life stages builds one’s self-concept. It also helps people find balance in their movement from the stages of play and exploration, to choices, training, work, retirement and beyond.
Super emphasized how career-life balance evolves over the lifespan rather than being a singular choice and event. As early as the 1950s, he laid the foundation for scholars and practitioners to value experiences of the whole person when engaging in career-life planning. Although Super did not overtly mention mental health, he recognized how integral relationships, experiences, identity, leisure activities, opportunities and contextual factors are in one’s career development. For more about Super’s work, read A Life-Span, Life-Space Approach to Career Development.
SocioDynamic Counselling. As a Canadian trailblazer, Vance Peavy suggested that individuals are really looking for balance in their life – having quality of life in the areas of career, health, relationships and leisure. Individuals are viewed as whole, functioning beings who seek assistance to achieve this balance. As such, individuals need support and encouragement to examine values and culture(s) in their lives. Peavy (1998) was interested in the meaning that individuals made of their experiences and how this influenced their choices and behaviours. Like Gysbers et al. (1998), Peavy (1998) saw the interplay between career and life interventions affecting overall well-being. To access more of Peavy’s works, see SocioDynamic Counselling: A Constructivist Perspective website.
Hope-Action Theory. Founded in 2010 by Norman Amundson, Spencer Niles and Hyung Joon Yoon, the Hope-Action Theory proposes that hope is central to identifying positive career-life possibilities. This framework invites CDPs to frame career-life development as a process in which individuals benefit from strengthening “hope-action” competencies to manage challenges. Competencies include hopefulness, self-reflection, self-clarity, visioning, goal setting and planning, implementing and adapting. For more information, visit the Hope-Action Group website and read Career Flow: A Hope-Centred Approach to Achieving Dreams.
Systems Theory Framework. Wendy Patton and Mary McMahon (2006) developed the Systems Theory Framework (STF) as a holistic approach to career development that is fluid and dynamic. STF explains how individuals form their own career stories. It considers the interplay of many systems – both internal and external – that influence a person’s life. This includes: individual systems (e.g. personality, age, ability, values); social systems (e.g. family, friends, education and media); and environmental-societal systems (e.g. socio-economic status, geographical location and political orientation). For more about STF, read The Systems Theory Framework Of Career Development And Counseling: Connecting Theory And Practice.
Career-Life Planning Model for First Nations People. Developed by Rod McCormick and Norman Amundson (1997), the Career-Life Planning Model infuses culture and wellness with career-life development. By using concentric circles, this model recognizes a communal way of being, Medicine Wheel cultural teachings and career-life balance in career development. The Career-Life Planning Model focuses on educational background; balance (spiritual, physical, emotional and mental needs); values and meaning; personality and spirit; interests; gifts, abilities, and skills; labour market options; and work/life roles and responsibilities. For more information, read Career-Life Planning With First Nations People.
As a Registered Psychologist and career-life practitioner who primarily works with Indigenous Peoples, I (Kathy) know first-hand the power of working from the Career-Life Planning Model. Using it for over 20 years, I have seen how this model focuses on the whole person (includes all aspects of wellness, especially mental health), their families and their communities. I continue to witness transformative change when clients receive feedback from family and community members about the gifts that others see them possessing and how that might translate into career options. Often, it is the first time that clients have heard positive feedback or heard people speak about them with admiration. As CDPs, we know the benefits of having people believe in themselves and their ability to achieve their goals.
“To practice ‘career counselling’ is to help others seek answers to the question: How should I live my life?” – Vance Peavy (as cited in SocioDynamic Counselling: A Constructivist Perspective, 2008).
The theories we shared align with our premise that career development and mental health are inseparable. While there are other theories that could be included, it is clear there is evidence to support the belief that career interventions are indeed mental health interventions.
Our final blog post will offer stories from the field to illustrate the importance of career interventions being nimble and holistic in nature. In particular, we will share mental health interventions gleaned from CERIC’s Cannexus21 conference and our own scholar-practitioner experiences.
Gysbers, N., Heppner, M. J., & Johnston, J. A. (Eds). (1998). Career counseling: Process, issues, and techniques. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
McCormick, R. M., & Amundson, N. E. (1997). A career-life planning model for First Nations people. Journal of Employment Counseling, 34(4), 171-179. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-1920.1997.tb00467.x
Peavy, R. V. (2008). Inspirational quotations. SocioDynamic counselling: A Constructivist perspective. http://www.sociodynamic-constructivist-counselling.com/quotations.html.
Peavy, R. V. (1998). SocioDynamic counselling: A Constructivist perspective. http://www.sociodynamic-constructivist-counselling.com/index.html