Career counselors’ perspectives on social justice advocacy

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Melissa Fickling (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
James Benshoff

Abstract: The counseling profession has been rooted in both social justice and career development since Frank Parsons began providing career guidance services to underserved youth and immigrants of Boston over a century ago (Kiselica & Robinson, 2001; O'Brien, 2001; Parsons, 1909). Support for a social justice paradigm in counseling has waxed and waned over the years but it appears to be growing in influence (Chang, Hays, & Milliken, 2009; Fouad, Gerstein, & Toporek, 2006; Smith, Reynolds, & Rovnak, 2009; Steele, 2010). It has been called the "fifth force" in counseling (Ratts, D'Andrea, & Arredondo, 2004; Ratts, 2009) and the American Counseling Association (ACA) listed promoting social justice as one of five core values of the counseling profession in the latest revision of the Code of Ethics (American Counseling Association, 2014). Counselor educators and researchers are working to understand and assess the implications of embracing the advocate role in a world that is increasingly diverse and global. For career counselors, this means helping clients deal with an unpredictable world of work. Although worker adaptability to a more unstable labor market is promoted as a key 21st century skill (Niles, Amundson, & Neault, 2010; Savickas, 1997), the social distribution of resources and opportunities remains unequal. Encouraging clients to adapt to unjust conditions without also acknowledging the role of unequal social structures is inconsistent with a social justice paradigm (Stead & Perry, 2012). Career counselors witness the economic and psychological impact of unfair social arrangements on individuals, families, and communities. Recent meta-analyses indicate that unemployment has a direct and causal negative impact on mental health, leading to greater rates of depression and suicide (Milner, Page, & LaMontagne, 2013; Paul & Moser, 2009). Thus, career counselors have a unique vantage point when it comes to social justice and a unique platform from which to advocate (Butler, 2012; Chope, 2010; Herr & Niles, 1998; O'Brien, 2001; Pope, Briddick, & Wilson, 2013; Pope & Pangelinan, 2010; Prilleltensky & Stead, 2012; Sultana, 2014; Toporek & Chope, 2006). This study fills a gap in the counseling literature by identifying distinct perspectives of career counselors on the topic of advocacy through the implementation of a Q methodological study. A sample of advocacy behaviors was constructed by reviewing the counseling literature on social justice and advocacy. Expert reviewers provided feedback on the Q sample resulting in a Q sample of 25 statements. Next, 19 experienced career counselors sorted the behaviors according to a condition of instruction, referring to their own career counseling work. All participants completed a post-sort interview which was later transcribed and used to understand the factors which emerged during data analysis. This study revealed two perspectives of career counselors in regard to advocacy behaviors in career counseling. One factor, labeled Focus on Clients, emphasized the importance of empowering individual clients and teaching self-advocacy. Another factor, labeled Focus on Multiple Roles, highlighted the variety of skills and interventions career counselors use in their work. These two factors represent two perspectives on a shared point of view as the factors were correlated at 0.71. The purpose of this study was not to identify a correct or ideal advocacy practice, but to better understand the decisions, motivations, preferences, and thought processes of practicing career counselors in regard to advocacy. Implications for career counselors and counselor educators are discussed, and directions for future research are recommended.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Advocacy, Career counseling, Social justice
Vocational guidance $x Social aspects
Counseling $x Social aspects
Social justice
Social advocacy

Email this document to