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What Is a Case Study?

When you’re performing research as part of your job or for a school assignment, you’ll probably come across case studies that help you to learn more about the topic at hand. But what is a case study and why are they helpful? Read on to learn all about case studies.

Deep Dive into a Topic

At face value, a case study is a deep dive into a topic. Case studies can be found in many fields, particularly across the social sciences and medicine. When you conduct a case study, you create a body of research based on an inquiry and related data from analysis of a group, individual or controlled research environment.

As a researcher, you can benefit from the analysis of case studies similar to inquiries you’re currently studying. Researchers often rely on case studies to answer questions that basic information and standard diagnostics cannot address.

Study a Pattern

One of the main objectives of a case study is to find a pattern that answers whatever the initial inquiry seeks to find. This might be a question about why college students are prone to certain eating habits or what mental health problems afflict house fire survivors. The researcher then collects data, either through observation or data research, and starts connecting the dots to find underlying behaviors or impacts of the sample group’s behavior.

Gather Evidence

During the study period, the researcher gathers evidence to back the observed patterns and future claims that’ll be derived from the data. Since case studies are usually presented in the professional environment, it’s not enough to simply have a theory and observational notes to back up a claim. Instead, the researcher must provide evidence to support the body of study and the resulting conclusions.

Present Findings

As the study progresses, the researcher develops a solid case to present to peers or a governing body. Case study presentation is important because it legitimizes the body of research and opens the findings to a broader analysis that may end up drawing a conclusion that’s more true to the data than what one or two researchers might establish. The presentation might be formal or casual, depending on the case study itself.

Draw Conclusions

Once the body of research is established, it’s time to draw conclusions from the case study. As with all social sciences studies, conclusions from one researcher shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel, but they’re helpful for advancing the body of knowledge in a given field. For that purpose, they’re an invaluable way of gathering new material and presenting ideas that others in the field can learn from and expand upon.


career counselling case studies


Case Study: Helping a client conquer doubts and determine next steps after post-secondary

Career counsellor connie covey guides an overwhelmed liberal arts graduate through identifying her transferable skills, interests and potential pathways.

In this recurring Careering feature, career professionals share their real-life solutions to common problems in the field.

I recently had the opportunity to meet with an intelligent young woman who had just completed university. Laura felt disillusioned and overwhelmed. She had completed a Bachelor of Arts in human services and public relations, but now felt that was the wrong direction for her future. She wanted to speak to a career counsellor before deciding about further education.

Laura’s story

Laura felt strongly about contributing to society and promoting equality and justice; that was her motivation for completing a university degree in human services and public relations. During the counselling process, Laura reflected upon the communications-related role she held during university. That reflection resulted in an important self-discovery: she realized that she worked best when given a clear mandate, autonomy and empowerment to produce tangible results. As an introvert, she felt dissatisfied in a highly social, interactive support role where she could not see tangible results from her work.

Exploring possibilities

Together, Laura and I explored her career possibilities by identifying the intersection of four important elements: a) what she loves, b) what she is good at, c) where there is a need, and d) where she can earn a living by applying her passion and skills to solve real-world problems. We worked through the following steps:

Check out previous Careering Case Studies Wearing many hats to help a young client find his path Bridging the gap through profession-specific mentor matches Building confidence to tackle a mid-life career transition

All education and experiences are valuable

Laura felt that she graduated with a “useless” degree, but no education is a waste. The BBC recently ran an article titled, “ Why ‘worthless’ humanities degrees may set you up for life , ” which emphasized the employability of and need for liberal arts graduates (Ruggeri, 2019). Because the cost of education is high, it is important to choose educational programs and work experience that develop and build knowledge and transferrable skills. However, as it is difficult to know what the future holds, it is also important to learn how to learn. A degree some may perceive as useless teaches valuable skills such as critical thinking, communication and interpersonal skills.

What you want to be when you grow up does not necessarily need to be planned, because unplanned events are a normal part of career development (Krumboltz, 2009). In a world that continues to evolve due to globalization, technological advancements and automation, it is important to equip clients with knowledge and access to resources that can help them navigate unexpected events or life changes. When clients feel anxious about the changing nature of work, career practitioners can help them view the future with curiosity and build skills of resilience. For instance, clients will benefit from skills of persistence when encountering setbacks as well as flexibility and optimism about the changing nature of work (Mitchell, et al., 1999). Career practitioners can help clients discover that taking risks to build new skills and knowledge can be rewarding.

As we concluded our time working together, Laura signed a personal commitment contract outlining several activities she was aiming to complete in the next 12 months. She planned to take a project management course, prepare for and take the CAPM® exam, and continue to modify her resume to reflect her project-management skills and experience. She also identified a humanitarian relief organization that she planned to learn more about. Lastly, I connected Laura with an individual working in the sector for an information interview. Laura was on the right path for creating a promising career.

For recent graduates who realize they need to change direction, career counselling can help clients discover their passion, their transferable skills and labour market information in order to retool when necessary and build on their formal and informal learning experiences.

Connie Covey is a career counsellor at and an adult educator at Athabasca University supporting 100 online learners in career development and adult learning. Covey is pursuing an EdD in workplace and adult learning from the University of Calgary, researching career purpose and meaning.

Krumboltz, J. D. (2009). The happenstance learning theory. Journal of Career Assessment , 17 (2), 135-154.

Mitchell, K. E., Al Levin, S., & Krumboltz, J. D. (1999). Planned happenstance: Constructing unexpected career opportunities. Journal of counseling & Development , 77 (2), 115-124.

Ruggeri, A. (2019, April 2). Why ‘worthless’ humanities degrees may set you up for life. BBC . Retrieved from

Veronica Vargas: Career Counseling


Career counseling, as a broad sphere of theoretical and practical frameworks aimed at helping clients make the right professional choices at different stages of their life span, deals with a variety of specific cases. In order to develop an effective intervention plan and solve the client’s problem, a counselor needs to assess a client, his or her worldview, family background, and personal preferences and abilities through qualified communication and appropriate application of theories. In this paper, a case study of Veronica Vargas will be analyzed with the help of such elements as genogram construction, worldview interpretation, theory application, client conceptualization, intervention discussion, and description of cultural issues.

Client’s Genogram

As illustrated in Figure 1, Veronica’s genogram includes her father and mother’s branches, leading to their three children, including Veronica, Annie, and Lewis.

Veronica’s Genogram.

As the genogram shows, the main influences on Veronica’s career choice in the Vargas family have her parents, George and Sarah. As it follows from the interview with the client, her relationship with the mother is more trusting than the one with her father. It indicates that Veronica is more likely to follow the lead Sarah and engage in a serious healthcare-related professional field. However, George’s strict attitude toward life choices determined by his first profession as a military man in combination with the cultural particularities of Latino family imposes psychological constraints on his daughter’s career choice. Also, since Veronica is the oldest daughter in the family, she bears the burden of responsibility due to her dominating position among the Vargas’ children.

Client’s Worldview Description

As it follows from the case study description, Veronica perceives herself as an achiever whose successful and hard-working educational experience contributes to future professional advancement. Since her high school years, the client has volunteered to help in a pediatric department of a local hospital and developed a fondness for this kind of occupation. From the perspective of the developmental career theory, Veronica is at the exploratory stage of career search, where she narrows the choices of her future occupation but does not make a final decision (Zunker, 2016). Overall, the choice of career is crucial for the client and determines her relationships with others.

According to the trait and factor theory, the educational achievements in the field of nursing and the overall inclination of the client to work with people allow for identifying her strengths and weaknesses (Zunker, 2016). The diverse cultural background of her parents, where the father’s family is originally from Guatemala, and the mother comes from a Jewish family, determines the framework of Veronica’s attitudes to career options.

The collision of values and role expectations between the two cultures causes the conflict in Veronica’s choice between the desired profession and the required one. George’s vision of the particular role of the oldest daughter in the family and the encouragement for Veronica to spend more time with friends and boyfriends instead of working and studying signalize that the father expects his daughter to perform a family role rather than professional.

At the same time, the family is important to the client due to the cultural values of family relations in the Latino communities. Veronica is intimidated by the need to visit a counselor because the challenges in career choice do not seem to be important enough to seek assistance outside the family. However, her self-esteem is high enough to pursue her dream occupation. The difficulty of the overall situation lies in the collision of family values and the consideration of the future professional role.

Necessary Additional Information

In the course of initial interviewing, some more information concerning educational achievements would be required to analyze the level of skills development. A more descriptive interpretation of the situation with career choice presented by the client in private communication will help in a more accurate assessment of her worldview. The counselor would require the client’s description of her perception of the medical field as the profession.

Also, it would be important to clarify Veronica’s vision of influential factors determining the shift in her major. When conceptualizing the case, one should refer to the specific learning experiences acquired in the professional setting. Since the client has a history of volunteering in a pediatric department, her feedback about the merits and demerits of the identified setting will be useful for further work. It will help to perceive a more detailed vision of the problem under discussion and will facilitate the development of the intervention plan for the client. A sufficient amount of collected information will benefit the process of counseling and contribute to the integration of appropriate interventions.

Krumboltz’s Learning Theory

Basic constructs and concepts.

The social learning theory, which is referred to as the learning theory of career counseling (LTCC), deals with an understanding of the diverse types of influences through social interactions as the main triggers of career choice. This theory was initially proposed and developed by Krumboltz, Mitchell, and Gelatt in the mid-1970s and later expanded by Krumboltz and Mitchel (Zunker, 2016). According to this approach, the process of decision-making related to a career vastly depends on the combination of life events and conditions surrounding a person. Thus, the family and genetic inclinations, environmental factors, educational achievements, and skills development all constitute a foundation for the ultimate choice of occupation.

The authors of the theoretical approach justify four basic factors influencing career development. The first one addresses genetic endowments and deals with the inherited individual characteristics or professional inclinations running in the family. The second factor involves environmental conditions and events, such as natural resources, disasters, or living conditions that are beyond the client’s influence but have a significant impact on the choice of a profession (Zunker, 2016).

Learning experiences comprise the third factor of influence and include instrumental and “associative learning experiences” (Zunker, 2016, p. 34). On the one hand, instrumental learning implies making conclusions about particular actions and their consequences by means of social interaction or personal experience. On the other hand, associative learning experiences are created upon “negative and positive reactions to pairs of previously neutral situations” (Zunker, 2016, p. 34).

Finally, task approach skills constitute the fourth influential factor and embody several skills, including problem-solving, decision-making, cognitive and emotional responses, which help identify the potential to pursuing a particular career path (Zunker, 2016). The theory aims at simplifying the process of career counseling and underlines the individual particularities of each client, depending on which the influential factor will vary.

Concepts not Applicable to the Client

Considering the individual character of the influences a particular person might experience, not all of the above-mentioned concepts might be applicable to the case of Veronica Vargas. Indeed, including the description of the situation in the case study, there are no specific conditions in the environment in which the client lives that might affect her desire to shift from nursing to medicine. Therefore, the factor of environmental conditions is not relevant to the case due to the absence of the extraordinary environmental influences that impose career-related behaviors.

Case Conceptualization

The choice of the theory is determined by the complexity of the influences it embodies that are relevant to the case. The career-related concerns of the client are based on her genetic and cultural background, as well as her learning experiences and skills. According to Zunker (2016), Krumboltz’s learning theory is designed as a theoretical framework for developing career decision-making skills that will be useful for a client not only during the counseling sessions but also throughout his or her life span. Moreover, the application of LTCC will ensure thorough addressing of all the influential elements and help resolve the issue of the change of professional education from nursing to pediatric oncology. The theory is not limited to a single perspective and allows for a broader interpretation of the problem under the influence of various factors observed in the case.

According to the chosen social learning model, Veronica’s genetic endowment entails her willingness to help others like her mother, who works as a social worker. Inherited intellectual abilities and altruistic devotion to important jobs contribute to the client’s desire to pursue the medical field that would imply more important responsibilities and more special professional skills than nursing. Overall, the genetic factor plays a significant role in influencing Veronica’s career-related decision-making process. Associative and instrumental learning experiences are derived from the immediate social environment, including the family, of the client, and are considered the most influential factor in Veronica’s case.

Firstly, instrumental learning experiences are formed under the influence of observed attitudes on the importance of pediatric oncology as a profession. This factor is impacted by Veronica’s self-observation generalization because she has had a successful experience of working in the pediatric department and has acknowledged her satisfaction with such kind of occupation. Also, since Veronica’s boyfriend studies at the medical educational facility, the desire to shift might be dictated by the motivation to fit the social environment.

However, the reactions of Veronica’s father to the daughter’s engagement in medicine both during her high school years and the first year in college impose negative reactions to the profession as inappropriate. The same collision of reactions is observed when analyzing the associative learning experiences retrieved when comparing nursing and medicine. On the one hand, the socially imposed idea that being a doctor is more reputable than being a nurse serves as a motivation to shift to medicine.

However, George’s claims concerning the cost of additional schooling and the inappropriateness of the medical profession for his oldest daughter create a negative reaction to pediatrics as an occupation for Veronica. Finally, the task approach skills that the client has developed during her volunteering and studying at college might impact her decision to engage in the pediatric field.

Counseling Interventions

In order to identify the influence of the analyzed factors on the client, the counselor might apply several assessing and therapeutic interventions to help Veronica differentiate between the important and non-important contributors to her decision-making and ultimately resolve the issue. It is noteworthy that the overall communication with the client would be maintained according to the framework of motivational interviewing, which has shown significant positive results in resolving the client’s career-related issues (Klonek, Wunderlich, Spurk, & Kauffeld, 2016).

The first intervention that would be applicable to the case is Myers Briggs Type Indicator that might help Veronica verify her personality fit in the pediatric department (Yang, Richard, & Durkin, 2016). The instrument entitled My Vocational Situation (VMS) might be used as a means of identification of the causes of a problem. One of the three elements of VMS, called Emotional and Personal Barriers, will benefit the resolution of issues with the influence of the father’s disapproval and determine other potential difficulties in decision-making (Zunker, 2016).

Also, the California Test of Personality might be used to identify the character of relationships in the family and their influence on career choice (Zunker, 2016). As Fouad, Kim, Ghosh, Chang, and Figueiredo (2016) claim, the role of the family is crucial in career choice, especially for students who primarily depend on their parents’ support. Similarly, Whiston and Cinamon (2015) emphasize that the work-family interface might be a cause of distress and must be accurately considered by career counselors.

Finally, the Work Values Inventory would be used to measure “altruism, aesthetics, creativity, intellectual stimulation, independence, prestige, management, economic returns” and other elements of professional life (Zunker, 2016, p. 178). The combination of the chosen interventions is expected to provide positive results in the counseling process.

Influential Factors in Work with the Client

The specific features of work with Veronica might be influenced by her age, gender, and mixed cultural background of her family. Since the client is a first-year college student, her age particularities should be considered in the construction of communication and interventions. The client should be treated as a responsible adult but with the application of encouraging techniques. Since the client is a female, it is important to direct the counseling measures at the identification of the client’s perception of women’s roles in the family and society to maintain consistent therapeutic procedures. Also, the Vargas family is of a mixed cultural origin, where the mother is Jewish, and the father is Latino. Therefore, it is necessary to study the particularities of career perception by these two cultural groups so that the interventions fit Veronica’s worldview.

Counselor’s Cultural Values and Biases Affecting the Client

It is commonly accepted in the counseling field that the work of a professional with a multicultural population should be carried out within cultural sensitivity competency (Dillon et al., 2016). Failure to meet the expectations of multicultural counseling competence might lead to therapy failure. Thus, the biases in work with Veronica might occur on the basis of interpersonal communication due to the differences in nationality since Veronica comes from a Latino family. To avoid that, a counselor needs to investigate the particularities of the Latino culture. Also, since the client had been very reluctant to start counseling sessions and did not perceive such meetings as dignifying activity, it might be difficult to encourage Veronica to engage in the interventions.

To sum up, the case of Veronica Vargas is complicated due to the presence of multiple influential factors determining her career-related concerns when deciding to shift from nursing to pediatric oncology. The counseling interventions should be applied according to Krumboltz’s Learning Theory, which best fits the situation where the client is engaged in an educational setting and is challenged by the family members’ opinions. To succeed in therapeutic procedures, a counselor should preserve multicultural competency and consider all influential factors to minimize biases and contribute to the problem resolution.

Dillon, F. R., Odera, L., Fons-Scheyd, A., Sheu, H. B., Ebersole, R. C., & Spanierman, L. B. (2016). A dyadic study of multicultural counseling competence. Journal of Counseling Psychology,63 (1), 57-66.

Fouad, N. A., Kim, S., Ghosh, A., Chang, W., & Figueiredo, C. (2016). Family influence on career decision making: Validation in India and the United States. Journal of Career Assessment, 24 (1), 197-212.

Klonek, F. E., Wunderlich, E., Spurk, D., & Kauffeld, S. (2016). Career counseling meets motivational interviewing: A sequential analysis of dynamic counselor-client interactions. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 94, 28-38.

Whiston, S. C., & Cinamon, R. G. (2015). The work-family interface: Integrating research and career counseling practice. The Career Development Quarterly, 63, 44-56.

Yang, C., Richard, G., & Durkin, M. (2016). The association between Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and psychiatry as the specialty choice. International Journal of Medical Education, 7, 48–51.

Zunker, V. G. (2016). Career counseling: A holistic approach (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Cite this paper

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Career counseling (case study), introduction.

Career counseling is a way through which Counselors and guides help one to understand and know oneself and their world of work better. This aid in making better career decisions which in long term promotes great development in career and life (Heppner & Jung, 2012). Career counseling enables a person to choose a career which is tuning in, completely with the skills and interest he has.

This report addresses Mr. Tan who is the counseling supervisor. The report throws a light on career counseling of a 44 year old teacher. Here we will follow and discuss the theories and assessment tools related to career counseling. In context with that we will examine the professional and ethical responsibilities in the counseling process.

The report has been divided into separated parts where first part thoroughly studies the case of Mr. John whereas second focuses on analyzing theories which relate the most with the present case. The third part discusses all the assessments methods and procedures which would be applied the client.

Case study on client’s situation

This report closely studies John and his present conflict and dissatisfaction with work. John is a teacher and has been working since last 15 years. He seeks for career counseling because of an unsatisfactory work appreciation which raises a question in his mind of whether he should continue with teaching profession. Furthermore, to make his situation worse his 17 years son was recently diagnosed with personality disorder. These issues are leading to conflicts between him and his spouse. This all is making John feel that he is not justifying with his work or his works are not being appreciated well. In fact, he feels he is not enjoying what he is doing. He senses lack of intellectual challenge in his present job and suspects a need to explore a new road. John is really confused with whether continuing with job will be fruitful or not. He finds it sickening. It seems that he has lost the urge of being a passionate teacher. Now, it becomes counselors’ responsibility to assist the client in a way that he may grow a liking towards his job or may discover his new interests towards some other profession. This career counseling of John was divided into five sessions over a period of three months. During counseling sessions he mentioned about the parents of his students who do not involve in their children’s activity and assessment, yet expect him to work beyond his level. John considers his to job really tedious which makes him feel an extra burden of being responsible with less freedom and less satisfaction.

Career counseling theories considered

On the first session itself, the client was communicated about the theories and ethical duties of a counselor under the guidance of counselor’s supervisor. The most prior objective of career counseling is to support a client in the upheaval from the exploration of their interest, traits and abilities till making decisions related to career. It is a counselor’s duty to study the client well and apply only those techniques or procedures which are coherent with the case the procedures or modalities that are applied should have grounded theory or proper scientific foundation (Ivey, Ivey & Maquett, 2013). Counselors should be aware of the client’s case and should not proceed with any such modalities which may prove to be harmful to client. One should not opt for any such harmful methods also if the client has asked for it.  The goals developed in course of the counseling helped John in the later sessions to analyze himself better and be ready to accept the internal psychological movement. The client was made aware of the phases which he will go through during the first counseling procedure which includes the above mentioned exploration phase up till the final decision-making phase (Robert & Kelly, 2014). The first day of counseling allowed the client to discover and test every possible option which was available and would help him in decision making in the later stages of counseling. A Career Diamond model was followed to achieve the expected outcomes. Further it was explained clearly to Mr. John if, he does not follow the model accordingly and that is if he takes a straight-line move (from A to D) not deeply exploring the external and personal factors it may lead him to future dissatisfaction (Robert & Kelly, 2014). This model was chosen for a reason that is a step by step revelation of Mr. John’s assessment towards his understanding of himself.

Career counseling theories applied

In demand of above mentioned model, the most appropriate theories of career counseling which can be utilized was reviewed on the second counseling session. First being the trait-factor theory, proposed by Frank Parson which matches people in a static way with the environment (Muratori & Smith, 2015). The three main postulates which describe this theory are individual’s traits, attributes, talents (Creager & Deacon, 2012). Putting emphasis on these traits and then comparing with the available jobs increase the chances of a person being successful and performing with complete passion. Nevertheless, this kind of talent matching will be profitable only with help of counseling. Whilst second was the Career ladder of the famous theorist Donald Super. It describes the career development stages of a person over a lifetime presenting the view of psychological movement. This process shows an overall evolving process. The Super’s theory divides lifespan development into 5 stages that is growth (4-13 years), exploration (14-24 years), establishment (25-44 years) maintenance (45-65 years) and disengagement (65 and above). The trait-factor theory was assumed to be helpful to examine John’s abilities and skills and thought it would help recommend him more likely successful profession which would finally help him move forward in life (Di Fabio, Palazzeschi & Bar?On, 2012). Besides, Super Theory was thought to target John’s career development and would aid Counselor to scrutinize John’s career growth up till now, also offering an insight to his future stages. Towards the end of the day, john was able to express his attributes and skills which being a bit carefree attitude towards work. It was also observed with help of theory that john is more keen towards some creative work than being into a monotonous work day after day.  Study in reference with Super theory suggested a minimal growth in John’s career which was most probably result of weak exploration of interest during the age of 14-24.

On the third counseling session John conveyed the counselor of his childhood being full of hardship. His father died when he was quiet young because of which his studies were affected very badly. He went through many hardships from then. He was not able to pursue higher degree and had to go with a teaching career to support his mother. This made counselor understand his dislike toward his work and why he was not able to enjoy his work. Being close to his mother he developed a liking for cooking and baking. He developed this skill with growing age and now loves to cook and bake. This gradually has become his hobby. It was found suitable this day to make John understand RIASEC a career choice theory by John L. Holland. As of now, John was clear with his exploration of skills and talents. He now could be showed a way towards environment choice in regards with his skills. He was made to understand how important it is to make an environment choice in accordance to once traits and personality which the Holland code clearly suggested. RIASEC referred to as a representation of different personalities as Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional (Nicodemus, 2012). Counselor with the help of his supervisor Mr. Tan guided John in selecting his work environment priority. John being much of artistic and enterprising personality was suggested of initiating with a business of his own. Being financially stable now and also in want of being his own boss, John was seen to agree on this with less hesitation.

Self-Esteem: An important aspect

Fourth session was started with emphasis on a counselor’s responsibility of understanding and guiding a client well. Keeping a client’s case study confidential also lies in professional and ethical responsibility.  At this point counselor did considered self-esteem of John at work. It is a very important driving factor which motivates a person at work. Self-esteem achieved in work suggests a person being accepted, recognized and safe in his working environment. This in turn boosts up the self-esteem even more providing that energy and strength to work even harder (Cai et al., 2015). Hence considering this view proved to be important as John has earlier mentioned about his work not being appreciated which may have affected his self-esteem. This was further explored as to make the reason for his unhappiness clear. His satisfaction in being his own boss lightens up the point of not being recognized for his present work.

Assessment tools applied

On any level of counseling, counselor can opt for assessment tools. The time when counselor planned to assess the client he did explained all the measured risks and benefits which the client would get (Hseih & Huang, 2014). Here, after going through the whole case it was realized that the theories applied were the best suited for the client to achieve the satisfaction and clear picture about his profession which initially was the basic requirement. Counselor did proceed with two of the assessment tools which analyzed the theories and John’s choices well.

On the fifth and the last session Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was used where of several question was posed to John like is he inwardly or outwardly focused, on what basis does he take decisions (Lloyd, 2012). Another assessment tool Thomas Johnson Temperament Analysis (T-JTA) was conducted which carried 180 questions considering 9- bipolar traits (Johnson & Carver, 2012). These test resulted in confirmation of the analysis based on theories discussed be true with the assessment conducted. At this stage John’s personality and his choice of career was clear. According to MBTI he falls under the category of INFP (introversion, intuitive, feeling, percieving) which suggest John being idealistic, sensitive, caring and loyal. Also he is someone who values inner harmony and is warm and empathetic. The T-JTA revealed him to be depressive, quite and an impulsive character. These traits have to be looked into so to pull him out of such state of mind. His priority for now was to explore new field and opt to enter business field with his skills in cooking which would satisfy his longing for self-esteem and be his own boss. Yet it was advised to John by the counselor to take advice from certain experts for his opportunities and chances in this field.

Personality of Client

Growing counseling revealed John as an emotional person. He is very much attached to his family. Recent, ongoing disturbances were making him weak inside which adversely was affecting his work as well. His son’s condition was stressing him out more and more. He is a man for whom relationships matters a lot. The conflicts with his spouse are like loss of support for him. The Personality Type Theory suggests, he being a type D. D refers to Depression. People who are type D are very gloomy, easily irritable and have anxiety problems (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). Nevertheless, further conversations helped to calculate that he was not Type D earlier this happened to him with course of time.

Mr. John’s case history throws a clear light on his personality. He has a loving and caring nature. His love for his family is immense, any trouble with them disturbs him badly which shows he has a medium to low concentration power. Besides, he seems not be willing enough to do whole load of hard work instead it seems he wishes to do something which satisfies his interest and longing. In the above mentioned sessions he showed clear interest in cooking and baking which was imparted to him by his mother.

Each and every client for a counselor is a different individual all over. There are no such cookie cutter counseling procedures available which may fit exactly (McIlveen, Beccaria & Burton, 2013). Henceforth, many different paths was be analyzed where John could be taken to. It entirely depends on the counselor on which paths he may wish John to lead connected with his case study closely. The above counseling sessions advocate John a change of profession as the current job profile does not lie under his interests and likings. He may opt for going on with his bakery love. Nevertheless he may also elect to go for some other job but in same profession under the guidance of some expertise.

Cai, Z., Guan, Y., Li, H., Shi, W., Guo, K., Liu, Y., ... & Hua, H. (2015). Self-esteem and proactive personality as predictors of future work self and career adaptability: An examination of mediating and moderating processes. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 86, 86-94.

Creager, M. F., & Deacon, M. M. (2012). Trait and factor, developmental, learning, and cognitive theories. Career counseling: Foundations, perspectives, and applications, 43-79.

Di Fabio, A., Palazzeschi, L., & Bar?On, R. (2012). The role of personality traits, core self?evaluation, and emotional intelligence in career decision?making difficulties. Journal of Employment Counseling, 49(3), 118-129.

Heppner, M. J., & Jung, A. K. (2012). When the music changes, so does the dance: With shifting US demographics, how do career centers need to change. Asian Journal of Counselling, 19(1), 2-27

Hsieh, H. H., & Huang, J. T. (2014). The Effects of Socioeconomic Status and Proactive Personality on Career Decision Self?Efficacy. The Career Development Quarterly, 62(1), 29-43.

Ivey, A., Ivey, M., & Zalaquett, C. (2013). Intentional interviewing and counseling: Facilitating client development in a multicultural society. Nelson Education.

Johnson, S. L., & Carver, C. S. (2012). The dominance behavioral system and manic temperament: motivation for dominance, self-perceptions of power, and socially dominant behaviors. Journal of affective disorders, 142(1), 275-282.

Lloyd, J. B. (2012). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and mainstream psychology: analysis and evaluation of an unresolved hostility. Journal of Beliefs & Values, 33(1), 23-34.

McIlveen, P., Beccaria, G., & Burton, L. J. (2013). Beyond conscientiousness: Career optimism and satisfaction with academic major. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 83(3), 229-236.

Muratori, M. C., & Smith, C. K. (2015). Guiding the talent and career development of the gifted individual. Journal of Counseling & Development, 93(2), 173-182.

Nicodemus, K. M. (2012). Personality type and job satisfaction. In Physicians’ pathways to non-traditional careers and leadership opportunities (pp. 11-17). Springer New York.

Perdrix, S., Stauffer, S., Masdonati, J., Massoudi, K., & Rossier, J. (2012). Effectiveness of career counseling: A one-year follow-up. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80(2), 565-578.

Robert, T. E., & Kelly, V. A. (2014). Career Issues Over the Life Span. Critical Incidents in Integrating Spirituality into Counseling, 171-182.

Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2016). Theories of personality. Cengage Learning.

Sharf, R. S. (2013). Advances in theories of career development. Handbook of vocational psychology, 3-32.

Walsh, W. B., & Osipow, S. H. (2014). Career counseling: Contemporary topics in vocational psychology. Routledge.

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The career counseling casebook, book review by stephanie tursic burns.

The Career Counseling Casebook, 2nd Edition (2013) published by the National Career Development Association, was written to help career counselors, counseling students, and counselor educators bridge the gap between theory and practice. Edited by Spencer G. Niles, Jane Goodman, and Mark Pope, the book strives to assist in building skills to address the National Career Development Association's Career Counseling Competencies. The book clearly demonstrates that career counseling is not always a systematic procedure of testing and telling and fully embraces how to assist clients with career development concerns taking into consideration society's shift to globalization, diversification, use of technology, and fluctuating economic conditions.

The book’s different cases, over 40 included, are organized by lifespan development stage from the first case with a nine year old boy to the last case with a retired couple. It offers two complex cases per stage and includes a broad range of client diversity. This allows readers to make a quick search for the cases relevant to their practice and decide whether the case can help their use of career development interventions with clients. I found it to be useful that the book is spiral bound, making it easy to read the cases and work with them.

Every case engages the reader to increase their knowledge and application of the following:

career development theory,

individual/group counseling skills,


career information and resources,

labor market trends,

multicultural knowledge and skills,

ethical issues, and


The book sparks discussion and reflection on how readers can improve their career development skills to assist the client's career growth. The book offers a rich array of perspectives from which to learn about career counseling from established career counselors through the use of 97 case respondents.

The cases involve individuals, couples, and families as well as co-occurring mental health disorders in addition to career development concerns. The cases encourage forming connections between theory and practice, developing appropriate strategies for the large range of career development issues that clients bring to counseling, creating best-practices based approaches to working with career issues with clients, building skills in case conceptualization, and developing critical thinking skills. Additionally, the authors give the reader examples of ways that the cases can be used with counseling students and counselors to engage them in developing the skills and knowledge necessary to competently work with career development concerns.

Each case is analyzed by at least two case respondents who cite to establish best-practice, empirically-based suggestions. The case respondents were not required to conform to a specific theory and as such career counselors, counseling students, and counselor educators can understand how each career counseling expert would fluidly handle each case. Further, case respondents were not tied to a specific writing format for responses, which offers the reader freshness in how each case is analyzed. Just as with the cases themselves, the selected case respondents represent many stages of the lifespan, diversity, and a full range of work settings. However, there are case responses that are quite robust and specific in their career counseling interventions while others offered a much more generalized overview when working with a case.

Throughout the book, the case responders discuss ethical considerations and concerns. For graduate students learning the foundations of career development, the book provides an especially helpful resource to learn how to begin to integrate career development processes in counseling thoroughly, theoretically, and ethically. The career counselor will find the book an up-to-date resource on current career development trends as it is based in best practices and empirical evidence. Finally, counselor educators will love the case studies and the suggestions for integrating the case studies into their career counseling class to bring their class to life.

Additional books could supplement this resource. First, A Counselor's Guide to Career Assessment Instruments , 6th Edition would help the reader to more fully understand the assessments recommended by the case responders and to consider other assessments not mentioned. Second, Inspiring Career Practitioners to Connect Theory and Practice could be a helpful adjunct as the DVD contains video footage of leading career development theorists such as John Holland, Donald Super, John Krumboltz, Nancy Schlossberg, and Sunny Hansen talking about putting their theories into practice. Third, The Internet: A Tool for Career Planning , 3rd Edition provides career counselors with resources to help persons engage in effective career planning on-line. Fourth, Experiential Activities for Teaching Career Counseling Classes and for Facilitating Career Groups , 3rd Edition provides career counselors, students, and counselor educators with activities to assist individuals and groups with their career development. All of these resources build and join with The Career Counseling Casebook 2nd Edition.

The Career Counseling Casebook 2nd Edition will make a great addition to a career counselor’s and counselor educator's bookshelf. The variety of cases presented can serve a wide array of audiences and includes methods suitable for many different teaching and learning styles to promote career development interventions within many counseling practice settings. Students will benefit from the vast array of career development intervention ideas presented in the book.

This book is available in the NCDA Career Resource Store .

Stephanie Burns

Printer-Friendly Version

Brian Pillsbury    on Monday 06/02/2014 at 08:43 AM

Thanks for reviewing this, Dr. Burns. Do you know how much of this edition is different from the first edition?

Melanie Reinersman    on Monday 06/02/2014 at 04:20 PM

This book offers 41 new cases. If you will be at our conference in Long Beach, you are welcome to view it in the Resource Store (located in the Exhibit Hall). Melanie Reinersman, Publications Development Director

Brian Pillsbury    on Monday 06/02/2014 at 04:37 PM

Yay! New cases! I own the previous edition. I'll likely buy this one, too.

Sandy Hocker    on Saturday 06/28/2014 at 11:20 PM

This book sounds very intriguing as it highlights case studies of a diverse cross-section of our population. As a current CDF in training, I will be making this purchase as an dimension of better understanding of career counseling and client diversity.

Developed by TCS Software

career counselling case studies

Apr 3, 2021

Case study: Career guidance to 10th & 12th Students

Hello Busy People!!!

This is Saiteja, I’m back with another interesting case study. In our day-to-day lives, we see many students(Especially 10th & Intermediate students) struggling to choose their career paths. So I’ve recently worked on the same and came up with some solutions!

Problem Statement: 10th & 12th-grade students are usually unclear about their career path as there are so many new fields of profession every day. An e-learning app wants to help its students understand the direction map of what they are good at in what they are studying to existing career options. Research Problem Statement: An e-learning app found 10th and 12th grade students are unclear about their career path as they do not know about the different fields or professions that they can explore. As a UX Designer, you want to understand the behaviour of students with respect to their decisions related to career and the factors that influence their decisions. Plan a research to indentify the factors for the business.

Understanding the problem statement

For this, I’ve Framed the 5Ws’ questions about the problem statement

Who are we solving the problem for? Who are the major sufferers?

Students of 10th & 12th. In this case, students & parents are the end sufferers

What is the ultimate goal/impact? What is the main reason for the issue?

To give career guidance for them, so that they can choose the correct career path. Lack of awareness in students, parents and teachers is the main reason for the issue.

Where do we need to focus most?

For Example, Their Decision-making skills, Their area of interest, Aptitude & Reasoning skills, Cognitive skills etc.,

Some times the place (Rural, Urban, Semi-Urban) where they are living also shows some effect on their decision making.

When is the problem occurring?

2. While being influenced under wrong guidance.

Why is it important to solve the problem?

Most of the youth are suffering for the same. They’re being stressed out and depressed. Some of them are even suiciding for choosing the wrong career paths.

I strongly believe that Me ≠ User

Because we don’t know what is there in the user’s mind, we don’t know their context. So, we can’t jump directly to a conclusion. If we assume ourselves as users, we design solutions for ourselves. It may not satisfy the requirements of real users.

Why Research is important while solving the problem?

Firstly, we start with Secondary/Desk research

It helps to gather more statistical, behavioural insights. It helps to get much more information before jumping into user interviews and conclusion. I’ve browsed several articles from national and international Papers, Magazines, and blogs. These are the insights that I got while performing my desk research.

Statistical Insights

93% of the students aged 14 to 21 were aware of just seven career options though there are more than 250 different types of job options available in India. Around 85% of students are concerned about which option to choose for higher education and 92% don’t get any career-related guidance from their schools. India has seen a massive rise in cases of depression and anxiety for people aged between 15 to 29 years Parents tried to exert influence over their choice of career or course, with 69% saying their parents tried to influence their choice of university. In 2015 alone, 1.5 million engineers graduated from roughly 3,500 odd engineering colleges across India 94% of engineering graduates are not fit for hiring. Only 1.7 % of engineers have the skills needed to work in new-age jobs. 60 % of faculty doesn’t talk about the application of concepts in the industry

Factual Insights

India has only a limited number of trained career counsellors available who can assist and guide students to make the correct career decision among the plethora of choices available today. Parents need to remember that shaping a student’s profile with the right set of activities in sync with their strength, capability and dreams is the way forward Very often we come across students who have a broad idea of what they wish to do but don’t have the resources to plan it end to end. In such a scenario parents are often found to vary of such plans and this leads to parents asserting their own choices Way of learning & Teaching also plays a key role. It’s all about Rattafication , CGPA, Class Copy. It’s not about Research, Projects, Entrepreneurship, etc. The fear of being judged for scoring less and making career choices has always led to students choosing the wrong career. Lack of interest is the main reason for lack of dedication.

I’ve used these insights in the Primary research stage to frame questions that are more precise.

Competitive Analysis:

In desk research, I’ve found out there are few apps & websites conducting tests and giving out the result to students. Most of the websites are asking to buy a premium subscription to view results.

I gave them a try. I’ve written tests on three random websites. Those questions are purely based on aptitude, reasoning and few YES/NO Questions. But they are giving some random fields of interest to students.

(I’ve got scientist, psychologist, the army as results. But I’m into design domain😅)

After having a discussion with a psychologist, what I’ve found is “ most of them are just money-making machines. ”

Primary Research

At this stage, I collected insights about the users and the behaviour of the user as well. Understanding the behaviour and mindset of the user is very important to help us to solve the problem for them as it enables us to deliver a seamless experience by having an extensive understanding of how users interact with the relevant products. I’ve conducted 6 user interviews to gather insights and to solve this problem. These interviews lasted in-between 40Mins — 2Hrs.

Why it is important?

Because then only we can get to know what exactly the problem is and what are the limitations users are facing. Then only we can give a USER CENTRIC Solution. One of the key benefits of incorporating research throughout the design process is that it helps us to understand user behaviours and make a better and more informed decisions .

For the survey I didn’t have a niche target audience, I’ve sent this out to a few design groups and the Growth school Discord group. I’ve framed the questions in a way that gave me the insight to know what to ask and expect in the user interviews later.

Responses received- 27

Questions Asked:

These are the insights that I got from the user survey that I’ve conducted.

“ While interviewing students I’ve received distinctive answers to my questions( I’ve interviewed students from different areas, i.e., Anantapur, Bengaluru, Kadapa, Hyderabad ). What I found common is most of the students said like, “ They’re about to join some random course as their relatives/Friends/Parents/ Teachers/Neighbours suggested them to join! ” Most of them don’t know that there’s something called Career Guidance/Mentoring. For few students, parents are forcing them to join in some XYZ Course, for more Job opportunities, Job Security and for their future safety. While interviewing Lecturer, She mentioned that “Even student’s economical BG also one of the core reasons for not joining their Interested field.” and “ All these scholarships are not reaching the needy! ” While interviewing the Psychologist, He mentioned that, “ Few students are okie to join in whatever field their parents suggest. This might not be a big problem at that time. But after some 6–10 years , most of the students who’re belonging to this specific group are facing issues and feeling stressed out. These wrong career paths are showing the severe impact on students, even few students suffer from these for a lifetime. ” That Psychologist also stated that “ Not all Career guiding websites & tests are giving real results, So there’s a chance for varying results. So students must have to retake those tests (PARALLEL FORMS) to get accurate results.“

Based on the primary research, I’ve divided those interviewees into three groups and built Empathy Mapping for them.

Building an Empathy Map

Building a persona for each group.

Once the empathy map is done, I’ve built three user personas based on what the user says, thinks, does and feels. I’ve noted down the user’s goals, pain points and core needs.

I always look for user’s pain points and frustrations 😈 (Don’t take me wrong, I’m not a Psycho😅). We can give a proper solution only if, we are aware of the exact problems and goals to be achieved.

Here are the user personas that I’ve built for the above three user groups.

Colourful Right 😜😁

How Might We Questions

After noting all these challenges, I Converted them into HOW MIGHT WE QUESTIONS!

1. How might we help students to pick one path among 3 or 4 other paths. 2. How might we give them one standard solution by which he can determine his area of interest more accurately. 3. How might we provide Guidance for the students who are struggling to choose their career path? 4. How might we help students to get a clear understanding of career paths, if they don’t know what exactly the career path is? 5. How might we help the students to tackle their parental, peer and Teacher’s pressure of joining their desired career path (i.e., MBBS, Engineering or MBA) 6. How might we bring confidence in students and improve their decision making capabilities wrt their career path selection? 7. How might we provide all necessary information regarding career paths at the same place and prevent them from consuming unnecessary information. 8. How might we help the students to know their exact AREA OF INTEREST?

Wireframing: Ideate for solutions

I’ve sketched these rough wireframes based on users frustrations and needs. I’ve tested these wireframes with my research buddies and re-iterated these wireframes.

I’ve removed few screens as they are not required and a few of them are not satisfying users needs.

I’ve removed the search page, as it is not necessary. Instead of search, I’ve placed the discussion form page. Here Users can ask their queries and professionals can give the solution.

As I’m mainly focusing on the end result with which we can solve users problem more effectively, I’ve removed the onboarding screens and the logo screen.

I’ve made some minor changes to the Result page, to make it more precise.

Design solution

For this project, I took Knowledge Officer as a Base Application.

Wireframes helped me in getting a clear layout of the page. But at the time of design, I’ve made a couple of changes to maintain consistency and to give a proper understanding for the user at the first sight.

Click here to view full clarity App Screens

Final solution

In this case study, I mainly focused on one final solution. i.e., Psychometric test and parallel Forms and giving solution, based on their performance. The results provide users with what fields in which they can excel . I’ve given some 3–4 fields, users can get end-end information regarding their future career paths.

After seeing all those, Users can choose one path and they can work on it.

If users still have the same doubt, Users can take Parallel Form tests. Users can attempt up to 3 tests. All these three tests can help users to find an exact solution regarding their career path.

Testing Stage (TS)

Designing the right solution is a continuous and iterative cycle of listening, learning, Validating, making changes and improvements by understanding the user needs by collecting their feedback.

I’ve given a task to the users and asked them to complete it. After Tested the prototype with my end-users, I refined the solution based on the feedback. So after getting the feedback, I’ve added few more features to it.

Adding Pros & Cons for the respective field

If we provide three final options for the students, The students might get struck in choosing one path among those three. So I’ve added pros and cons for each and every field, to make users task a bit easier.

Adding New Menu option - Connect with Career Mentor/ Counselor

Future Scope:

2. I’ll add recorded sessions which are made by Psychologists and other professionals to help students diving deep into the career paths.

Prototype Link

Please try to visit the prototype link with the Laptop/desktop/tab and use expand the option for a better experience.

Don’t have the time to view the entire prototype… Try seeing this video then 🙃🤟

If you’ve scrolled this far… You are definitely worth a Cheers!!!

Thank you for staying with me so far… If you like this, Don’t forget to appreciate it!😇👏

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career counselling case studies

Career Counseling Case Study

Taneka, a 17-year-old, African American female, is a junior in high school. She is the oldest sibling and lives with her single-parent mother. As the oldest child, Taneka has provided a lot of support for her younger siblings building her natural leadership skills. Taneka currently has a part-time job as a salesperson at the mall and became aware of her good people skills because of this job. Her supervisor approached her to see if she would join the company’s employee leadership training program. This prompted Taneka to consider post-secondary education. Her grade point average is a 2.05, but she is on track to graduate with her class. However, she is unsure of what she would like to do for a career, how to prepare for it, how to figure out …show more content…

In this essay, the author

The American School Counselor Association (2012) identifies that counselors should provide students with specific knowledge, attitudes, and skills to enhance learning in the area of career development as well as academic and personal/social development. Further, guiding students through the decision making process about career choices and how to get there is a central part of career counseling (Miller & Miller, 2005). In this case, the counselor would apply John Holland’s Typology Approach. This approach would applicable because it would allow the counseling objectives to include developing strategies to enhance self-knowledge, identifying career options, and identifying occupational requirements (Zunker, 2016). All of these areas are needs of Taneka’s and would allow her to gain insight so that she could move forward with making a …show more content…

The counselor would also use communication skills, such as minimal encouragers, reflecting feelings, clarifying, and validating, to build and maintain rapport with Taneka. In subsequent meetings the counselor would continue to validate, support, and encourage the student while using communication skills, such as using the student’s language and interpreting, to continue to maintain rapport. These skills would help to show Taneka that the counselor understands her problems and wants to assist her. Likewise, building rapport with coworkers and supervisors would be beneficial because it could give the counselor a professional support network to gain information from and support. For instance, a new school counselor that has built rapport with a coworker can seek information from them or be able to work collaboratively with them for the benefit of the

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“The use of a client throughout the textbook sets Career Theory and Practice apart from other books. It fosters in-depth exploration into the application of theories and concepts of career counseling. It also hits on critical student learning, including understanding the current trends in work and its intersection with multiple populations. It educates students how to approach clients in a culturally responsive manner to maximize client outcomes.”

“ The use of the case examples throughout Career Theory and Practice helps to bring the content to life. The order of the chapters is much better than other texts and the material is much more succinct than other texts. The summaries at the end of each chapter also provide a study guide for students.”

“ Career Theory and Practice provides a good framework to make the theoretical context practical. I like how this text makes career counseling ‘real’ for the readers.”

“ Career Theory and Practice by Jane L. Swanson and Nadya A. Fouad has great practical, real-world application through the use of case-studies…Excellent resource.”

“ Career Theory and Practice is straightforward, readable, and quite handy. Highly recommended for work with adults that are entering the world of work for the first time, or for adults that are going through transitions.”



Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1: Career Counseling: An Overview

Chapter 5: The Case of Leslie

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Original research article, therapeutic collaboration in career construction counseling: case studies of an integrative model.

career counselling case studies

The mapping of therapeutic collaboration throughout counseling deepens our understanding of how the helping relationship fosters client change. To better understand the process of career construction counseling (CCC), we analyzed the therapeutic collaboration on six successful face-to-face cases. The participants were six Portuguese adults, five women and one man, real clients of a career counseling service, and four psychologists, three female and one male trained in the career intervention model. The participants completed demographic questions and measures of career certainty, vocational identity, career indecision, and psychological functioning. The Therapeutic Collaboration Coding System was used to track collaboration throughout all interactive episodes. The clinical significance of the intervention was calculated by analyzing pre-post-test statistical differences for each case, with the Reliable Change Index and Z score. The findings evidenced a pattern of therapeutic collaboration evolution for good outcome cases. Based on this pattern, we propose a model of process-outcome evolution for the three phases of CCC.


Career construction counseling (CCC; Savickas, 2019a ) is a narrative practice that emphasizes the relational and narrative processes of career construction. In the CCC model, counselors are encouraged to foster the resolution of clients’ career concerns, by collaborating and supporting clients as they rewrite a continuous and coherent life narrative. The intervention occurs throughout three phases. In the first phase, counselors facilitate problem formulation and conduct a career construction interview (CCI; Savickas, 2015 ) to evoke life story episodes. In this phase, counselor and client also begin the exploration of career constructs, such as needs, interests, goals and adaptability resources. The CCI consists of five questions about (1) role models, to help the client evoke self-narrative in the future, (2) favorite TV programs, magazines or internet sites, to identify preferred occupational settings, (3) current favorite story, to hear from clients the description of core life problems and how they deal with them, (4) mottos, to evoke the advice clients give to themselves when facing life/career challenges, and (5) early recollections, to unfold the clients’ view of the current career concern ( Cardoso et al., 2019 ; Savickas, 2019a ). During the second phase, the counselor and client explore the meanings contained in the responses to CCI, to reauthor the career narrative as a basis for new career plans. In the third phase, clients evaluate the realism of career plans, consider how to put their intentions into action, and reflect upon the changes achieved during the intervention ( Cardoso et al., 2019 ; Savickas, 2019a ; Silva, 2020 ).

The outcome research has shown the effectiveness of CCC in fostering career adaptability ( Barclay and Stoltz, 2016 ; Ginevra et al., 2017 ; Santilli et al., 2019 ; Souza and Teixeira, 2020 ), resolving career decision-making difficulties ( Di Fabio and Maree, 2012 ; Obi, 2015 ; Barclay and Stoltz, 2016 ; Cardoso et al., 2016 , 2017 ), increasing resilience ( Santilli et al., 2019 ), promoting reflexivity ( Souza and Teixeira, 2020 ), and promoting feelings of well-being and confidence ( Obi, 2015 ). Process research based in the innovative moments’ perspective of clients’ narrative change (IMM; Gonçalves et al., 2009 ) indicated that, throughout CCC, the clients’ narrative transformation evolves from the understanding of career problems to the elaboration of a life story macro-narrative. Then, clients’ narrative change moves toward both the construction of new career plans and the understanding of changes achieved during the intervention ( Cardoso et al., 2014a , b , 2016 ).

Despite the importance and focus on the collaborative relationship for meaning making in CCC, research on this process dimension is scarce (e.g., Cardoso et al., 2016 ; Taveira et al., 2017 ; Silva, 2020 ). Responding to this gap, the present study analyzed how the therapeutic collaboration between counselor and clients evolves during the three phases of CCC. This knowledge is fundamental to understand how therapeutic collaboration fosters clients change. In conducting this research, we used the conceptual and methodological tools offered by the Therapeutic Collaboration Model (TCM; Ribeiro et al., 2013 ).

The TCM is rooted in psychotherapy research. It emphasizes that therapeutic collaboration evolves during the process of interaction between counselor and client across each counseling session. The analysis of therapeutic collaboration occurs at a micro-analytical level, addressing, moment-by-moment, the coordination of actions between counselor and client, toward the client’s change ( Ribeiro et al., 2013 ).

Drawing on the concepts of validation ( Kelly, 1955 ) and proximal development zone ( Vygotsky, 1978 ), Ribeiro et al. (2019) suggests that the therapeutic collaboration can be viewed as a mutual validation process along a developmental track of assisted change. According to this view, counselor and client are expected to use empathetic comprehension of mutual experiences in the counseling process. At the same time, they are supposed to achieve mutual understanding of the client’s actual difficulties, the recognition and amplification of the client’s resources and potential for change, as well as the co-construction of new meanings and possible opportunities for the client’s change. Accordingly, the TCM establishes that change occurs when counselors challenge clients to take a different perspective on the initial problematic self-narrative and make a new meaning about one’s own career story. In doing so, clients move toward their therapeutic zone of potential development (TZPD; Ribeiro et al., 2013 , 2019 ). The TCM is presented in more detail in Figure 1 .

Figure 1. Therapeutic collaboration model. From: How collaboration becomes therapeutic: The therapeutic collaboration coding system , by Ribeiro et al. (2013) . Adapted with permission.

From this perspective, the dyad works collaboratively into the client’s TZPD, when the client validates the counselor interventions, either because these interventions support the client’s initial problematic narrative (a safety impact), or because the client feels potentially ready to change, supported by the counselors (tolerable risk impact). When the client invalidates the counselor’s intervention, they work non-collaboratively, outside the client’s TZPD. The clients may also respond with ambivalence when they simultaneously validate and invalidate the counselor in the same action.

The TCM informed the Therapeutic Collaboration Coding System (TCCS; Ribeiro et al., 2013 ), developed to intensively assess therapeutic collaboration. This coding system is used to consider each individual unit of analysis, that is, every speaking-turn in a counselor’s intervention and the client’s response. Tables 1 , 2 display the categories and subcategories of the counselor and client’s interventions. Every unit of analysis is coded with the categories and sub-categories presented in Tables 1 , 2 . After coding every speaking-turn, each intervention is coded in relation to the TCM ( Ribeiro et al., 2013 ). Counselors’ interventions are coded as Support Problem, Support Innovation and Challenge. Counselors support clients when they reflect upon the content of clients’ speech. The way counselors support clients is different concerning the clients’ developmental level in the TZPD ( Ribeiro et al., 2013 ) and the content of clients’ narratives. When counselors reflect upon clients’ problematic self-narratives, the interventions are coded as Supporting Problem. When counselors reflect upon a new meaning that emerged in clients’ narratives, the interventions are coded as Supporting Innovation. Concerning the TZPD ( Ribeiro et al., 2013 ) when counselors support the problem, clients are at their actual development level and when counselors support innovation, clients are moving to their potential development level. Counselors challenge clients when they extend the meaning of the content of clients’ speech and invite clients to take a different perspective on their problems. Challenge interventions invite clients to respond at their potential development level.

Table 1. Therapeutic collaboration coding system: therapist intervention coding categories and sub-categories.

Table 2. Therapeutic collaboration coding system: client’s response coding categories and sub-categories.

Clients’ responses are coded as disinterest, safety, tolerable risk, ambivalence and intolerable risk. Disinterest and Intolerable Risk responses correspond to invalidation responses. The difference between them refers to the development level of the clients at that time and the way clients respond to counselors. Safety and Tolerable Risk responses correspond to validation responses. Safety responses include confirming and giving information and refer to clients’ validation in their current development level. Tolerable Risk responses include extending and reformulating oneself perspective and refer to clients’ validation in their potential development level, when clients move forward toward change. Ambivalence is a response that includes a validation and an invalidation at the same time, in the same intervention.

The crossover of the counselor’s interventions and the client’s responses result in 15 different types of therapeutic interactions. These interactions can be collaborative or non-collaborative in reference to the client’s TZPD.

The TCCS is designed to be applied to each interaction across an entire session, and then to the entire counseling intervention.

The TCCS reliability was obtained by Ribeiro et al. (2013) through the analysis of the intervention process of five clients in psychotherapy, with a total of 82 therapeutic sessions. The internal consistency of the study was 0.92 for counselors’ interventions and 0.93 for clients’ responses ( Ribeiro et al., 2013 ). The TCCS reliability has consistently shown good results with different therapeutic approaches and outcomes: narrative therapy ( Ribeiro et al., 2014 ; Ferreira et al., 2015 ; Pinto et al., 2018 ); constructivist therapy ( Ribeiro et al., 2018 ); cognitive-behavioral therapy ( Pires, 2016 ; Stiles et al., 2016 ; Rodrigues, 2018 ); emotion focused therapy ( Ribeiro et al., 2016a ); client centered therapy ( Ribeiro et al., 2014 ); good and poor outcome and dropout cases ( Ribeiro et al., 2014 , 2016a ; Ferreira et al., 2015 ; Pires, 2016 ; Stiles et al., 2016 ; Pinto et al., 2018 ; Rodrigues, 2018 ).

Taveira et al. (2017) were also successful in applying the TCCS for the first time to a single case of CCC.

The present study investigated the following research question: From the TCM, how does therapeutic collaboration evolve throughout CCC intervention?

We used a holistic multiple case study design since each case was the main unit of analysis ( Yin, 2009 ). Considering the exploratory nature of this study, cases were selected to have a wide picture on the evolution of collaboration during CCC. Hence, we organized two groups. One with three participants who revealed statistically significant change in all measures of vocational behavior. The second group, also with three participants, revealed modest changes in vocational behavior (statistically significant change in two, one and none measure of vocational behavior, respectively).

By intensively analyzing therapeutic collaboration in six successful face-to-face CCC cases, this study adds to career counseling theory, research and practice. The identification of a therapeutic collaboration sequence during CCC contributes to deepen our understanding on the role of counselor/client relationship to foster meaning making, here defined as a process by which clients “structure and give meaning to uncertain or ambiguous situations” ( Savickas, 2019b , p. 10). This knowledge is relevant to guide counselors’ practice in the management of relational and technical dimensions of their interaction with clients. Finally, using the TCCS, this study extends its applicability to career counseling, opening new research possibilities in this field.

Materials and Methods


The participants were six Portuguese adults, five women and one man, real clients of a career counseling service, in two public universities and a private clinic. The sociodemographic characteristics of the six clients are presented in Table 3 . Two of the participants were 18 years old and the others were 22, 23, 28, and 41 years old. One client completed 11 years of schooling, two clients completed higher education, two were graduates and one completed a master degree. During the period of the study, prior to the pandemic, five participants were students and one was unemployed. The participants were selected from a pool of 43 participants in a larger study on CCC process and outcome. The selection criterion was the pattern of outcomes obtained with the intervention from cases with pre–post test measures (dropout cases were not included) and videotaped in good conditions. The selected cases for in-depth analysis of the CCC process were representative of the different outcome patterns obtained in the larger sample. Two groups were organized: one with three participants who revealed statistically significant change in all measures of vocational behavior. The second group, also with three participants, revealed modest changes in vocational behavior (statistically significant change in two, one and none measure of vocational behavior, respectively).

Table 3. Sociodemographic characteristics of the six clients.

Cecília is a 28 years-old woman, Ph.D. student that seek counseling to have support in her next career decision concerned with the end of her Ph.D. Cecília is a kindergarten teacher, and she is struggling with the choice between a different area like kindergarten management, where it could be difficult to get a job or continue to be a kindergarten teacher accepting the career stagnation that choice could bring.

Olga is a 22-years-old woman, MsD student that looked for counseling because of her uncertainty about the area of her degree she would like to work in the future and in which she could feel more useful. Olga feels she lacks practical experience, and she is insecure about her skills for being a good professional in the future.

Vanda is a 41-years-old unemployed woman who seek counseling because of her unemployment situation. She used to work in the commercial area, but she feels tired, and she wants to understand the reasons why she remains unemployed. She recognizes that change will be complex and difficult due to her age (42) and her lack of experience in any other area.

Nuno is a 23-year-old man that seek counseling because of the career transition he was facing at the moment. He ended his degree and is in a decision process between entering the labor market or entering a MsD. Nuno is very confused and doesn’t want to work in his degree. Nuno sees in counseling an opportunity to stop and think about his life but is skeptical about career counseling efficacy.

Diana is an 18-years-old female student that seek counseling to get a better knowledge about herself and to look for a different area of study, once she considered she didn’t search many options and she didn’t make a well-informed decision. Diana sought professional help to make a better-informed decision.

Tatiana is an 18-years-old student that looked for counseling because she entered university without her family consent and that went wrong. She looked for professional help to make a better career decision, more informed and thoughtful.

Since this is an exploratory phase of research on the role of therapeutic collaboration for meaning making, one of our intentions was to have different types of good outcome cases to identify communalities in the evolution of therapeutic change.

Four psychologists (three female and one male) conducted the intervention. The female psychologists were 26, 31, and 48 years old, the first two with a master’s degree and the last with an undergraduate degree, with 4, 8, and 17 years of professional experience, respectively. The male psychologist was 54 years old, with a Ph.D. and with over 20 years of professional experience.

Researchers and Training

Two judges coded the intervention sessions and an auditor was available to code in case of disagreement by the judges. One judge was the first author of this article and the other judge was a 30-year-old Caucasian Ph.D. student in Psychology, co-author of the TCCS manual ( Ribeiro et al., 2016b ). The auditor was a female psychologist with a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, and the main author of the Therapeutic Collaboration Model and its system (TCCS; Ribeiro et al., 2013 ). The judges’ training involved: (1) Reading the relevant literature on TCM ( Ribeiro et al., 2013 ) and TCCS ( Ribeiro et al., 2013 ), (2) independent coding and reaching of agreement in four sessions of two clinical cases of psychotherapy. The training was completed when agreement percentage reached 80%, both for the therapists’ interventions and clients’ responses. The judges’ training was organized and guided by the author of the TCCS ( Ribeiro et al., 2013 ).

Demographic information was collected using a brief questionnaire in which participants reported their age, gender, education, occupational condition and main career concern.

Career Certainty was assessed with the Vocational Certainty Scale (VCS; Santos, 2007 ), with four items (e.g., “I have already made my career choice and do not intend to change”) responded on a 6-point scale ranging from (1) strongly disagree to (6) strongly agree. Alpha coefficients in a Portuguese students’ sample is reported as 0.85 ( Santos, 2007 ). The VCS has been shown to positively correlate with vocational identity and self-esteem, and negatively with indecision and anxiety ( Santos, 2007 ).

Vocational identity was measured using the Vocational Identity Scale (VIS; Holland et al., 1980 ), which has been validated in Portuguese by Santos (2010) . The VIS contains 18 true/false items (e.g., “Deciding on a career path has been a long and difficult problem for me”). Santos (2010) found internal consistency estimates of 0.78 and 0.79 for the Portuguese version.

Career decision was measured by the Measurement Scale for Indecisiveness (MSI; Germeijs and De Boeck, 2002 ), which measures the ability to make an imminent career decision. The original scale includes 22 items (e.g., “It is easy for me to make decisions”) responded on a 7-point scale ranging from strongly disagree (0) to strongly agree (6). Eleven items are negatively worded (e.g., “It is difficult for me to make a decision”). Rodrigues (2012) validated the MSI to Portuguese and reported an internal consistency estimate (alpha Cronbach) of 0.86.

Psychological functioning was measured by the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II; Beck et al., 1996 ). The BDI-II includes two components: the cognitive-affective (items of 1–13 sections) and the somatic-performance subscales (items of 14–21 sections) ( Beck et al., 1996 ). This inventory was used to assess depressive symptoms with a scale ranging from no depressive symptoms (0) to severe depressive symptoms (63). According to Seggar et al. (2002) , clients with scores below 14.3 were considered non-functional and an RCI of 8.46 was used to determine the significant change. A Portuguese validated version of the BDI-II was used ( Campos and Gonçalves, 2011 ). Alpha coefficients in three Portuguese samples are reported as 0.88, 0.90, and 0.91.

Clients’ distress was assessed by the Outcome Questionnaire-45 (OQ-45.2; Lambert et al., 1996a , b ). The OQ-45 is composed by 45 items rated on a five-point scale ranging from never (0) to (4) almost always (4), reflecting progress in three dimensions: subjective well-being, interpersonal relationships and social role. Extensive research revealed the good psychometric qualities (reliability and validity) of this measure ( Lambert et al., 2004 ). A Portuguese version of OQ-45 ( Machado and Fassnacht, 2014 ) was used in this study, which reveled adequate psychometric properties for the total score and subscales (α = 0.70–0.92). In the Portuguese version, a score of 0.62 is the cutoff for the clinical population. The clinical cut-off point for this version is 0.62 and the Reliable Change Index (RCI; Jacobson and Truax, 1991 ) is 0.15.

The TCCS ( Ribeiro et al., 2013 ) was used to analyze the counselor-client dyad therapeutic interactions, in a moment-by-moment basis.

Recruitment and Data Collection

The participants were recruited from a university psychology service and from a private practice clinic. All participants were previously informed about the research goals and the procedures included, and all signed an informed consent. Since this study was carried out during a Ph.D., all procedures respected the Ethical Conduct Code of the academic institution where the Ph.D. was developed. CCC occurred according to the phases described by Savickas (2019a) . Every intervention session was videotaped and transcribed by two independent trained female post-graduate psychologists, who were 22 and 23 years old and had one and two years of professional experience, respectively. The pre-test occurred 1–6 days before the intervention process. Post-test assessment occurred immediately or until 1 week after the end of the intervention. Each counselor was responsible for all the procedures with each client, individually.

Data Analysis

The clinical significance of the intervention was calculated by analyzing pre-post-test statistical differences for each case, with two indexes: Reliable Change Index (RCI = x2–x1/Sdiff) ( Jacobson and Truax, 1991 ) and Zscore (Z cs = X – M N /DP N , Brown, 2015 ). We considered RCI values equal to or greater than 1.96 as indicative of a clinically significant change. The Zcs standard scores indicate how a client’s score differs from the norm group mean in standard deviation. For all measures, RCI was calculated from the mean score and standard deviation of the normative samples of the Portuguese validation studies.

The sessions codification occurred according to the sequence of procedures of the TCCS manual ( Ribeiro et al., 2016b ): consensual definition of both judges about the problematic self-narrative of the clients, and of alternative or innovative narrative, individual codification of each counseling session for both judges, and agreement percentage computation and consensual discussion about disagreements. Eight sessions of four clinical cases were independently and sequentially coded until an 80% agreement percentage was obtained for both therapists’ and clients’ utterances. All the sessions of the six cases were coded and analyzed in this study. Cases Cecília, Olga, Vanda and Tatiana had three sessions and cases Nuno and Diana had four sessions.

In addition to the rigor of both the judges training and the codification process, the results’ description was also conducted to ensure the trustworthiness of the study. The writing of the findings, including participants’ quotes, followed the sequence of CCC phases, in order to address the research question, that is: “From the TCM, how does therapeutic collaboration evolve throughout CCC intervention?”. Moreover, the dialogues’ qualitative illustrations were chosen to evidence the fit between data and the authors’ interpretations on the evolution of therapeutic collaboration.

Pre–Post-test Results

Table 4 displays the results of the pre-post-test differences in career and clinical measures in the six clients. All the cases presented registered at least one positive statistically reliable change. The cases of Cecília, Olga, and Vanda (pseudonyms) presented statistically reliable change on all the career measures, with only Cecília presenting also a statistically reliable change in OQ-45. In the case of Nuno (pseudonym), there was a statistically reliable and clinically significant change in OQ-45 only. Diana (pseudonym) registered a statistically- reliable change in career certainty and a negative statistically reliable and clinically significant change in OQ-45. Finally, Tatiana (pseudonym) registered a statistically reliable change in career certainty and in vocational identity as well as in BDI-II, and a statistically reliable change and a clinically significant change in OQ-45.

Table 4. Career and clinical pre-post-test: differences in RCI and Zcs by case.

Therapeutic Collaboration Results

Therapeutic collaboration results per case for each of the three CCC phases are displayed in Figures 2 – 10 . In Figures 2 – 7 are presented counselors’ interventions and clients’ responses, separately. In the first phase, the counselor’s Support Problem (SP) and Challenge (C) interventions registered similar percentages. Counselor’s Support Innovation (SI) interventions had almost no expression in this phase ( Figure 2 ). The client’s responses were mostly of Safety (S), with some expression of Intolerable Risk (IR) responses ( Figure 3 ).

Figure 2. Phase I: counselors’ interventions.

Figure 3. Phase I: clients’ responses.

The second phase was characterized by a substantial increase of the counselor’s Challenge (C) interventions, a smaller percentage of Support Problem (SP) interventions, and the increase of Support Innovation (SI) interventions ( Figure 4 ). The clients’ responses continued to be mostly of Safety (S), although there was an increase of Tolerable Risk (TR) responses and a decrease in Intolerable Risk (IR) responses ( Figure 5 ).

Figure 4. Phase II: counselors’ interventions.

Figure 5. Phase II: clients’ responses.

In the third phase of CCC, the counselor’s interventions of Challenges (C) maintained the higher percentage of occurrence, and the Tolerable Risk (TR) responses occurred more than in the other two phases ( Figure 6 ). The clients responded mostly with Safety (S), Tolerable risk (TR), and Intolerable Risk (IR).

Figure 6. Phase III: counselors’ interventions.

In Figures 8 – 10 are presented therapeutic exchanges per case for each of the CCC phases. The therapeutic exchanges resulted from the interaction between counselors’ interventions and clients’ responses. In the first phase, interactive episodes of Support Problem-Safety (SP-S) are the most common and followed by Challenge-Safety (C-S) and Challenge-Intolerable Risk (C-IR) episodes. The second phase is characterized by a majority of Challenge-Safety (C-S) episodes and there is an increase of Challenge-Tolerable Risk (C-TR) episodes and a decrease of Support Problem-Safety (SP-S) episodes. There is also a continuity of Challenge-Intolerable Risk (C-IT) episodes. The third phase, interactive episodes continue to be mostly of Challenge-Safety (C-S), followed by Support Problem-Safety (SP-S) and Challenge-Tolerable Risk (C-TR) episodes.

Figure 7. Phase III: clients’ responses.

Figure 8. Phase I: therapeutic exchanges.

Figure 9. Phase II: therapeutic exchanges.

Figure 10. Phase III: therapeutic exchanges.

A more detailed explanation of the results regarding the three counseling phases including qualitative illustrations of the cases is presented.

In phase I, counselors and clients work on career problem formulation and begin narrative elaboration of career constructs (e.g., interests, goals, needs, and values) emerging in elicited career episodes. In this phase, clients need to feel secure to freely explore career problems and evoke career episodes. Counselor’s Support Problem interventions may be adequate at this point, since they help clients reflect on their problems, thoughts and feelings at their current developmental stage (e.g., “What brought you here to this counseling?”; “How can I be useful to you? What kind of help are you looking for?”). Clients in this phase tend to respond almost always with Safety, confirming what the counselor said or providing information. This is congruent with the client’s need for safety, as they articulate, elaborate and express their career narrative (e.g., Vanda – “At this moment, what I really want is guidance on how I should look for a job, because I have a doubt”; Diana – “What I really needed, really and I know it is absolutely unrealistic, was that someone could tell me ‘now you are going to do this, you are going to do this for the rest of your life and that’s it. Settle for it.’ But I was hoping that ah… (2) a counseling really, to try to clarify what I want to do.”). Another task of this phase is the understanding of career constructs, which can develop from the dialogues evoked by CCI questions. The client’s answers to these questions are often of safety, involving the transmission of information, as illustrated in Vanda’s words:

Vanda: “What I am better at, I think is creating empathy, I can create empathy easily. What I am worse at… sometimes I can’t focus or direct the conversation to… to where I should in the time I have, because very often we found interlocutors who speak a lot and ramble a lot and the conversation needs to be directed to where I want, and sometimes it’s difficult for me, I think I have that difficulty.”

At the same time, Challenge interventions also occur in a large proportion. This facilitates the client’s distancing from the problem to construct a new narrative. In this sense, challenging interventions invite the client to deeply explore the causes and consequences of career problems (e.g., “Where does it come from, that need to extend tentacles? (…) Where does this dispersion come from? How does dispersion harm you?”). In this phase, some clients’ responses to challenge are invalidations, mostly because the challenge demands too much, representing an Intolerable Risk for the client’s developmental stage [e.g., Vanda – “I have no idea. I think it is because I like so many things at the same time and I think that is one of my biggest flaws, dispersion”; Nuno – “Well, I don’t know, I don’t know (shakes negatively his head and looks down). It depends. It depends on a lot of things. I don’t know”].

On the other hand, some invalidation responses represent an attitude of disinterest from the client, invalidating the counselor’s intervention, because it doesn’t make sense for the client (e.g., Nuno – “No. I have no idea. I didn’t have that much time to see that.”). Some of the counselor’s challenges in this phase are related to CCI questions. Some of those questions report to childhood and early memories, some of which are difficult to access due to distance in time and associated suffering. The answers to some of these questions are challenging for many clients ( Reid et al., 2016 ), involving Intolerable Risk for the clients’ current level of development. An example is Nuno’s response to the counselors’ question about the first recollection he remembers when he was about 5 or 6 years old:

Nuno: “[Yes.]. When I was 5, 6 years old… (2) I have, I have many flashes of moments and things that… I don’t know, not even my parents remember, not even the majority of people remembers, but… I don’t know, but my memory is also nothing, nothing special, I don’t know why, there are, there are a lot of passages that stay, but I don’t know why.”

Nuno disconnects the topic and doesn’t give an answer because it is very difficult for him to access those memories.

Summarizing, the majority of clients’ responses express safety, especially providing information to the counselors about themselves. After the problems formulation, distance and understanding of career constructs, clients are prepared to reconstruct a new career narrative and a new perspective about themselves.

During phase II, the major tasks focus on rewriting the career macro-narrative, moving to a new perspective, and developing career plans. The reflection on career constructs emerging from career episodes occurred in different moments and contexts, and fosters the elaboration of the career macro-narrative, structured around a life theme. This continuous process of self-reorganization brings continuity and coherence to the life/career narrative. In this way, narrative identity emerges as the necessary grounds for forming action plans.

Challenge interventions rise abruptly in this phase, unlike Support Problem interventions that decrease and represent a smaller proportion. Counselors and clients now focus on new meanings, linking current and past events to reach a higher level of self-narrative continuity and coherence from which to formulate new career plans. In Vanda’s case, the counselor challenged her to take a new perspective on her problem, suggesting an explanation for her search for balance:

Counselor: “But I have the feeling that you live a little bit between that, your freedom, your autonomy and your need to be with others, and the balance goes a little bit around, is it?”

Other examples are from Cecília’s counselor that was trying to reconstruct a new meaning about her narrative, focused on the insafety Cecília said she felt about the steps to take in the future and on what makes sense to resolve the problem she’s facing:

Counselor: “Hum (…), in fact, it is what stands out more here, the fear, ah, the insafety also in relation to the future, not feeling good, the feeling that, that you fell into a system that you really didn’t like, isn’t it?”

Counselor: “This is the most important above all, isn’t it? That persistence in what you believe, in what you think, eh, that makes sense!”

Clients’ responses continue to be more proportionally focused on safety, emphasizing the clients’ need to work collaboratively in a safe environment while reconstructing a new career narrative and making new career plans [e.g., Cecília: “I already reached that point! (…) It was too fast, I think, but I already reached that point! (laughs)”].

Nevertheless, in phase II there is an increase of Tolerable Risk responses emerging from both the new perspective on career issues and the rewriting of career narrative. Clients make sense of their previous career choices, allowing the development of a new vocational identity and a movement toward change.

For example, the counselor challenges Cecilia to take a new perspective on the problem formulated during the first phase, which allowed her to elaborate about what might be really important:

Counselor: “It can also be this question that, eh, you don’t remember because the important wasn’t what was inside…”

Cecilia: Maybe the process is still more important, isn’t it?

In another example, Tatiana was challenged to reflect on her life motto:

Counselor: “You believe that things will end up solved”

Tatiana: “Yes, yes. I believe that whatever we do good, we’ll receive good, because I think that there are no poor lives, there is no one who has always had a bad life, there must have been at least one good moment and that’s the one to enjoy.”

Making career plans involves a focus on the future and solving career issues through the construction of a new sense of purpose in life/career. The ability to clarify and specify career plans represents an advance in the developmental zone where the risk is tolerable. For example Nuno, who was able to define his preferences for the field of study for a master’s degree:

Nuno: “Yes, exactly! And management and also… accessory and administration.”

Also in this phase, Intolerable Risk responses increase a little to a level similar to those of Tolerable Risk. This might happen since the challenge of rewriting a new self-narrative requires time to advance to a new level of potential development. This was difficult for Tatiana, because she wanted to assume a choice to take a degree in Law, but at the same time, she was struggling to consider other areas of interest, congruent with her family’s expectations.

During phase II, actions supporting Innovation interventions emerge. This type of counseling interventions is justified by the movement, from supporting the problem to challenge being mediated by a space where counselors support and reflect about clients’ emerging self-narrative. In the following vignette, the process is illustrated in dialogue where the counselor supports Nuno’s clarification of his career choice and, next, tries to get more information about that specification:

Counselor (Nuno): “So, Management in the first place, that’s it?” (…) And do you have any idea of what you would need to do? What would be necessary for you to apply?

Conceptually, the movement that starts in the clients’ current development toward their potential development comes from a reflection and understanding of the problem to a reflection about innovations clients bring to counseling and to a challenge, to reflect and understand the career narrative in a new and more adaptive way. However, this movement is not linear. It goes back or forth throughout the whole intervention, and the passage through Support Innovation can be very subtle. This might happen because of the short length of the CCC - three or four sessions in the cases studied – and the consequent counselors need to continue to challenge clients, in order to reach the goals the dyad compromised with in the beginning of the intervention process.

In the third phase, the major tasks involve reviewing career plans, facilitating its implementation, and the conceptualization of clients’ change. Challenge interventions continue to be the most expressive in this phase, accompanied by a slight rise of Tolerable Risk responses, suggesting the movement toward change. In the next examples, the counselors challenge clients to revise the entry question of how CCC could be useful to the client and to reflect about the conclusion they reached together:

Counselor: “Ok, ahm. So, how do you feel now about (…) the question that brought you initially that was a little bit “having to turn to practice, having to turn to research”?

Cecília: “Well… even yesterday I was thinking about this and (…) because I’m calmer now (…) I realized better that I don’t have to choose one thing or another. I am now doing research and I am enjoying it a lot. Although my goal now is to do investigation, it doesn’t mean it can’t be changed in the future, isn’t it? […] I think I don’t have to have that conflict.”

Counselor (Vanda): “(…) But I was talking about the help, and the help was essentially discovering the social area and somehow spread it a little bit more.”

Vanda: “Yes, because I was very attached to the artistic area and to human resources because it is what I know. The social part was where you opened my range the most.”

Clients are challenged to conceptualize about their transformation and to consider what is different about themselves, leading clients to revise the process and its benefits, like Diana did:

Diana: “I think I really needed this help […] I think it was very therapeutic […] You told me to do things I never thought I had to do, but I had to do them and to think about them and I think it was really good for me.”

Generally, all clients and counselors worked collaboratively, and the sequence of change proposed is based on six cases that presented a reliable change in at least one of the outcome measures. The challenging nature of CCC seems to be an important factor for client’s change, because it fosters innovation. The counselor facilitates change and challenges the client’s potential development. It should be noted that the way clients respond can explain the differences in outcomes. Nuno presented more invalidation responses of Disinterest than any other client, which can help to explain the absence of change in every career outcome measure.

Therapeutic Collaboration

Therapeutic Collaboration findings evidenced the existence of a pattern of evolving therapeutic collaboration for CCC good outcome cases. The six cases studied were considered successful cases because they presented at least one statistically reliable change in one of the five outcome measures. This pattern that starts with supporting problem interventions in the initial phase and evolves to more challenge interventions in subsequent phases is in line with the pattern found in psychotherapy (e.g., Pinto et al., 2018 ; Rodrigues, 2018 ). Counseling in general seems to be characterized by a more supportive phase in the beginning of the intervention to provide a safe environment where clients can work on their problematic self-narratives and evolves progressively to more challenging phases where counselors and clients work collaboratively in clients’ potential developmental level to foster change.

Compared with psychotherapy unsuccessful cases where it is observed that therapeutic work is more focused on clients’ actual developmental level, therapeutic work toward clients’ potential level through challenge interventions and respective clients’ validations is related to successful cases ( Rodrigues, 2018 ). In this sense, the idea that challenge interventions are those that help clients move toward change, is reinforced. Besides, even when counselors and clients work at the same level in co-construction, counselors are considered change enablers ( Ribeiro et al., 2013 ), which seems to happen particularly in CCC.

Although the initial phase is the one where Support Problem interventions mostly occur, therapeutic collaboration results also indicate that challenge interventions are very expressive since the first sessions. These results could indicate that CCC is a very challenging intervention throughout the entire process highlighting the importance of counselors’ factors in the construction of the helping relationship and, in consequence, for change ( Heppner et al., 1998 ).

Responding to our research question, findings evidenced the existence of a pattern of evolving therapeutic collaboration for CCC. Based on this pattern, we propose a model in which the evolution of therapeutic collaboration during CCC is represented in parallel with the counseling tasks of each CCC phase, as depicted in Figure 11 .

Figure 11. Therapeutic collaboration and tasks in the Construction of Career Change.

The clients’ process of change evolves from the understanding of the problematic self-narrative to the elaboration of a new career narrative. From the Therapeutic Collaboration perspective this narrative transformation evolves throughout the intervention process when clients and counselors work collaboratively in clients’ actual and potential development level.

In phase I counseling tasks foster the presence of challenges in the early moments of the intervention. Clients are asked to respond to the CCI ( Savickas, 2019a ) questions. Some of these questions report to childhood and to memories not always easy to access, not only because of the time that separates them from the actual moment, but also for its content that could involve suffering episodes and represent, for many people, a challenge. The questions can be themselves challenging considering they are far away from the usual reflection people make about themselves in different life episodes. On the other hand, those questions demand from the clients the access to contents already forgotten or that clients want to avoid. In fact, research on therapeutic collaboration in narrative therapies indicates that, in these interventions, counselors tend to favor challenging interventions ( Ribeiro et al., 2011 ). Clients and counselors work on career problems, distance from them and understand them from a different point of view. Counselors support problem interventions are important to understand clients’ point of view and challenges help clients think differently about themselves. Clients need to feel safe to self-disclosure and some challenges can be too demanding at this phase of the intervention, responding out of their TZPD.

In all cases studied, challenge interventions tend to rise abruptly in the second phase of the intervention process. This is the phase in which counselors and clients reconstruct the new career narrative. This process involves narrative elaboration about the career theme and counselors help clients to give a sense of continuity and coherence to the big narrative of their lives. This process fosters the raising of a new meaning for the career narrative and from that meaning clients can elaborate a new way of looking for the problem and plan a solution. All this process is a challenging exercise for clients. New meanings demand reflection from counselors and clients, what constitutes a challenge to the normal way of feeling, thinking, and acting ( Savickas, 2011 ; Cardoso et al., 2019 ). Counselors challenge clients to see their narrative in a different perspective and to give a new meaning to their life stories. Clients move forward responding in their potential development level (tolerable risk responses) but need to feel safety to engaged in that movement.

On phase III challenge interventions are the most common once counselors and clients continue to work about the new life narrative. At this phase, the goal is to organize and plan the next career steps ( Savickas, 2011 ; Cardoso et al., 2019 ). Challenge interventions are important to encourage the implementation of the new plans. Clients and counselors review the new career plans, counselors encourage clients to put them into action and clients reflect upon their own process of change. In this revision and encouragement process, counselors continue to challenge clients and clients continue to need to feel safety while working on their potential development level.

Support innovation interventions are emphasized at this phase because supporting clients’ innovations to the problematic self-narrative means exploring the new emerging narrative ( Cardoso et al., 2019 ) to expand it. When clients innovate, they are at the same level or ahead of their counselors, demonstrating an advance from their starting point. Counselors tend to support clients when they understand that need. Nevertheless, in this research, these supports happen in a lower proportion. This can be explained by the counselors’ need to challenge clients, considering the short length of the intervention and the need to pursue the counseling goals in that period.

Regarding clients’ responses, they follow a similar pattern in all cases. The major proportion of responses are validations by safety throughout all the intervention, a pattern also found in other studies that use TCCS ( Ribeiro et al., 2014 , 2016a , 2018 ; Taveira et al., 2017 ; Pinto et al., 2018 ).

Clients need to feel safe, understood and validated to reflect deeply about their career narratives ( Savickas, 2016 ; Whiston et al., 2017 ).

Other validation responses are tolerable risk responses that emerge mostly at the second and third phases of the counseling process. This is an expectable result from TCM ( Ribeiro et al., 2013 ) and from CCC ( Savickas, 2011 ). According to TCM ( Ribeiro et al., 2013 ) counseling is expected to help clients move from their actual to their potential development. This movement starts with more safety responses at the beginning of the intervention, rising gradually tolerable risk responses throughout the intervention process. From CCC ( Savickas, 2011 ) conceptual point of view clients begin working on their problematic self-narrative advancing to the reconstruction of a new narrative that guides the following career plans. The new meaning of life stories, the new way of thinking about the self and the career and the ability to make decisions and plans based on that new narrative are challenges that allow and foster the emergence of tolerable risk responses. Nevertheless, the emergence of more tolerable risk responses as could be expected does not happen due to the short length of the intervention, once clients can differ in the time they need to accommodate the new career narrative and longer interventions could be more beneficial ( Cardoso et al., 2016 ).

Invalidation responses occur mostly in the first and third phases. In phase I clients and counselors are at the beginning of the intervention process, developing a therapeutic relationship. Clients can be unavailable at this phase to respond positively to counselors’ challenges, invalidating their interventions by intolerable risk. On the other hand, at this phase counselors want to understand clients’ concerns, needs and goals, as well as their career stories, supporting and challenging clients in a way not always in line with clients’ thoughts, what could result in responses of Disinterest. This is particularly present in Nuno’s case, the client that presented more Disinterest responses. Nuno revealed to be particularly skeptical about the intervention process what led to this invalidation responses, resulting of more non-collaborative work.

Ambivalence responses occur mostly at the second and third phases. At these phases counselors challenge clients to adopt a new perspective on their career narratives creating an unbalance so clients move on to the reconstruction of the new career narrative. These challenges can create in client’s ambivalence between going further into a new meaning of their life stories and returning to their usual way of thinking, an automatic process that helps to preserve personal consistency ( Gonçalves et al., 2011 ).

Limitations and Future Research

The proposed sequence of client’s changes results from the study of six cases with different outcomes. One limitation that could lead to future research is the absence of cases that presented no differences in any of the outcome measures studied and dropout cases. It would be useful to understand the therapeutic collaboration pattern in these cases and to compare it with the proposed pattern presented. Another limitation is the absence of control of the counselors’ and client’s characteristics. Some clients seem to be more responsive to challenge (e.g., Vanda) and others were more reluctant to intervention (e.g., Nuno), invalidating more often the counselor. On the other hand, some counselors used more challenge interventions (e.g., Vanda and Tatiana’s counselors) than others (e.g., Diana, Nuno and Olga’s counselor). These differences may be due to the counselor’s age, professional experience and personal style.

Implications for Practice

The sequence of the client’s change implies some considerations for practice. Due to the importance of the relationship in the therapeutic work, counselors may benefit from self-awareness about the client’s responses in every moment of the intervention process. The TCCS could be an important tool to make counselors more aware of the intervention dynamic in a moment-by-moment basis. If counselors are able to recognize the clients’ invalidations, they could adjust their interventions of Support or Challenge and obtain better outcomes.

In addition, the importance of basic skills of attendance is reinforced. The therapeutic relationship can help clients move toward their potential development fostering change. This relationship depends on the dominance and awareness by counselors of attendance skills like empathy, active listening and responsiveness.

Data Availability Statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Ethics Statement

The studies involving human participants were reviewed and approved by the Ethical Conduct Code of the University of Minho. The patients/participants provided their written informed consent to participate in this study. Written informed consent was obtained from the individual(s) for the publication of any potentially identifiable images or data included in this article.

Author Contributions

FS, MT, and PC contributed to conception and design of the study. ER trained the judges in TCCS and contributed to results analysis and to the revision of the manuscript. FS treated the outcome and process results and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. MT and PC contributed to conceptualization, revision and writing of posterior versions of the manuscript. MS revised the manuscript and gave important inputs to its final version. All the authors contributed to manuscript revision, read, and approved the submitted version.

This research was conducted at the Psychology Research Centre (UID/PSI/01662/2013), University of Minho. It was supported in part by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology, the Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology, and Higher Education, and FEDER through COMPETE2020 under the PT2020 Partnership Agreement (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007653).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.


We would like to thank all the clients who accepted to participate in this investigation, to the psychologists involved in clients’ intervention and data collection, and to the public and private services that allowed the data collection to take place. We would also like to thank the permission to use Figure 1 and Tables 1 , 2 retrieved from Ribeiro et al. (2013) . How collaboration in therapy becomes therapeutic: The therapeutic collaboration coding system. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice , 86(3), 294–314. Wiley-Blackwell.

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Keywords : career counseling, career construction, case study, coding system, change process, career narrative, good outcome, therapeutic collaboration

Citation: Silva F, Taveira MC, Cardoso P, Ribeiro E and Savickas ML (2022) Therapeutic Collaboration in Career Construction Counseling: Case Studies of an Integrative Model. Front. Psychol. 12:784854. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.784854

Received: 28 September 2021; Accepted: 24 December 2021; Published: 02 February 2022.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2022 Silva, Taveira, Cardoso, Ribeiro and Savickas. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Filipa Silva, [email protected]

This article is part of the Research Topic

Advances in Social Constructionism and its Implications for Career Development.


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