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Translating career theory to practice: the risk of unintentional social injustice.

The nature and quality of private individual decisions are now a matter of considerable public importance, as are the extent and quality of the career guidance services available to support them. Such services need to be widely accessible on a lifelong basis, to serve the needs of individuals, the economy and wider society.

--European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), 2009, p. 13

The statement above highlights two essential, and sometimes conflicting, elements of guidance policy: effectiveness and access. Achieving a satisfactory balance between effectiveness and access requires a better understanding of the effectiveness of career guidance in relation to its cost. The examination of effectiveness in relation to access presented in this article is based on three assumptions. First, the career theory that influences the design of career guidance interventions has a substantial influence on the effectiveness and cost of service delivery. Second, the cost of delivering career guidance interventions strongly influences the access that people have to the services they need. Third, limitations in the effectiveness of and the access people have to career guidance is a social justice issue.

This article begins with an identification of the elements of career guidance and continues with an examination of the translation of career theory to practice, the effectiveness of career guidance interventions, and the access people have to career guidance. Collaborative career counseling is then proposed as an intervention to improve access to career guidance. The article ends with a discussion of balancing effectiveness and access in delivering career guidance interventions.

Elements of Career Guidance

The following elements of career guidance are defined to avoid confusion in the use of terms that sometimes have different meanings in various countries. These elements include the nature of career guidance, the persons who are served, and the practitioners who deliver services. Career guidance provides "services intended to assist people, of any age and at any point throughout their lives to make educational, training and occupational choices and to manage their careers" (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], 2004, p. 19). Career guidance interventions include individual interviews, group discussions, school lessons, structured experiences, and assistance via the telephone or the Internet, as well as people's use of self-help resources in schools, in offices, and on the Internet (OECD, 2004). Career resources include career assessments; occupational, educational, training, and employment information; and instructional materials and media (Sampson, Reardon, Peterson, & Lenz, 2004). Persons receiving career guidance include individuals, clients, students/advisees, customers, patrons, and employees (Reardon, Sampson, & Lenz, 2000). Practitioners who provide career guidance interventions include persons with a variety of training, credentials, experience, and position titles who design and deliver career resources and services to young people and adults (Sampson, 2008).

Considerable variation exists among countries in who delivers career guidance, having titles such as career counsellor, careers teacher, global career development facilitator, and vocational psychologist. In most countries career guidance is now provided by people with a very wide range of training and qualifications. Some are specialists; some are not. Some have had extensive, and expensive, training; others have had very little. (OECD, 2004, p. 19)

Translation of Career Theory to Practice

Practitioners can use career theory to reduce complex vocational behaviors to more readily understood concepts (Shoffner, 2006; Young, Marshall, & Valach, 2007). These concepts can be used as a schema to help practitioners select career guidance interventions to meet specific client needs. Career guidance interventions are typically designed using more than a single career theory (Spokane, 1991). Each career theory has distinct features that lend themselves to understanding specific problems and populations (Osipow, 1990). The career theory that practitioners actually use typically combines formal theories with the local experience that those practitioners have in serving their clients (Young, 2007).

Applying theory to practice is viewed as an essential competency for practitioners who are engaged in delivering career guidance interventions. This competency is included in several professional standards, including career counselors (National Career Development Association, 1997), career and educational guidance practitioners (Cedefop, 2009), educational and vocational guidance practitioners (Repetto, Malik, Ferrer, Manzano, & Hiebert, 2003), and global career development facilitators (Center for Credentialing & Education, 1998).

Success in the translation of career theory to cost-effective guidance practice is somewhat mixed, however. Evidence exists that practitioners have limited interest in translating theory to practice (Kidd, Killeen, Jarvis, & Offer, 1994; Morrow-Bradley & Elliott, 1986). Outcome studies of career guidance interventions have shown that the models or theories intended to guide the intervention were not fully implemented (Miller & Brown, 2005). Problems persist despite examples of translating career theory to practice that are presented in the literature (e.g., Gati, 1996; Reardon, Lenz, Sampson, & Peterson, 2009) and the availability of educational and training resources using theory-based case studies (Niles, Goodman, & Pope, 2002; Swanson & Fouad, 2009). Problems in translating career theory to practice are especially worrisome because inappropriate or inconsistent application of theory can easily reduce the effectiveness of career guidance interventions.

Effectiveness of Career Guidance Interventions

Ensuring the effectiveness of career guidance interventions is a key element in career guidance policy (Cedefop, 2009; OECD, 2004; OECD & European Commission, 2004). This section begins with an examination of current evidence of the effectiveness of interventions and continues with evidence on cost-effectiveness. The section ends with an exploration of the integration of career theory, public policy, and the costs of career interventions.

Evidence of the Effectiveness of Career Guidance Interventions

The need to clearly establish evidence of the impact of career guidance interventions is especially important given recent funding constraints. This evidence is essential in sustaining current services and in providing a rationale for developing new services (Magnusson & Lalande, 2005). A series of meta-analyses and research reviews have examined the effectiveness of career guidance interventions (Bowes, Smith, & Morgan, 2005; Brown & Krane, 2000; Folsom & Reardon, 2003; Hughes & Gration, 2006; Kidd & Killeen, 1992; Killeen, 1996; Oliver & Spokane, 1988; Spokane & Oliver, 1983; Whiston, 2002; Whiston, Sexton, & Lasoff, 1998). In summarizing this literature, Brown (2006) stated that career interventions are on the whole effective and outcomes do not vary by intervention format. Brown did note that totally self-directed interventions were less effective but could likely be improved to the level of other career interventions with appropriate practitioner intervention. Brown and Krane (2000) found that written exercises, individualized interpretations and feedback, information on the world-of-work, modeling, and attention to building support contributed more to outcomes than did a specific type of intervention, such as individual or group counseling.

Evidence of the Cost-Effectiveness of Career Guidance Interventions

Providing data on the effectiveness of career guidance interventions is necessary but not sufficient to provide the accountability necessary to receive continued funding. The relative costs of delivering interventions must be considered as well. Arthur and Lalande (2009) noted that "programs and services do not occur in isolation; they are connected to the policies and practices of organizations, funding sources, and government mandates" (p. 13). Policy makers have raised questions about what outcomes people are receiving when they provide funding for career counseling through public policy and legislation (Herr, 2003; Hughes, Bimrose, Brown, & Karjalainen, 2006). These concerns are reflected in the increasing demands for accountability information (Whiston, 2001). The need to provide a stronger evidence base for the cost-effectiveness of career guidance was a consistent conclusion from a series of policy reviews conducted in 37 countries between 2001 and 2004 by the OECD, Cedefop, the European Training Foundation, and the World Bank (Hughes & Gration, 2006). The OECD and European Commission (2004) noted that building lifelong guidance systems will require identifying cost-effective methods of service delivery to expand citizens' access to the assistance they need.

Cost-effectiveness is concerned with the financial investment required to achieve an outcome. The ultimate goal is to identify the most effective approach that requires the least investment (Swisher, 2001). Unfortunately, the research on the cost-effectiveness of career guidance interventions is very limited (Whiston, 2002). The outcome research that does exist is not particularly helpful with regard to cost-effectiveness. It is obvious that some interventions are certainly more costly than others. In one of the few direct cost comparisons of career interventions, the cost per contact for a brief staff-assisted career intervention was 2.4 times lower than individual counseling (Reardon, 1996). The series of meta-analytic studies reported earlier have not conclusively shown that one type of intervention is better than another in relation to its costs.

It is unlikely that much progress will be made in establishing clear and consistent evidence of the cost-effectiveness of career guidance interventions until two things occur. First, the methodology for these studies needs to become more standardized, in terms of both the outcome measures used and the way costs are calculated. A good starting point for creating a standardized model would be to review some of the existing approaches (Sampson et al., 2004; Swisher, 2001). Second, the financial and staff resources required to carry out this type of research need to be provided consistently, as opposed to only being funded when other priorities are met or dropped when some other problem in the organization needs attention.

Integration of Career Theory, Public Policy, and the Costs of Career Interventions

The lack of attention paid in the professional literature to the cost-effectiveness of career guidance interventions is clearly a problem, since the policy makers who provide funding for career guidance are increasingly concerned with this issue. A potential reason for the apparent lack of interest in the costs of career guidance is a lack of awareness among career theorists, practitioners, and researchers of the crucial importance of this issue for current and future funding. However, it is difficult to be aware of an issue that is seldom included in the professional literature or presented at conferences. The review of the literature for this article revealed that little attention has been paid to integrating career theory, public policy, and the cost-effectiveness of career guidance interventions. To better understand this situation, we conducted a content analysis of the career guidance literature to determine if this perception was in fact the case. The research question was as follows: To what extent are terms related to career theory, public policy, and the costs of career guidance interventions integrated in the guidance literature?

The content analysis used an iterative search method (Bowes et al., 2005). Multiple keywords were used to search across the ERIC, ISI Web of Science, and PsyclNFO databases to assess how often the topics of interest were published in English language books and peer-reviewed journals. These databases were selected for their broad coverage of the literature in the social sciences. Multiple databases were used in an attempt to control for variation in keyword terminology and to increase the number of publications included in the analyses. An initial set of keywords was refined using the thesaurus tool in both ERIC and PsycINFO. The final keywords selected were career choice, theory, policy, and cost.

The findings from analyzing all three databases for the years 1979 through 2009 showed a substantial number of publications that included the keywords career choice and theory. When the keyword policy was combined with career choice, the number of publications dropped dramatically. Combining the terms career choice, theory, and cost or career choice, policy, and costs produced no publications for the ERIC and PsycINFO databases and only 10 total publications for the ISI Web of Science database. Combining all four terms produced no publications in any of the three databases.

These findings should be interpreted with caution because of the limitations in the methodology used in the analyses. First, only books and peer-reviewed journal articles were included in the analyses. If technical reports, conference proceedings, and other types of publications were included, the proportion of documents that combined all four terms might have increased. Second, only publications written in English were analyzed. It may be that publications in other languages that represent countries with a strong policy emphasis on cost in relation to career guidance interventions might have produced different results.

Several factors may account for the lack of integration among career theory, public policy, and the costs of career guidance interventions. One factor may be a lack of interaction and shared experience between the two groups: (a) career theorists and researchers and (b) career guidance practitioners and managers. The nature of work differs between the two groups and influences the focus of their concerns and interests. These differences are evident in their respective use of language. Jepsen (1996) observed that theorists use more conceptual and research terminology, whereas practitioners are more concerned with language related to problems, information, and interpretations. Both groups have made unique and important contributions. However, their apparent lack of substantive interaction may limit the effectiveness of theory-based career interventions. Another factor may be that the integration of career theory, policy, and costs is occurring but the information is not disseminated in a way that can be easily located by other professionals. For example, Magnusson and Lalande (2005) reported that data do exist on the outcomes of career guidance interventions but are not readily available.

There are several strategies to improve the integration of career theory, public policy, and the costs of interventions. One strategy for improving the contribution that career theory makes to cost-effective practice is to increase collaboration among theorists, practitioners, and researchers in the ongoing development of theory (Herr, 1996; Jepsen, 1996). Increased collaboration is needed in several areas. First, intervention outcomes predicted by career theory may vary by client population and setting. Establishing which career guidance interventions work best with specific types of populations is an important priority (Sampson, 2009; Savickas, 1989). Differences in needs, circumstances, and readiness for career decision making can make a specific career intervention effective for one individual and ineffective for another. Second, problems have been noted when Western career theories and techniques are applied to populations with differing values and cultural norms (Arthur, 2005). Collaboration with practitioners serving persons in these cultures can help theorists refine or adapt their theories and techniques to be more effective in more places. Third, collaboration provides opportunities for pilot testing theory-based assessment and information resources, including evaluating the effectiveness of the language used to explain the theory directly to the persons being served. Fourth, practitioner training resources can be pilot tested with practitioners in different types of organizations. Fifth, collaboration in developing and using various theory-based quantitative and qualitative outcome measures can assist in developing much needed evidence-based practice. Sixth, career theory has been more strongly influenced by the discipline of psychology than the disciplines of sociology and economics. Including theorists and researchers from sociology and economics into this collaboration may suggest helpful concepts and applications that would otherwise have been missed. Finally, good theory evolves over time in an iterative process, using both deductive and inductive methods. Ongoing collaboration among theorists, practitioners, and researchers provides opportunities for the refinement and improvement of career theory. The above collaboration among career theorists, researchers, practitioners, and managers can help to keep theory-based career guidance interventions firmly grounded in practice. The responsiveness of career theorists to the concerns of practitioners, managers, and policy makers also increases the chances that theory-based interventions will be used effectively.

Another strategy for dealing with lack of integration of career theory, public policy, and cost-effectiveness is to use the professional expertise that exists in current policy networks. Organizations focusing on public policy in career guidance, such as the European Lifelong Guidance Policy Network (; see Vuorinen, 2008), the Center for the Study of Career Development and Public Policy (, and the International Centre for Career Development and Public Policy (http://, would provide an immediate opportunity for examining the translation of career theory to practice, including issues of effectiveness, access, and social justice, hnprovements in the translation of career theory to practice in a socially responsible manner will require broad participation of career theorists, researchers, practitioners, managers, stakeholders, social partners, and policy makers.

Access to Career Guidance Interventions

Career guidance interventions must be accessible if they are to be helpful to the persons who need assistance in making career choices. Along with user-friendliness, confidentiality, impartiality, and equality of opportunity, accessibility is one of the key principles of guidance (Hughes, Bosley, Bowes, & Bysshe, 2002). This section explores the potential impact that career theory can have on access to interventions. The section begins with an examination of access to career guidance interventions as a social justice issue and continues with a discussion of factors that may limit access, and then presents strategies for improving access. The section ends with a discussion of the use of differentiated career interventions to improve access to career guidance interventions that focuses finally on collaborative career counseling.

Access to Career Guidance Interventions and Social Justice

Theorists, practitioners, and researchers in career guidance have been committed to social justice for a long time. Social activism and social justice were foundational elements of career guidance in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. Frank Parsons, one of the founders of career guidance in the United States, was an important leader in the social reform movement of his time (Blustein, 2006; Gummere, 1988; Savickas, 2002). A key aspect of social justice is the equitable distribution of resources (Arthur, 2006; Bell, 1997; Leong & Leach, 2007; Speight & Vera, 2008). Equity in access to occupational, educational, training, and employment opportunities is essential in a socially just society. Given the role that career guidance plays in helping people make informed and careful choices about their opportunities, equity in access to career guidance is also a social justice issue.

Factors That May Limit Access to Career Guidance

Arthur, Collins, McMahon, and Marshall (2009) stressed the need to examine career theories and interventions to ensure that the needs of chronically underserved and neglected populations are addressed. One aspect of theory-based career interventions that may be problematic is how the cost of theory affects access to career interventions for all persons, including chronically underserved and neglected populations. Practitioner views on the importance of advocacy in their work and access to career guidance resources on the Internet can also be potential problems.

The cost of applying career theory to practice. Career theory influences the cost of delivering career guidance interventions. Two key cost factors are the nature of the interventions provided and the nature of the practitioners providing the interventions.

1. The nature of career guidance interventions. Career theory can be used to design a wide variety of career guidance interventions, such as individual counseling, group counseling, brief counseling, career courses, workshops, and self-help resources. However, in practice, many career theories are applied most often in individual counseling interventions. Evidence for this can be seen in the case studies used to show how theories are translated into practice. The vast majority of these case studies depict individual counseling. Also, the course content and supervised experiences of practitioner-preparation programs emphasize individual counseling, with some attention to group counseling, and little emphasis on designing and delivering other types of interventions. Theorists and practitioners have not always applied their theories to the full range of intervention options available.

Career theory is created and is best applied in a cultural context. As stated previously, the appropriateness of Western career theories and techniques has been questioned when they are applied to populations with differing values and cultural norms (Arthur, 2005). Western culture may exert a limiting effect on the nature of career guidance interventions, as well as limiting the view of vocational behavior. The preference for individual counseling may be as influenced by the individualistic nature of Western culture as any other factor, with the exception of tradition. It may be that practitioners prefer delivering individual counseling because it fits their general cultural worldview that successful action is more individual than collective.

Career guidance interventions offered on a one-to-one basis are simply more expensive and increasingly difficult to justify. Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey (2005) stated,
   The goal of career guidance services should be to provide the
   maximum benefits to students and clients at the lowest per-person
   cost. Clearly, given the workload and time constraints
   of counselors in schools and other settings, the goal should
   be to save one-to-one time for the persons that need such
   specialized service while providing service to most students
   through a variety of methods. (p. 256)

As practitioners are pressed for both time and resources to meet increased demand for services, the need for interventions that are accessible and affordable is extremely important (Severy, 2008, p. 271). The pressure to serve increasing numbers of clients with traditional one-to-one career guidance interventions without any additional resources can lead to ethical problems, such as serving as many clients as possible to meet mandated delivery targets without providing a level of assistance that clients actually need (Duggan & Jurgens, 2007). Holland (1996) noted that many career guidance practitioners delivered only one-to-one counseling interventions as opposed to using a variety of interventions. While acknowledging the effectiveness of one-to-one interventions, Holland observed that, "educational and group methods are the only way we will be able to fill the need for service in middle- and low income groups" (p. 3). Direct services, other than therapy, such as

psychoeducational interventions, should also be a priority for multiculturally competent practitioners engaged in practice from a social justice perspective (Vera & Speight, 2003).

2. The nature of practitioners providing career guidance interventions. A wide variety of practitioners deliver career guidance interventions. Some practitioners are guidance specialists, whereas others have a primary occupational identity as a teacher, psychologist, counselor, human resource specialist, employment officer, or labor-market analyst (OECD, 2004). Considerable variation also exists in the training and supervised experience of these practitioners, ranging from those who have graduate degrees and specialist diplomas to those with little formal training.

Some career theory is written in a way that makes it difficult to use for practitioners with limited training and education. Herr (1996) noted that the abstract language used by theorists in describing their work has made it difficult for practitioners to translate theory into practice. Jepsen (1996) made a similar observation when he noted that theorists used more conceptual and research terminology in their writing. Much of the existing theory literature is written in a way that requires considerable verbal ability and background knowledge to understand, which makes the information less accessible to the wide range of practitioners delivering career interventions. (It is important here not to assume that persons without advanced qualifications do not have the verbal ability necessary to read the existing literature.) Effective and easy-to-understand training materials may exist, but they are not likely readily accessible in the professional literature because they are perceived as not making a unique contribution to behavioral science or because the materials are not sufficiently commercially viable to be published.

The high level of verbal abstraction in the career theory literature and a possible lack of easily consumable training resources can lead to three potentially negative consequences. First, the positive impact of the theory is reduced because only a small number of highly qualified practitioners are competent to use it. This can create a substantial missed opportunity to improve the practice. Second, by promoting complex theory, the assumption could be made that a high level of academic training is necessary to deliver effective career guidance when there are no conclusive data to support this assumption. Requiring a high level of qualification can be especially problematic in developing countries, where participation in higher education is low, resulting in limited availability of practitioners at a time when there is a strong social and economic need for career guidance. Third, the salaries of practitioners with graduate degrees and specialist diplomas are often higher than the salaries of practitioners with less (or no) formal training. As salaries increase, fewer practitioners can be hired and as a result fewer persons can be served. This has direct implications for increasing the costs of career guidance interventions.

Practitioner views on the importance of advocacy in their work. A key tenet of social justice in counseling is advocacy. The question is advocacy for whom: clients or citizens? "[Whom] are we responsible for as career practitioners? Are we responsible only for the clients who come through our door, or are we responsible for the citizens in our society who need help with career choices?" (Sampson, 2009, p. 93). If the view of practitioners is to provide a high quality of service to the clients who seek their help, then using individual counseling as the primary mode of service delivery makes sense. However, if the view of practitioners also includes being advocates for citizens who need career guidance in their communities, then using individual counseling as the primary mode of service delivery is incongruent with social justice concerns for equality of access to services.

Practitioners need to examine how their work can inadvertently support the status quo (Arthur, 2005). Given the responsibility practitioners have to engage in social action (Hiebert, 2006) and address inequity in society (Blustein, McWhirter, & Perry, 2005), counselors need to be proactive in institutions that have practices that may not meet the needs of diverse constituencies (Arredondo, 1999), including working to change organizational practices and policies (Arthur, 2005). This proactive role would include challenging the dominance of costly individual counseling interventions when large numbers of individuals need career guidance.

Access to the Internet. The Internet has provided unparalleled access to career guidance. A wide variety of career resources and interventions can be delivered on the Internet (OECD & European Commission, 2004; Sampson, 1998; Sampson & Bloom, 2001; Watts & Dent, 2007). The anonymity and convenience provided by the Internet may encourage some persons to obtain resources and services who have been reluctant to seek assistance in the past. Persons who have difficulty accessing career guidance because of a disability that reduces their mobility can use the Internet to interact with a counselor and obtain resources. The same advantages would exist for persons living in a geographically remote area who have difficulty accessing services, or persons who seek access to practitioners in other geographic locations who have the specialized expertise they need (Sampson, 2008; Sampson & Bloom, 2001).

However, it is inappropriate to assume that access to the Internet is universal (Cedefop, 2009). The use of the Internet to provide career guidance interventions and resources can create access problems for some groups in society that are already at risk of social exclusion. The situation in which some persons have restricted access to the Internet because of their limited financial resources continues to raise important ethical and social justice concerns (Sampson & Bloom, 2001; Sampson & Pyle, 1983). Limited reading literacy, computer literacy, and language skills can also limit the access that some people have to career guidance resources on the Internet. As a result of these barriers, it is inappropriate to assume that resources and services can be delivered over the Internet to all.

Using Differentiated Career Guidance Interventions to Improve Access

The series of meta-analyses of career guidance outcome studies identified earlier showed modest but positive outcomes for people receiving career guidance interventions for assistance with career choices. However, the uniformity of how interventions were provided in these studies showed an assumption that all clients were developmentally undecided, as opposed to indecisive, and had similar goals (Brown & McPartland, 2005; Miller & Brown, 2005; Whiston & Rahardia, 2008). Numerous studies have shown that people vary in their readiness for career choice (Brown & Rector, 2009; Miller & Brown, 2005; Sampson, Peterson, Reardon, & Lenz, 2000). Existing career intervention outcome studies have not generally examined the relative effectiveness of interventions for people with varying levels of readiness for career choice (Whiston & Tai, 2006). It is very likely that the effectiveness of career guidance interventions would be improved if the amount and nature of assistance provided by practitioners was congruent with clients' readiness for decision making.

People who show higher levels of readiness for career choice are better prepared to benefit from career guidance interventions with limited assistance, whereas people who show lower levels of readiness are less ready to benefit from a career intervention without assistance from a practitioner (Sampson, 2008). A variety of constructs can be used to identify readiness for career choice. Constructs and related measures of readiness for career choice are either theoretical, such as career beliefs (Krumboltz, 1991), career thoughts (Sampson, Peterson, Lenz, Reardon, & Saunders, 1996a, 1996b), and vocational identity (Holland, Daiger, & Power, 1980), or empirical, such as career decidedness (Jones, 1989; Osipow, Carney, Winer, Yanico, & Koschier, 1987).

Differentiated service delivery can maximize the cost-effectiveness of career guidance interventions by limiting the provision of individualized interventions over multiple sessions to people with low readiness for career choice who would not likely benefit from brief or self-help interventions. People with moderate to high readiness for decision making can be cost-effectively served by brief or self-help interventions (Sampson, 2008; Sampson et al., 2004). The limited evidence of effectiveness for self-help use of computer-assisted career guidance interventions (Miller & Brown, 2005) is very likely due to people with low to moderate readiness not having the practitioner assistance they needed to make effective use of the system. When practitioner assistance was provided, the effectiveness of the intervention improved considerably (Miller & Brown, 2005).

One-to-one counseling still has a vital role to play in delivering effective career guidance for people with very low readiness for career decision making. Individual counseling may be the dominant mode of service delivery for people who are chronically undecided or indecisive, as opposed to being developmentally undecided (Foley, Kelly, & Hartman, 2006). Effective lifelong guidance systems should "provide access to individual guidance by appropriately trained and qualified practitioners for those who need such help, at times when they need it" (OECD, 2004, p. 26). For individual counseling to be maximally cost-effective, one needs to examine which clients need individual career counseling (Whiston et al., 1998). In other words, which clients would not be able to make an informed and careful career choice without individualized assistance from a counselor?

It is not possible to deliver effective differentiated services without a robust self-help career guidance provision. Watts (2005) observed that it is becoming increasingly common for a variety of self-help information resources to be available in an open access area with clear signposting to locate needed resources, with specialist practitioners available for brief support or longer counseling interviews as needed. Diagnostic help provided on reception can help individuals and practitioners decide whether a self-help approach, brief staff assistance, or more intensive help is needed (Watts, 2005). Individuals using Internet websites to obtain career resources on a self-help basis sometimes have the option to access distance counseling as needed. As part of the distance counseling process, website users can be referred to local service providers when appropriate (Watts & Dent, 2007).

The use of a differentiated service delivery model was a key aspect in the redesign of career services in several countries. Career services in the United States (Sampson, 2008), England (Hughes et al., 2000), Scotland (Fairweather, Govan, & McGlynn, 2006), and Northern Ireland (Department for Employment and Learning & Department of Education, 2008) have adapted various aspects of the cognitive information processing approach (Peterson, Sampson, Lenz, & Reardon, 2002; Sampson, Palmer, & Watts, 1999; Sampson et al., 2004) in their service redesign. The goal in each case was to improve cost-effectiveness by using staff with varying amounts of training and experience to deliver a combination of self-help, brief staff-assisted, and individual case managed services that were appropriate for identified client needs. Designing career services on a countrywide basis can allow economies of scale by avoiding duplicated effort in developing career resources for clients, creating and delivering training for staff, and designing and maintaining websites.

The design and implementation of differentiated service delivery models requires time and financial resources. Most of the funding for career guidance interventions is provided by governments (Watts, 1996). It is essential that career service managers and practitioners be able to relate the funding they require to the needs of policy makers to provide a broad range of career services to meet the diverse needs of individuals at a time when financial resources are constrained. If career guidance practitioners are to obtain financial support, they must learn to communicate in policy terms and address the concerns of policy makers (Watts, 2005). The chance of obtaining funding to design and deliver differentiated career guidance is improved when interventions can be linked to policy concerns, for example, helping policy makers understand how readiness for career decision making relates to student retention in higher education in order to develop differential career interventions (Lerkkanen, 2002).

Using Collaborative Career Counseling to Improve Access to Career Guidance Interventions

Given the need for more cost-effective career guidance interventions, career theorists, researchers, practitioners, and managers need to work together to refine existing interventions and to create additional interventions to provide individuals with ready access to resources and services. One option is to integrate existing career theory and counseling theory, along with research on collaborative learning, to develop collaborative career counseling as an additional career intervention. In collaborative career counseling, a counselor simultaneously assists two individuals in a way that takes advantage of a preexisting functional social relationship and of the benefits of collaborative learning to facilitate the informed and careful career choices of each person. Interaction between clients can occur while career resources are being used, as well as during counseling sessions. Interaction can be face-to-face or via the Internet. The two individuals may or may not have a similar career opportunity or problem, and they may or may not be related. The assessment and information resources available to clients using this approach are the same as those used in other career guidance interventions.

Determining the appropriateness of collaborative career counseling. Because of the social nature of collaborative career counseling, some individuals are more likely than others to benefit from it. For this type of intervention, it is especially important that the clients involved have enough shared life experience to ask each other relevant questions, make relevant observations, and provide meaningful feedback on the other person's perceptions and potential plans. They need to have adequate listening and communication skills. They also need to be capable of helping the other person while they themselves are engaged in making a career choice. In terms of the relationship, individuals need to be reasonably accepting of each other and trust that each person will be honest in providing feedback, be willing to maintain a level of confidentiality appropriate for the content of the discussion, and be willing to point out discrepancies in the other person's thoughts, feelings, and behavior if these become apparent.

For their part, counselors need to be able (a) to model effective communication and relationship skills and (b) to identify any communication or relationship problems the individuals might have that could compromise counseling effectiveness and then intervene to resolve the problems or make a referral if necessary. Examples of relationship problems include overfunctioning or treating the other person in a demeaning or aggressive manner. Overfunctioning by one individual in a relationship may lead to reduced career search self-efficacy beliefs. Career search self-efficacy refers to the degree of confidence individuals have that they can succeed at various career exploration activities, such as self-exploration of values and interests, networking with professionals in a particular field of interest, and successfully interviewing for employment (Solberg, Good, Fischer, Brown, & Nord, 1995). Treating someone in a demeaning or aggressive manner may lead to reduced career self-efficacy beliefs and outcome expectations. Career self-efficacy beliefs concern an individual's perceived capabilities related to performance, whereas outcome expectations concern imagined consequences of performing (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 2002). A relationship between individuals that is characterized by overfunctioning or demeaning and aggressive verbal interactions would make collaborative career counseling an inappropriate intervention (unless counseling was expanded to include mental health issues).

Collaborative learning. Social interaction is a key element of the collaborative learning process. Collaborative learning is a naturally occurring social act whereby learning occurs through conversation (Gerlach, 1994). The process of collaborative learning requires the active involvement of the learner. Active involvement in learning has been shown to be more effective than passively receiving information (Matthews, Cooper, Davidson, & Hawkes, 1995). Evidence shows that collaborative learning has a positive impact on learning outcomes. Students have been shown to perform better when collaborating than when working individually. This type of learning also contributes to improved problem-solving ability as individuals are exposed to differing interpretations of a similar situation (Gokhale, 1995). Students with prior collaborative learning experience showed more evidence of planning and problem-solving skills than students who had worked alone (Blaye, Light, Joiner, & Sheldon, 1991). The tendency to self-critique and reflect occurred four times more often during collaborative learning than when individuals learned alone (Miyake, 1986). The capacity to reflect and gain insight is an important aspect of clarifying self-knowledge in making choices, including career choices.

Potential client outcomes. Combining a preexisting relationship with collaborative learning could lead to several potential career decision-making outcomes for clients. Discussing career assessment results provides an opportunity for clients to compare their assessment results with their perceptions of each other based on their shared life experiences. Examining career information together may help clients generate career options that might not have been considered otherwise as well as provide an opportunity to mutually share their perceptions of the potential appropriateness of an occupation, education or training experience, or employment opportunity. Learning a common decision-making strategy can provide a schema for helping clients monitor their progress in making a choice, including providing them with a way of talking about the barriers they are facing in reaching their goals. The social interaction inherent in collaborative learning can also provide emotional support during the implementation of a career choice and a sense of mutual accountability in following through on a decision. For clients with similar characteristics, collaboration may facilitate insight about shared multicultural issues related to career choice.

Potential societal outcomes. Collaborative career counseling allows more individuals to be served by a single practitioner, which reduces the cost of service delivery per individual and allows more persons to be helped--a key concern of policy makers and managers. This intervention can be used in both brief counseling and longer term counseling. Regardless of the number of sessions, serving two individuals at one time reduces costs. Also, this approach may increase public access to career guidance interventions by attracting individuals who might not otherwise seek assistance without the security of being able to receive services with a person they know. The availability of brief career guidance interventions in a welcoming career center resource room may encourage individuals to seek help with someone they know. Reardon (1996, p. 285) noted that "the informal, relaxed, nonclinical nature of the self-directed approach seems to attract shy, timid clients, who sometimes bring a friend and work through the career interventions together" (p. 285). Watts and Ball (1990) found that some college students preferred using a computer-assisted career guidance system in pairs rather than individually.

Ethical issues. Collaborative career counseling can be delivered with the same attention to ethical issues as other types of career guidance interventions. Confidentiality between individuals is less likely to be a problem because the clients sought assistance knowing that each of them will share information that is personal in nature. However, the importance and limits of confidentiality need to be discussed at the beginning of service delivery as in other forms of counseling. It is important to ensure that clients are aware of the particular benefits and limitations of this approach to counseling. Having the counselor identify and deal with any communication or relationship issues that are compromising collaboration between the individuals helps to resolve a problem that would be somewhat unique to collaborative counseling. Individuals would also need to be briefly screened or to review appropriate information to be reasonably sure that they are capable of benefiting from this type of collaborative intervention.

Future development of collaborative career counseling. Collaborative learning already exists among individuals seeking services in centers where career information resources are available on a self-help basis. The pressing need for more cost-effective career guidance interventions and the availability of self-help resources increase the opportunities for individuals to collaborate. Collaboration among individuals seeking career services should not be limited to collaborative career counseling. Options for facilitating collaborative learning need to be explored for brief interventions, including career courses and workshops. The use of collaborative learning strategies should also be explored for self-help interventions provided face-to-face or on websites.

The potential advantages of collaborative learning and the fact that it already occurs in some settings provide a compelling rationale for investing the time necessary to create and validate theory-based approaches to collaborative career counseling. An initial step would be to integrate models of collaborative learning with relevant elements of individual, group, and family counseling strategies and various career theories, taking into account any multicultural, cognitive, affective, or social factors likely to affect collaboration. Examination of strategies for group career counseling (Pyle, 2007) may also be helpful in further developing this approach.

Balancing Effectiveness and Access in Delivering Career Guidance Interventions

A fundamental aim of public policy in career guidance is to ensure that effective services are readily accessible to the people who need it at various points over their lifetime. A fundamental constraint is that the public funding that supports the provision of career guidance is increasingly limited as population growth and demographics place greater and greater demands on government resources. Caught between aims and constraints, policy makers struggle to fund career guidance interventions and resources that are effective enough to be consistently helpful, while also having a low enough average cost per person to ensure that young people and adults have reasonable access to the career guidance interventions they need. Highly effective guidance services that are very helpful but accessible to only a privileged few are no better for society than poor quality services that are readily available but not very helpful to anyone.

A seemingly simple solution for improving access to career guidance while also maintaining effectiveness is to multiply the per-client cost for services by the number of new clients to be served, and then increase funding proportionately to add the staff and facilities needed to serve more persons. However, there are two problems with this approach. The first problem is that the demand for public services and education is increasing faster than public tax revenues. It is unrealistic to expect anything more than a small increase in funding for career guidance no matter how articulate the case may be for more resources. The second problem is that the need for additional funding is based on the assumption that more practitioners are needed if more services are to be delivered. This assumption is in turn based on an additional assumption that any change in the current delivery of services will result in an unacceptable reduction in the effectiveness of service provision, as less individualized time is spent on serving each person. These two assumptions can no longer be supported.

According to the OECD (2004),
   [C]ountries need to greatly expand access to career guidance
   so that it is available to people throughout their lives, and so
   that it can be available not just to selected groups such as
   school students or the unemployed, but to all. If this changed
   emphasis and expanded access were to be achieved solely
   through the traditional way in which career guidance is
   provided--face-to-face interviews--there would inevitably
   be a substantial increase in costs. Both to minimize cost
   increases, and to meet the needs of a greatly expanded and
   more diverse range of clients, career guidance needs to be
   made available much more flexibly in time and space, and
   to adopt a wider range of delivery methods. (p. 24)

Our task as a profession is to deliver effective career guidance that is readily accessible in a manner that promotes social justice for all. This may mean that not all people receive the one-to-one, time-intensive attention that they would prefer or that practitioners may want to deliver. Given the limited public funding available and the increasing demand for career guidance, public policy should focus on delivering the career guidance that people need as opposed to the services people want or the services practitioners want to provide. Our concern for social justice issues needs to begin with examining the social justice impact of the career guidance interventions that we deliver to our citizens. It is imperative that the cost-effectiveness of theory-based career interventions be maximized to ensure that citizens' needs are met, as well as to ensure that policy makers understand the value of career guidance and continue to provide the funds needed to deliver career interventions. Access to career services should not be restricted by the theoretical bases of our career guidance interventions. If we fail in this regard, we will inadvertently perpetuate social injustice. In other words, we will be contributing to the very problems we are trying to rectify and prevent.


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James P. Sampson Jr. and V. Casey Dozier, Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems, Florida State University, Tallahassee; and Gloria P. Colvin, Strozier Library, Florida State University, Tallahassee. This article is based on a paper delivered in June 2009 by James P. Sampson Jr. at the International Association of Educational and Vocational Guidance Conference titled "Coherence, Co-operation and Quality in Guidance and Counselling" in Jyvaskylla, Finland. Helpful reviews of the manuscript were provided by Nancy Arthur, Pamela Carroll, Janet Lenz, Elisabeth Musch, Robert Reardon, Lauren Sampson, Sandy Sampson, Charmaine Steiner, Raimo Vuorinen, and Walter Wager. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to James P. Sampson Jr., Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems, Florida State University, 1114 West Call Street, Suite 1100, Stone Building, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4453 (e-mail:
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Date:Jun 22, 2011
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