Career Counseling Theory and Relationship Strategies; The case of Naomi

Naomi presents a number of critical factors. First off, she is 26 years old and this is relevant when considering the case study in a development theory perspective. According to Super, Savickas and Super (2006), career development is a lifelong process that is all-inclusive.

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With this framework in mind, the Naomi vignette represents a woman in the second stage of development, that is, the establishment stage that is experienced by young adults aged 24-35. Other associated factors play a major role in classifying Naomi more accurately, including her low-average I.Q., her single-parent status, (she first conceived when she was barely 17), her obesity and Diabetes II health conditions, her professional success so far, her support system comprising of church and family, and her means of coping with emergencies among others. In this regard, a typical psychological assessment of Naomi in general terms presents an unattractive picture of a very imbalanced individual with a high likelihood of abusing drugs, engaging in immorality, and being an irresponsible parent. Conversely, Naomi has maneuvered most of these potholes to become a moral and socially responsible adult with stable job and an annual income above $30000. Consequently, it is important to point out these successes to her and actually convey to her the admirable strength and resilience (Crites, 2003, p. 442). It would also be important to mention her support systems and encourage her to keep those relationships thriving for the wellbeing of her family.

The available psychology literature has highlighted several important theories that reference counseling approaches. Conversely, it would be inaccurate to restrict Naomi’s counseling to a single career related theory because she happens to fall across the range. This paper shall highlight on the four most relevant theories, i.e. trait-oriented theories, Person in Environment theories, John Holland’s typology, and developmental theories. The reason for this is that most of these theories are not mutually exclusive and depend on the rest for effectiveness. The theories tend to borrow from each other to draw their strengths as individual theories or sometimes they are irrelevant as completely –even as particular elements within the theory are sensible and relevant for the Naomi vignette as shall be shown below- at least for the former theories. However, the developmental theory stands on its own, mostly because it is more contemporary in its positions and because the foundational framework deals with adults’ concerns instead of focusing primarily on initial career choice. To investigate Naomi’s emotional well-being, the counselor could use the Beck Happiness Scale and Beck Depression Scale II (Fernandez, 1999, p. 302). As earlier alluded, career counseling for Naomi is bound to be beneficial especially because of her commendable desire to participate in and develop through it, evidenced by her seeking it out, her resilience as evidenced by her success and good social standing thus far, and her ethical conduct at the workplace. Finally, the question of whether Naomi has achieved career maturity evidenced by one ready to make the necessary steps towards their career goals for their age receives an affirmative response due to Naomi’s desire for change.

Trait oriented theories grant special regard to the concept of matching. Matching refers to the process of studying an individual’s traits including character, beliefs, values, interests, and personality style among others and then pairing the relevant traits with various connected career paths or occupations. According to Parsons (1909), the counselor needs to study the client, survey occupations, and then match her with an occupation, which forms the basis of the trait, and factor theory (p. 345). It follows that the counselor needs to study the client keenly through various established assessment models and tools to come up with a conclusive description of which they are and then use these traits to trace the occupation that best suits the individual. A strong point of this theory is that it has led to the development of numerous assessment techniques but on the adverse side, its overreliance on and overuse of test results removes its prognosis from customized individuals’ issues thus making it unreliable.

The second theory, Person –Environment Correspondence, (PEC) provides for work adjustment issues. Naomi clearly needs direction on this area and some of the variables in work adjustment include job satisfaction and the individual’s ability to perform the required tasks. Naomi is clearly dissatisfied with her job in terms of payment because she lives from hand to mouth, but she seems apt at performing her duties hence the success and promotions and professional ethics. Consequently, she does not need to change her career but she needs to increase her educational qualifications in order to further secure her position as well as open herself to various alternatives within the same field at a higher income. Statistics indicate that:

[….] one must be willing to be a lifelong learner in order to stay employed.” Moreover, in the 21st century, it may be necessary to adopt teamwork at workplaces and an expansion in one’s set of skills is necessary if one does not wish to become obsolete in the workplace (Cronbach, 2009, p. 134).

A good option would be to advance her knowledge of technological advances relevant to customer care positions. The counselor should also inform her that what happens in one life role has the potential of affecting other roles and so frustration in her personal life could easily lead to dissatisfaction with her current job. Consequently, it is important that she maintain a balance at optimal level in all her life roles.

John Holland’s typology is also applicable in Naomi’s case and specifically, the career choice theory. Holland defines career choice as an expression or extension of a person’s personality into the world of work (Ford, 2007). The satisfaction of an individual’s modal personal orientation informs one’s career choice and in Naomi’s case, she appears to be a socially oriented person from the choice of customer care. Since all her jobs have always focused on this field, she appears to have developed a decisive orientation over the years and this kind of guarantees potential for satisfaction with her career. Therefore, the counselor should point out that the dissatisfaction Naomi is experiencing may not stem from her career choice, and so the necessary adjustments shall not be too overwhelming for her. Holland posits that occupational homogeneity is the best route to self-fulfillment and a consistent occupational pattern (Ford, 2007, p. 276). Therefore, he insists that an individual ought to advance self-knowledge before acquiring vocational satisfaction and stability. For Naomi, the counselor may use Holland’s Occupational Classification (HOC) system and match Naomi’s orientation with the corresponding Dictionary of Occupational Titles, (DOT) (Ford, 2007).

The development theories posit that individuals constantly make changes during development to adjust to changing life roles. This would be helpful in providing Naomi with an understanding of how her unique development influences her perception of her life roles including her work role. On an advanced level, the counselor will then proceed to explain how her perception of her various roles have affected her perception of her work role. It is important to note again that individuals implement their self-concepts into careers as a way of expressing themselves. Consequently, Naomi’s self-concept becomes a critical component of her counseling experience and the counselor needs to find out using the Career Development Assessment and Counseling Model (C-DAC) how Naomi perceives herself and how this is affecting her attitude towards her life roles (Fouad, & Spreda, 2005, p. 169). The importance of the “know thyself” theory is highlighted here and Naomi’s self awareness, self esteem and self knowledge are a crucial elements as prerequisites for optimal career satisfaction. She is obese and this has likely impacted negatively on her self-esteem (Fouad, & Spreda, 2005). Moreover, she has been diagnosed with Diabetes II at 26, not to mention her single parenthood status, all ingredients of a catastrophic blow to a person’s self-esteem. The counselor ought to emphasize on her self-image to ensure that she begins to appreciate herself more, and one way of doing that it pointing out her success so far and potential for better success in future.

Diversity in Career Counseling

Several variables are worth mentioning when the notion of diversity appears including educational background, skill sets, job experience, life cycle status, racial identity, and gender identity. Again, a cursory glance through Naomi’s vignette reveals that she is a biracial 26-year-old single mother of three who did not graduate from high school but somehow managed to get her GED. She is obese and suffers from Diabetes II, and her annual income is just slightly above $30,000. The systems theory of career framework comprises of various variables including age, self-concept, confidence, race, personality, and sexual orientation (Baron, Hoffman, & Merrill, 2008, p. 28). All these are reviewed within three contextual frameworks including educational history, workplace information, and family structure. All these variables allude to cultural diversity. Culture is used to mean:

[….] a dynamic system of rules, explicit, and implicit, established by groups in order to ensure their survival, involving attitudes, values, beliefs, norms, and behaviors, shared by a group but harbored differently by each specific unit within the group, communicated across generations, relatively stable but potential to change across time (Axelson, 2009, p. 34)

Naomi being biracial subscribes to both the African American and the Latino cultures but she probably favors the Latino culture because a Latino mother brought her up singly. Her culture becomes important especially when considering her progression through the career ladder. It is also relevant when the counselor is assessing the level of her acculturation or adaptation to the values of the dominant white society in America and how this affects her worldview.

Matters such as time orientation, the belief that the human nature is basically good, and personal space and privacy issues vary across different cultures. When establishing counseling appointments, time can be a factor where the counselor may subscribe to the American notion of punctuality. Conversely, Naomi, being Latino, may not be strictly punctual not because she is indifferent or disinterested in the counseling sessions but because this reflects her upbringing. This may jeopardize the quality of counseling services that she may receive from such an aggrieved counselor (Arredondo, 1996, p. 228). Secondly, the issue of believing that humanity is innately good may lead to Naomi being less competitive than is necessary for optimal career advancement at the workplace and this may have negatively affected her progression at work. The counselor needs to point out the need to adapt workplace associations that are based on personal survival as opposed to a collectivist culture. Finally, as regards personal space and privacy, people of a Latino descent tend to maintain close contact when discussing important matters. The counselor ought to be aware of this and preferably, organize the sitting arrangement to make her more comfortable during counseling sessions. Privacy shall be discussed in subsequent sections dealing with legal and ethical issues.

The counselor should critically consider the developmental model in order to assess how Naomi’s racial identity has affected the way she has progressed professionally. Secondly, being a woman, the counselor should look into her present firm and the applicable policies in terms of gender sensitivity to determine whether it provides Naomi with an optimal career progression opportunity. If this is not the case, the counselor ought to advice Naomi to consider moving to a more gender-sensitive firm such as McDonalds or Johnson and Johnson, which also require customer care personnel but are likely to give her a better opportunity at progression.

The impact of Crises, Emergencies and Disasters on Career Planning and Development

Naomi has had quite an unusual life because she was raised in a single-mother family, did not graduate from high school, conceived her first child when she was very young (17) and has had two other children since then with the youngest being only two years old. She is also single herself and desires to have a companion with whom to share her life. Her career life has dominantly revolved around customer care. Therefore, it may be difficult to establish why she chose that specific career path as this decision was probably made out of need. Moreover, the subsequent jobs in the same field probably came because she had familiarity with the concept of customer care. She had no experience because in terms of qualifications she only has her GED.

Taken together, in even of a crisis, an emergency or a disaster, Naomi would find herself in the unattractive government support system of welfare because presently, she lives from paycheck to paycheck without any savings that would assist in buffeting the financial effects of such an eventuality. Consequently, Naomi needs to learn how to live within her means so that she can use her minimal earnings wisely and save a bit to insure her against unplanned for occurrences. The likelihood of wanting to advance her education after this career counseling experience is very high but as she presently lives, she will not be able to afford that. She should look into cost saving avenues.

A possible emergency in Naomi’s case could be that her youngest child could suddenly contact pneumonia requiring special medication and even hospitalization. Since she has, nothing saved, she would probably not be able to afford to pay for treatment until her next paycheck and when she does, she shall not have anything left for the rest of her family needs. Consequently, advance budgeting is necessary before she gets her salary and it is important to look into insurance options that could secure her against foreseeable crises or disasters. The counselor can take her through the basics of formulating a budget and living by it as well as the need to get medical insurance as well as other insurance.

Assessment Tools

In determining what assessment tool is necessary to apply in a particular client’s case, it is necessary to assess the desired outcome. In Naomi’s case, so far, it is apparent that she is well placed in her customer care role and the causes for her dissatisfaction probably stem from her inadequate income as well as her dissatisfaction with her other life-roles. Consequently, it is necessary to establish what she needs to do pertaining to her work role and the ideal assessment tool for this is the:

Career Development Inventory (CDI)

This tool is reliable, valid, and relevant for the assessment goal. It is an appropriate tool for Naomi because she portrays independence and responsibility as well as career maturity. She is the kind of client who is aware of the need for an adjustment and so as a counselor, to know what she specifically requires, this tool shall come in handy in assessing her specific counseling procedure and in assessing career development programs that can be custom-used for Naomi. The scores portray the measures of planning orientation, readiness for exploration, information, and decision-making (Crites, 2003, p. 57). It is also suitable for Naomi because the reading level is sixth grade, and so she shall not have any difficulty in answering the questions because she at least achieved that status of schooling. Moreover, the inventory applies to both sexes and so because her chosen field is unisex in nature, this tool provides a comparable measurement context as her workplace environment. Finally, it provides for both cognitive and attitudinal scales and so it shall be effective in establishing Naomi’s attitudinal orientation towards her various life roles as well as towards continued education.

Legal and Ethical Issues Related to the Career Development Process

In most cases, legal issues usually arise when a counselor fails to comply with a required code of ethics and as a result, the client files a complaint against the counselor. The most commonly breached code is that of confidentiality. This requires counselors to keep all counseling discussions confidential and especially when the concept of peer counseling is applied incorrectly leading to leakage of sensitive data. Other ethical issues may arise in matters to do with competency and since this is less common, this section shall interpret and evaluate two ethical codes that are relevant for the counselor’s competence in Naomi’s vignette.

The counselor should be competent to handle Naomi’s case. The National Career Development Association (NCDA) provides that:

Section 6: NCDA members seek only those positions in the delivery of professional services for which they are professionally qualified. Section 7: NCDA members recognize their limitations and provide services or only use techniques for which they are qualified by training and/or experience. Career counselors recognize the need, and seek continuing education, to insure competent services (cited in Cronbach, 2009, p. 542)

This means that the counselor should not purport to initiate counseling if his or her training does not warrant handling a case of Naomi’s caliber and such qualification includes the use of the various assessment tools proposed above as well as other counseling techniques.

The American Counseling Association (ACA) Section E: Evaluation, Assessment, and Interpretation, E.2 states:

  1. a) Limits of Competence

Counselors recognize the limits of their competence and perform only those testing and assessment services for which they have been trained. They are familiar with reliability, validity, related standardization, error of measurement, and proper application of any technique utilized. Counselors using computerized-based test interpretations are trained in the construct being measured and the specific instrument being used prior to using this type of computer application. Counselors take reasonable measures to ensure the proper use of psychological assessment techniques for persons under their supervision (cited in Cronbach, 2009, p. 541)

This second provision makes it a violation to handle new specialty areas without education, training and supervision during the procedure. Consequently, if the counselor has never dealt with career counseling before and is say specialized in marriage or teenage counseling, he or she should not take up Naomi’s case. Alternatively, the issue of culture may also raise problems especially if the counselor has never counseled clients of biracial origins and yet the American Psychological Association clearly requires that such counselors only do so under supervision by experienced compatriots. Moreover, NCDA also provides that:

NCDA members who counsel clients from cultures different from their own must gain knowledge, personal awareness, and sensitivity pertinent to the client populations served and must incorporate culturally relevant techniques into their practice (B-13): Counseling Relationships (Cronbach, 2009, p. 543)


Career counseling is not a new concept in the field of counseling. Most organizations are recognizing the importance of balanced life roles as a precursor to better productivity and reduced turnover rates within their organizations. Individuals are also realizing that the world of work is becoming more competitive and demanding and that without a comprehensive structure of the work development process, they are bound to flop and be cut out of employment. Consequently, career counseling is gaining a lot of popularity as individuals and organizations enlist its services to improve their careers and attain quality of life results from their jobs while simultaneously securing their marketability in the ever-increasing competition characterizing the 21st century labor force.

This paper has looked into the various components of career counseling using a practical approach in the form of Naomi’s case study. The vignette provided various factors worth considering including the applicable career counseling theories and relationship strategies and it dealt with trait-oriented theories, person in environment theories, John Holland Typology, and developmental theories. It then proposed the career development inventory (CDI) as the most suitable assessment tool applicable in Naomi’s case because of its customized features such as sixth grade qualification and unisex provisions. On diversity in career counseling, the paper examined the systems theory framework of career development and then proceeded to investigate independent variables such as time orientation, personal space and privacy, and the view that humanity is innately good. It also touched on racial identity. Finally, the paper considered ethical issues arising in Naomi’s vignette and particularly elaborated on the issue of competence as provided for in the National Career Development Association (NCDA) and the American Counseling Association codes. It laid out the relevant provisions in each respective code and followed up with a brief explanation of these provisions, finally closing by giving an example of what would pass for a violation. Career counseling as a field has great potential for growth in future as various new variables are introduced into the world especially due to globalization and technological revolution.


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