ERIC Identifier: ED399480
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Hiebert, Bryan - Conger, Stu
Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC., Canadian
Guidance and Counselling Foundation Ottawa (Ontario).
Career and Employment Counseling in Canada: The State of the
Art. ERIC Digest.
In 1993, a major survey of career and employment counseling in Canada was
completed. Conger, Hiebert, and Hong-Farrell (1993) report the results of the
survey in detail. Only highlights will be presented here. The survey report
summarizes the responses of over 1600 counselors, department heads and managers
of counseling centers, and regional directors working in career and employment
counseling settings. The results have been presented at international, national,
and provincial conferences of counselors, to career counseling practitioners,
and to government officials. Generally, the reaction to the survey findings has
been extremely positive and people are beginning to see ways to apply the
results in their jobs. Therefore, it is timely to take stock of what we know
about career and employment counseling in Canada.
There is a need for evaluation. The
survey results tell us the following:
do little evaluation of their work with clients; in some sectors 40% of
counselors reported doing no evaluation of their work with clients.
evaluation is done, it tends to be with the client in the session, presumably by
asking the client if the session was useful.
no assessment is made of the impact of counseling on the client's presenting
seldom evaluate their programs with a view to improving them, and when such
evaluation is done, clients are seldom consulted in the process.
The positive reaction to these findings suggests that counselors are
beginning to see that without data to attest to their successes, they are
vulnerable and that evaluation data may be part of the solution. However, few
models exist for evaluating the actual effects of career and employment
counseling, and managers and consultants do not place a high priority on
evaluating counseling effects. Counselors and managers need leadership in
developing and implementing new assessment models.
Career counseling is a complex task. The survey results revealed the
following counseling challenges:
come to counseling with a variety of expectations.
expectations change during counseling.
who experience frequent changes in client expectations have higher levels of
stress and frustration.
counselors report that their own stress and frustration levels are a barrier to
Counselors report that their clients also have other barriers. These include
a lack of belief in self; low motivation to change; belief that potential for
success is low; finances (especially for clients in colleges and CECs); family
responsibilities (especially for clients in colleges); and unemployment
(especially for clients outside the schools).
Thus the old adage "No career counseling problem is only a career problem" is
verified. It will become increasingly important for counselors to address the
obvious career-related problem within the context of the client's life if the
career outcomes are to be realized.
Clients know what they want from counseling. Counselors report that their
clients know what they want from counseling but that their initial expectations
change after a few sessions. Specifically, counselors report that their clients
come to counseling expecting the following: (a) information about career
options, (b) information about training/educational options, (c) information
about jobs available, (d) information about their interests and abilities
(especially in schools and colleges), (e) to develop an appropriate
career/employment action plan, (f) to become more motivated toward staying in
All of the above expectations decreased in importance after one or two
sessions, presumably because these expectations had been met. On the other hand,
some client expectations that were low priorities initially, later increased in
importance. These included accepting responsibility for taking action, reducing
employment barriers, becoming more motivated to seek work, increasing
self-esteem in relation to work, increasing capacity for self-direction
(especially in high schools and community agencies), reducing self-defeating
behaviors (especially in community agencies and CECs), and balancing work,
family, leisure activities (especially in community agencies and CECs).
These findings provide further evidence of the increased complexity of career
and employment counseling. Once clients' initial information needs are met, they
move on to wanting to take action on the information they have received.
Counselors should be prepared to work with clients to help the latter develop
both sensible action plans and learn workable strategies for identifying and
overcoming the barriers they face.
Counselors need to examine how they spend their time. Counselors report that
career-related issues were the most frequently encountered main client
presenting problem and also the most frequent underlying problem. Personal
issues and education/training concerns were next on the list. Other underlying
problems included family concerns (in the schools and colleges) and client skill
enhancement (in the community agencies and CECs). However, when asked how they
spent their time, counselors in school and colleges reported one-to-one personal
counseling as the most common task. Preparing case notes and clerical tasks was
identified as one of the five most time consuming tasks by 50% of counselors in
some sectors. Working with third parties, coaching, mentoring, helping clients
follow-through on an action plan occupied very little counselor time. Given the
nature of the client problems and the types of client barriers, it may be that
counselors are not apportioning their time in a manner that best meets clients'
There is a need for more effective leadership. The survey identified that
most counselors receive little support. They seldom get supervision or feedback
on their work with clients, and when supervision does occur, it tends to focus
on administrative matters. In some sectors counselors lack a good career
resource library. Most counselors need a central office which develops new
counseling methods and evaluation procedures, or provides other sorts of
leadership like policy development and staff training. Counselors report wanting
professional development/inservice in multi-cultural counseling, using labor
market information, using occupational information more effectively, employment
counseling and rehabilitation counseling.
Counselors working in community agencies expressed the greatest need for
training, likely because they were the most poorly educated of the sectors
Counselors tend to feel isolated in their work and there are few senior
organizational officials who provide support for them. There is a need for more
effective leadership, and for the development of better leadership tools, so
that counselors will receive the support they need to function effectively.
Counselors need to become better at marketing what they do. Counseling tends
to be seen as an ancillary service, "bolted on to the side" of existing programs
rather than as an integral part of service delivery. Counselors reported that
their bosses and coworkers did not understand counseling concepts like case
load, active number of clients, or amount and type of service a client receives.
From 27% to 42% of counselors did not know to what extent their supervisors'
expectations were being met. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, there
is a risk that program administrators may assume that counseling is not
necessary. Counselors need to become more active at marketing what they do and
the results they achieve (i.e., the nature of service, nature of program,
results of evaluation).
No one will deny that we live in an
increasingly complex society where career problems are embedded in people's
lives. Therefore, with most clients, counselors must address the total picture
in order to be effective with the career counseling presenting problem. Clients
expect this and that is why their expectations change during counseling.
We need to move to a different model for delivering counseling services.
Individual counseling is ineffectual in meeting the broad scope of client needs.
More emphasis should be placed on group work, evaluation, mentoring, coaching,
working with third parties, and marketing services. Further, all levels of an
organization should be involved in determining client needs, planning programs
to address those needs, and providing support to counselors in delivering
Counselors need more leadership if they are to function effectively. The
federal department of Human Resources Development, and some provincial
government departments, have provided leadership in developing good career
information materials and new tools for use in career and employment counseling.
This must continue. However, these materials should be marketed outside the
departments that develop them in a more widespread sharing of information and
resources, so as to avoid duplication and to make the materials more widely
available to counselors, perhaps on some sort of cost-recovery basis.
A team approach to the delivery of career and employment counseling services
is desirable, where team members are aware of what the other players are doing,
yet focusing on their own role. Thus attempts to implement an evaluation model
will need to be seen as supported and modeled at all levels in the organization,
with supervisors sharing their evaluations with workers, district coordinators
who model the new approach to managers, and soon. This will help to ensure an
integrated approach to service delivery.
If counseling is to survive to service the
clients who desperately need it, counseling will need to become truly client
centered--not program, or test, or counselor centered. We believe that the data
summarized here provide a good starting point for moving to the future.
Conger, D. S., Hiebert, B., & Hong-Farrell,
E. (1993). "Career and Employment Counselling in Canada." Ottawa, ON: Canadian
Labour Force Development Board.