Psychotherapy or Career Counseling: Which is more helpful for whom?

June 4, 2019
career counseling or psychotherapy

Career Counseling or Psychotherapy

Not for Career Counselors only

What if Their Parachute Doesn’t Open: Psychodynamic career assessment for Understanding and Helping the Incontrovertibly, Lost Career Client

For a particular client, which is more helpful, career counseling vs psychotherapy? Why does career counseling sometimes fail? How can the career counselor assess, from the very outset, whether career counseling will be helpful to their client? How does the career counselor know whether their client needs career counseling or whether psychotherapy or psychoanalysis is indicated? This post is designed for career counselors, executive coaches, psychotherapists and psychoanalysts. It describes the process of psychodynamically-informed, career assessment – a psychoanalytic evaluation designed to evaluate and understand the nature, “purpose” and underlying meaning of the career conflict. Its’ goal is to help the client with career difficulties to obtain the kind of help that will be most useful to them.

They need a different job, desperately. The wolf is at the door. They have a sense of urgency about them. They assert, “if I don’t do something fast, there will be calamitous consequences.” Anxious, depressed, or totally distracted, they come to their appointments late or forget to come, altogether. They agree to do homework but show up empty handed. Frustrated, panicky and just plain worried, when they do show up, they begin talking about problems that the career counselor is ill-equipped to resolve. Efforts to focus them fail, abysmally.

Moreover, out of a sense of panic, they are demanding. They want results, fast. Yet, it can be difficult for them to articulate their career counseling goal. When I ask these folks, “if you had a magic wand, what would be the ideal outcome of our work together?” they are stymied. Often they tell me, “I would know what I want to do and I would be doing it.” When I further inquire how long they have struggled, they assert that career satisfaction has eluded them for months, or years. In fact, maybe they have never experienced the joy of career satisfaction. When I ask how long they think that the process should take, they say, 5 or 6 sessions. For a moment, I share their sense of helplessness. Usually, with enough sticktoitiveness and the right kind of intervention,  people can be helped with these kinds of difficulties but there’s no “quick fix”.

Or, they come for Psychotherapy

Anxious and depressed, they insist on focusing exclusively on their career concerns. They eschew our efforts to help them to become curious about the relationship between their career difficulties and their psychological struggles. They are neither interested in talking about their internal conflicts, their day to day challenges or about their past. They regard their emotional struggles with relationships, anxiety, depression or self-confidence as irrelevant to the task at hand. Asked to say anything that comes to mind, they get impatient. They assert that their anxiety and depression will abate if they could just find the right job. They seem to be asking for career guidance but the psychotherapist is unqualified to provide it. Yet, as psychotherapists, it’s often apparent to us, that their “career difficulties” have a significant psychological component.

Silently, we wonder,  “What has prevented the client from identifying a career goal”?  “What has stopped them from developing a plan to achieve it?”  “What has prevented them overcoming roadblocks that have gotten in their way? Are they afraid of growing up? Are they still (even if they are well into their twenties, thirties or forties) preoccupied with pleasing their parents or impressing others? Do they want to deprive their parents of bragging rights? Are they afraid of eclipsing their parents, or their siblings? Do they have pervasive self-esteem deficits? Are drugs and alcohol part of the problem? Are they anxious or depressed? And, if so, what has prevented them from addressing these difficulties.

So what’s helpful, here? Career counseling, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, a hybrid, the support of family and friends?

As psychotherapists and career counselors, we are obliged to assess those seeking career help – and, to help them to find the kind of that will effectively address their challenges.  So we need to ask ourselves, why are these folks showing up in the wrong place? How can we assess what the client needs? And, how can we help them to get it?

To learn more about this, scroll down, and read the chat, below.

Want to learn more? Read the articles, below.

Readings

Career Counseling, Psychotherapy, or both? Which does my client need?

In Career convergence, National Career Development Association articles:

Understanding the Role of Unconscious Conflict in Career Counseling
Understanding the Role of Transference in Career Counseling

In the Baltimore Washington Psychoanalytic newsletter

Psychoanalytic career assessment

Please note: I can’t answer every question but I will try to provide a flavor of how psychoanalytically-informed, career assessment works.

About me: Clinical psychologist, Training & Supervising Analyst, & Master Career counselor

I am a Clinical Psychologist, a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Washington Baltimore Psychoanalytic Institute and a Johns Hopkins faculty member. I developed the Psychoanalytically-Informed Career Assessment Model aka the Psychodynamically-informed, career assessment model. In private practice in Chevy Chase, MD, on the Washington, DC, border, by the Friendship Heights metro, I see people in psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and career counseling. I have written over 50 career columns published in the Washington Post. My Washington Business Journal column, Corporations on the Couch, is nationally-syndicated.

Those seeking clinical supervision, career consultation, psychotherapy or psychoanalysis are welcome to give me a call: 301.656.9650. To streamline the process, please leave your name, your day and evening numbers, the time that it’s best to reach you and the reason for your call. I look forward to speaking with you.
Career counseling or psychotherapy by Washington DC Psychologist, Dr. Lynn Friedman

39 responses to “Psychotherapy or Career Counseling: Which is more helpful for whom?”

  1. Hi Everyone and welcome.

    I’m Dr. Lindsay Brancato and I will be moderating this live online talk on, “When Their Parachute Doesn’t Open: Psychoanalytic career assessment for Understanding and Helping the Incontrovertibly, Lost Career Client”.

    Essentially, I’ll be interviewing Dr. Lynn Friedman on how do you know whether your client needs Career Counseling or Psychotherapy.

    1. I’d like to start first by introducing myself.
    2. Then, I will introduce, Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.
    3. And, then, I will talk about how tonight’s show will work.

    I’m Lindsay Brancato, Psy.D., I’m a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who practices in Middleburg, Virginia and in Friendship Heights (Chevy Chase, Maryland). I’ve been providing post-doctoral training to mental health professionals and to psychodynamically oriented graduate students for more than a decade. Also, I co-lead the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute’s fellowship program.

    Clinically, I work with middle schoolers, high school students, young adults and adults. I have a special knack with anxious, inhibited teens – and, I also enjoy working with mother’s trying to achieve work-life balance.

    As you can imagine, like all of us in the context of these roles, I hear a lot about career and workplace difficulties. So, I thought that it would be interesting to moderate this talk on, how do you know whether your client needs career counseling, psychotherapy, a hybrid, both, or something else?

    Now, I’ll introduce Dr. Lynn Friedman

    Lindsay Brancato, Psy.D.
    Psychologist, psychoanalyst
    Middleburg, VA and Chevy Chase, MD
    https://about.me/lindsaybrancato
    (202) 270-2370

    Now, let me introduce Dr. Lynn Friedman in the next comment.

  2. Dr. Friedman is in full-time, private practice in Friendship Heights, near the red line, on the Washington, DC, border (Chevy Chase, MD).

    She sees people in psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and career counseling.

    She has had over 50 career columns published in the Washington Post; her Washington Business Journal column, Corporations on the Couch, is nationally-syndicated.

    She is a Supervising Psychoanalyst at the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis. Besides supervising and teaching psychoanalysts-in-training and psychodynamic psychotherapists, teaches on the Johns Hopkins faculty and she co-leads the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute’s fellowship program. She has the designation of Master Career Counselor (MCC) and she has developed an interesting model of psychoanalytically, informed, career assessment. It is this intriguing model that I am here to interview her about, tonight.

    Now, I’d like to outline the structure of tonight’s program in the next comment.

  3. I will begin by interviewing Dr. Friedman. If you look at the bottom of this page, you will see a comments section. I will ask a question and Dr. Friedman will share her thoughts in the comments section.

    During the program, you are invited to ask any questions that you have in the comments section. Simply type them in and hit the button. Please note that the questions are moderated. Therefore, your questions will not immediately appear on the screen. After the moderated part of the interview, Dr. Friedman will answer as many questions as she can. She can’t answer every question (she has a day job :)); but, she will try to provide a flavor of how psychoanalytically-informed, career assessment works.

    Finally, I would like to extend, again, a warm welcome not only to the career counselors and career coaches but also to all of the psychotherapists and lay people who have joined us.

    O.K. Let’s get started with, “When Their Parachute Doesn’t Open: Psychoanalytic career assessment for Understanding and Helping the Incontrovertibly, Lost Career Client”.

    O.K. Let’s get started.

    Dr. Friedman, how did you come to think about and conceptualize a psychoanalytic approach to career difficulties?

    • Thank you. I’d like to start out by talking about how I came to conceptualize and think about a psychoanalytic approach to career difficulties.

      I am going to tell a few stories – I should mention that the stories that I am going to tell are highly fictionalized. Like everyone, here, I’m concerned about confidentiality. In this era, I no longer feel that I can share actual case vignettes. The world is getting smaller day-by-day and so I tend to make up stories, or share stories from 30 or 40 years ago that occurred outside of this locale – always under heavy disguise.

      In the late eighties, I opened up a private practice in which I provided career coaching and psychotherapy.

      I was 33 years old, the ink on my license was still wet. And, I had a client come to me – she was a nurse – and, there was a terrible nursing shortage. She had several children and her husband was a highly successful professional. Theirs was a traditional marriage in which she minded the hearth and home and he was out slaying dragons.

      She reported that all of their friends were dual career families and that she felt embarrassed at not having a job. She added that she had been trying for years to find a job but that she had been highly unsuccessful.

      This was surprising to me because was a nursing shortage and, at the time, health care settings were desperate for people with her skills. I began career counseling with enthusiasm. I clarified exactly what sort of position she would like. It was such a small community that I actually knew where the open positions were. I identified places with openings.

      We agreed on assignments that she would complete.

      This was pre-internet, and it was in an era of informational interviews. She was to make a series of phone calls to key gatekeepers and ask for informational interviews. We worked on her spiel. I was quite confident that she would be successful because I had helped others, recently, with similar goals.

      She made the phone calls but never heard back. After a few weeks of this, I realized that something was wrong.

      I asked her to role play the phone calls. To whom was she talking? And, what was she saying?

      To my astonishment, without inhibition or shame, she showed me how she was talking to the secretaries.

      Her tone was hostile, condescending and demeaning. The result was consistent, the bosses never called her back. Probably the secretaries didn’t want her to be hired.

      I was shocked. I reflected that she didn’t sound very friendly – she replied, “they are just secretaries”.

      Even in my naivety and inexperience, it dawned on me to wonder if, in fact, she really did want to work. So, I began, diplomatically, inquiring how does your husband feel about your working?

      She was snappish, “oh, he’s completely fine with it as long as nothing changes at home. As long as the house is clean and well maintained, dinner is on the table every night and the children are cared for.”

      A few days later, she called and angrily cancelled our future meetings. I returned her call. Enraged she asserted, “I came to you for career counseling. How dare you ask about my marriage”. She refused to come in and talk about it.”

      Of course, I felt terrible – as if I had done something wrong. And, I probably had. I say that because today, I agree with her. I think that people have a right to know what to expect when they come to see us. I view this as an issue of technique.

      But for me, this moment and others like it was transformative. It forever changed how I thought about career counseling clients. I will have more to say about this throughout the show.

      Of course, I will never know what was so upsetting for her. But, I surmise, that prior to embarking in her career counseling journey, she had the perfect set-up. She managed her embarrassment with their dual career friends by presenting herself as a professional who wanted to work – but, who simply couldn’t find a job. This made people feel sympathetic to her – sorry for her and it allowed her to claim herself to be part of the workaday world without actually having to work outside of the home.

      I guess that the key point that I want to make here is that Career counseling threatened to disrupt this tenuous balance. And, I assume that some of these dynamics operated completely outside of her conscious awareness.

      Undoubtedly, many of us have encountered situations like this – where we are trying our hardest and clients sabotage our very best efforts.

      I hope what I share today will reduce the likelihood of it – and, will allow you to establish expectations, from the outset, and pre-screen clients – so that you can assess whether you will be able to help them.

      I want to talk, now, about the scope of the challenge that we face in helping people with career difficulties.

      • I’m not sure that Dr. Brancato’s comment is appearing here. So, I’ll post it, again.

        I think that this is such an important area. It seems like many people show up for psychotherapy when career counseling might be a more appropriate modality. Conversely, many people show up for career counseling when psychotherapy or even psychoanalysis might be warranted.

        Lindsay Brancato, Psy.D.
        Psychologist, psychoanalyst
        Middleburg, VA and Chevy Chase, MD
        (202) 270-2370

        • Yes. I think that is sometimes true. While the majority of the people who come to us – whether for career counseling or psychotherapy – have come to the right place. They know what they need and they come seeking it.

          That is, they know whether the need therapy or career counseling and the call the right people for the job.

          But, sometimes people don’t know what they need and it isn’t their fault.

          It’s a little bit like when we go to our internist for a stomach ache. We don’t know whether we have acid reflux, gallstones or cancer.

          It’s really our internist’s job to evaluate what’s making us symptomatic and to treat us or to collaborate with other physicians who can help us to heal.

          Similarly, this is sometimes true for people with work-life difficulties. Whether we are career counselors, career developers or career coaches, it’s really our job to help our clients or patients to clarify the nature of their concerns so that the kind of help they need becomes apparent and we can make a helpful recommendations.

          The same is true psychotherapists. It’s our job to assess what our clients need and to help them to get it. They may need psychotherapy or they may need career counseling or they may need both. But, it’s our job to make a careful assessment and help them to get what they need.

          As I said a moment ago, many people know what they need and they come to the right place. But, not everyone knows what sort of help will be most useful to them.

  4. I think that this is such an important area. It seems like many people show up for psychotherapy when career counseling might be a more appropriate modality. Conversely, many people show up for career counseling when psychotherapy or even psychoanalysis might be warranted.

    Lindsay Brancato, Psy.D.
    Psychologist, psychoanalyst
    Middleburg, VA and Chevy Chase, MD
    (202) 270-2370

    • You asked, Why do you think people come to the wrong place?

      There could be a lot of reasons. They may not know what sort of help they need. It could be that they know they need psychotherapy but they are terrified of it – maybe they are worried that they are crazy. Maybe they are worried about stigma. Maybe they are ashamed. Or, maybe they just don’t know much about psychotherapy. (link to psychodynamic psychotherapy, here)

      Sometimes career counseling provides a fig leaf for therapy. Over the years, I’ve had many people call me for career counseling as portal of entry for psychotherapy. When I point out that they are anxious or depressed or have difficulties with authority figures – and that these problems warrant psychotherapy or psychoanalysis – often, they agree and tell me that they knew that all along … but, that the need for career counseling was easier to acknowledge.

      In addition to the fact that our clients, occasionally come to the wrong place – one of the challenges that we face as career counselors and as psychotherapists is that we are not always knowledgeable about each others disciplines.

      Not all career counselors are trained to evaluate the kinds of psychological difficulties that hamper an individual’s capacity to pursue and achieve work-life happiness … so, a client may present with a career problem but there may actually an underlying, unconscious, psychological difficulty.

      Similarly, not all psychotherapists are trained to evaluate when career counseling is warranted— either as an adjuvant to psychotherapy or on its own. Also, as psychotherapists often we are not entirely knowledgeable about the ways in which career counselors can be helpful.
      O.K. So we’ve said that sometimes clients end up in the wrong place. And, that brings to psychoanalytically-informed, career assessment.

      This is one of the reasons I’m so appreciative of this opportunity to work with both groups, together. I feel like the more interdisciplinary bridges we can build between the two groups, the better we can know each other and the more comfortable we can feel collaborating.

  5. Why do you think people come to the wrong place?

  6. I agree that is so important. I enjoy working collaboratively with career counselors. Can you tell us, now, what exactly is, psychoanalytically-informed, career assessment? Or, as you sometimes call it, psychodynamically-informed career assessment?

    I know that you have written pretty extensively on this for the lay and professional public but can you break it down for us? And, can you give us links to some of your articles before the end of the program?

    • Yes. A psychoanalytically-informed career assessment asks: What function or purpose does a career conflict serve? This question may seem counter-intuitive, as most clients say they want to be helped. But, consider this puzzling concept: when a person has a conflict, they derive some benefit from it, albeit, unconsciously. Thus, one of our tasks is to develop an in-depth understanding of the unconscious conflicts that interfere with an individual’s capacity to achieve their career goals.

      For example, we saw this in the case of the nurse – I conjecture that consciously she wanted to work. She wanted the prestige associated with working and perhaps some of the other gratifications derived from working. But unconsciously perhaps she was afraid of the marital conflict that it might create. And, or, perhaps she really didn’t want to work outside of the home.

      The task of the psychoanalytically-informed career assessment is to begin to understand the career conflict in a broader context. That is, the goal of the career assessment, is, in part, to understand how the career conflict protects the individual.

      I use this model of career assessment with virtually all career clients.

      First, I attempt to clarify how the conflict itself protects the individual from pain. This model recognizes that a client may have two contradictory, simultaneous wishes: the desire to develop a fulfilling work-life, and the desire not to do so.

      That is, this model assumes that all of us are ambivalent, or conflicted, about change.

      Our task is to begin to clarify the nature of the conflict. And, to try to understand what is being avoided? Understanding the nature of the client’s conflict can help the counselor to identify what sort of intervention will increase client awareness, and will allow them to take steps toward career success.

      There are three cornerstones of psychoanalytically-informed, career assessment:

      Career difficulties are like any other presenting program. This assumption means that we takes a history just as with any other presenting problem. We ask, what are the benefits to achieving the career goals? What are the benefits to preserving the “status quo”?
      Transference will manifest itself from the beginning and that it is important to pay attention to it for evaluation purposes.

      It privileges the counselor’s counter-transference reactions in understanding the client.

  7. O.K. can you address each in turn? Let’s start with your idea that career difficulties are like any other presenting problem.

    • Like any psychological or psychoanalytic assessment, this approach focuses on understanding the client within the broader fabric of their personal, family, and medical history. It proceeds in much the same way as an assessment for anxiety, depression or any psychological concern, except, in this case, the emphasis is on career as the presenting problem.

      That is, I treat the evaluation of a career difficulty the same way that I treat any other psychological concern. I take a complete psychological history and family psychological history with a special focus on careers. So, just as when someone presents with anxiety, I take a complete history personal and familial psychological history with a special focus on anxiety starting from the beginning of time, I take the same approach with careers.

      So, I ask about their career history – and, I ask about how career worked in the family. What were the attitudes about work in the family. I want to go back a few generations if I can. And, I want to know not only about their career but the career of their siblings. I should note, parenthetically, that is can be really important.

      Decades ago, I was treating a high school junior whose parents brought him in because he was flunking high school. During the evaluation, I learned that he really idealized his father, and adored him, and wanted to be just like him. And, his father, a successful carpenter, had flunked out of high school. Of course, the father had had a very tough time without a high school degree – he was stoic – he’d never complained about to the son. But, it had been a rough ride with lots of hardships. He didn’t want it for his son. Once that was clarified a few sessions of family therapy got things back on track.

      Another man, in his mid-thirties, came to me for career counseling … and, he ended up in therapy. He loved, learning, teaching, explaining, researching …. He was perfectly suited for academia. I asked why he hadn’t considered being a professor … in his family those, “those who can do, those who can’t teach” and he was still tied up in trying to win his father’s approval.

      Getting back to the evaluation … I am interested in early history – and, since school is the career of kids, I take a complete educational history – again, personal and family.

      After learning about the client’s history, I explore early antecedents of the career concerns. What was the client’s early experience in the world of school, work, and home? What sorts of attitudes, views and feelings did the parents convey about these worlds? What views did they convey about money? Current experience is central, too. What are the attitudes of the key people in the client’s life toward career? How might the client’s career success or failure affect these people? Are they a source of support or a part of the conflict? How will their career success or failure effect their significant other? Their siblings? Their parents?

      Then, I attempt to clarify whether the individual’s career difficulty is recapitulated in other areas of their life and, if so, how?

      For example, does the person who has difficulties committing to a career also have trouble committing to relationships? Here’s another example. Take the ubiquitous difficulty: work-a-holism. The man whose work-a-holism causes him to lose his marriage may be very sad about that loss. However, simultaneously, (often, unconsciously); he may be relieved. He may be quite frightened of intimacy. Thus, his work-a-holism may allow him to avoid closeness.

      Most importantly, I explore, what are the benefits to achieving the career goals? What are the benefits of preserving the status quo? And, in what ways, work difficulties may serve a protective function (like protecting people from competition). And, we will talk about this more in one of our upcoming examples.

      This assessment leads to a more nuanced understanding of whether help is warranted. And, if so, what interventions might prove most effective in resolving the career difficulty: career counseling, psychotherapy, or psychoanalysis; or, some sort of treatment in conjunction with career counseling.

  8. What about the role of transference in career counseling? I know you have written, extensively, about that but can you say more about that here? For the sake of those who are career counselors, can you review that concept for us?

    • Sure. In our early years, we learn about the world from our primary caretakers. Toddlers with nurturing parents anticipate supportive teachers; those with harsh parents expect strident ones. As we go out into the world, we discover that not everyone is like our parents. However, at a subterranean, unconscious, level, we anticipate a repeat of family relationships and may inadvertently provoke this repetition. It is as if a template for our relationships has been established. Expectations spring not from the interactions of today, but from an earlier well; this is known as transference.

      Transference is most profound in our closest relationships, and in stressful and ambiguous situations. Positive transferences to the people in our lives are helpful.

      Let me give 2 examples to illustrate this point.

      Let’s talk first about a positive transference with a career client. Positive transferences to the people in our lives are helpful and may lead to successful outcomes in career counseling.

      During her junior year of college, Susan, an English major, sought assistance from me. She was worried about finding a job upon graduation. And, her parents agreed that career counseling could be helpful.

      Characterizing her relationship with her parents as close, she described how they encouraged her to pursue her passions. “As a child, I wanted to take ballet – I didn’t realize that I was clumsy and short – not optimal in ballet.” They chauffeured me to ballet lessons, the ballet and shows – where I had the tiniest of parts. Eventually, I realized I lacked talent. I think my parents knew that. But, for them, it wasn’t about my becoming a world class ballerina; it was about having fun and learning about myself. Later, when I wanted to study English, I was afraid my job prospects would be bleak, but they said, ‘don’t worry, do something that you enjoy and you will find your way’.”

      From the outset, I liked Susan and I could see that she was motivated to obtain a job and to become more independent.

      She readily entered into a partnership with me and completed the exercises that I suggested. She decided that she wanted to work for a, non-profit, involved with the arts. We brainstormed about networking steps that she might take; and she completed them. By graduation, she had the job that she wanted in a non-profit for the arts. She expressed appreciation for my help. Some months later, I received a note from her thanking me and telling me how much she liked her job and how helpful our work had been.

      From her early beginnings, Susan experienced her parents as supportive of her developmental quest to define and pursue her passions. Not surprisingly, she transferred these unconscious expectations onto me; this led to a good working relationship. This was the way that she walked through the world. People liked her. They wanted to hire her.

      These kind of people make great clients. They have had very little trauma. They get along well with authority figures. They stay on task. They collaborate, they work hard. Often they get the outcome they want. They make the career counselor feel good. 🙂

      In contrast, negative transferences can torpedo the career counseling endeavor.

      A career counseling colleague, Dr. Smith, consulted me for help with a difficult counseling situation. I should mention that Dr. Smith is a veteran career counselor who is very highly regarded in her local community. For this reason, she was often sought out by newer career counselors seeking to establish their own career counseling practices.

      A talented, recently minted career counselor, Mr. Jones, tried to launch his own practice without success. Frustrated, he sought career counseling himself from Dr. Smith. He reported, “my entire life, my parents have been critical and demanding. Even now, they complain, ‘honey, that expensive Ivy League education we bought you is going to waste’.” Bristling, he added, “it was always about winning prizes and ‘bragging rights’. It was never about my happiness.”

      A challenging client, Mr. Jones often canceled, arrived late and “no showed.” He would agree to assignments and then come to meetings empty-handed. Criticizing Dr. Smith, he lamented, “this isn’t going anywhere.” When the Dr. Smith asked about his assignments, Mr. Jones told her, “they are as useless as you are.” Dr. Smith felt hurt and exasperated. Though clients like Mr. Jones may seek out professional guidance in earnest, they may be compelled to sabotage the career development process.

      It’s important to note here that Mr. Joneses relationship with his parents led to a more problematic transference. He experienced his parents’ as being more invested in his achievements than in his happiness. Likely, he viewed Dr. Smith’s wish to be helpful as one more attempt on the part of an authority figure to use him to bolster his/her own self-esteem. Unconsciously, it was gratifying for Mr. Jones to deprive the counselor of the satisfaction inherent in helping a client, just as it was gratifying to deprive his parents of “bragging rights.” Ultimately, however, he ended up feeling stymied and unfulfilled.

      He needed help recognizing and dealing with her rage at her parents for treating her as a narcissistic extension of themselves. Displacing all of that rage onto his career counselor wasn’t helping him.

      I felt that Mr. Jones could be greatly served by a psychoanalytically-informed, career assessment. Dr. Smith referred her to a psychoanalyst colleague and Mr. Jones entered psychoanalysis. A few years later, still in psychoanalysis, he returned to Dr. Smith and was able to allow her to help him In our early years, we learn about the world from our primary caretakers. Toddlers with nurturing parents anticipate supportive teachers; those with harsh parents expect strident ones.

      Transference is most profound in our closest relationships, and in stressful and ambiguous situations.

  9. O.K. that makes sense. People need to be able to rely on and work with the career counselor – and, that maybe difficult if they have certain kinds of difficulties.

    Can you talk, now about what you said was the third cornerstone of your model, That it, It takes into account, and focuses on the counselor’s, countertransference reactions.

    • It think that this is really important. In the case of Susan, I took an immediate liking to her. She showed up on time, ready to work – she was a really lovely kid. And, I could tell, immediately, that lots of people would want to hire her. She was bright, personable, she had a sense of humor. She would be fun to have around. She was thoughtful, reflective – had a lot of ego strength.

      I think that it’s very important to pay attention to our countertransference to people. I find that this can sometimes be very hard for career counselors to do. As a group, I find career counselors to be a lot like pediatricians. Some of the nicest, most optimistic people who you will ever meet. …

      In my experience, career counselors tend to see the best in people – to “accent the positive, eliminate the negative” as the song goes. But, in this case, it’s very important to attend, carefully, to how our clients make us feel.
      
Why? Because this is how others – like employers – will see them. So, we are not doing our clients any favors if we deny their aggression or their undersides to ourselves.

      In the case of Mr. Jones, it took some persistence on my part but eventually Dr. Smith was able to tell me how much Mr. Jones infuriated her and frustrated her. It was then that Dr. Smith was able to imagine what it must be like for Mr. Joneses parents and, likely, other authority figures (including, Dr. Smith). This led Dr. Smith to have empathy for him – to see how tangled up he was inside and to refer him to a psychoanalyst.

  10. So, these are three cornerstones of psychoanalytically-informed, career assessment:

    Assume that a career difficulties are like any other presenting problem.
    Pay attention to the client’s transference.
    Consider your own countertransference.

    Can you give us some more vignettes to explicate these concepts?

    • Sure. Here’s a situation that I encountered decades ago.

      A gifted older undergraduate has outstanding credentials. She plans to apply to doctoral programs. She obtains excellent experience as well as high GRE scores and grades. Her faculty gives her exceptional references. Yet, when it came to writing her application, the student finds herself immobilized.

      Her college career counselor was unsure how to help her overcome the issues paralyzing her progress. So, she conducts a psychoanalytically-informed, career assessment. The counselor learns that the student’s husband is a mechanic and that the student worried that with a graduate degree she would out-earn her husband.

      As the supervisor in the case, I encouraged the counselor to clarify the nature of the student’s fears. She was worried that if she out-earned him, he’d leave her.

      I recommended some couple’s therapy. In the context of a very short-term, couple’s therapy, the student learned that her husband wasn’t planning on leaving her at all. In fact, he was very proud of her. He’d always wanted to go to college but with 7 kids, on his father’s working class salary, that was out of the question. However, he wanted their kids to go to college. When she expressed an interest in becoming a professor and he learned that if she pursued that goal – he and their kids would be able to attend school for virtually nothing, he was delighted. He started introducing her to the guys as my wonderful wife, Dr. X.

      Career counseling was not necessary. She wrote her essay, applied and was admitted to graduate school.

  11. It can be so helpful to try to scratch beneath the surface and learn about why, in this case, the woman was so fearful of success. She wasn’t actually afraid of success. She was afraid of loss.

    • A recent college graduate, sought help from an experienced career counselor in private practice. Despite graduating from an Ivy League college, for two years he has been unable to find a job.

      Living in his parent’s basement, he has engaged in a lackluster job hunt.

      Furious and frustrated, his parents insisted that he seek career counseling, and pay for him to do so.
      When the career counselor asked what sort of steps he has taken to find a job, he became snappish and irritable revealing that he, “looks on the computer”.

      He comes late to sessions and fails to follow through on agreed upon tasks. Often, he is distracted and he acts as if he is doing his counselor a big favor by showing up. One day, he erupts into a rage at the counselor and blames the counselor for his lack of improvement.

  12. Thank you. I’m getting the drift. When people are non-compliant with the career counseling process, it means that they are not ready to engage in it. And, there are reasons for that. And, those reasons can be understood. And, this can lead to people getting the kind of help that they need.

    • You can see right away that at the young man has, what we used to call back in the day, “a negative transference” to the career counselor. Here she is, just being your friendly, neighborhood career counselor and he verbally assaults her. So, his transference towards her is very hostile. We don’t know about his family background and situation but we can infer that he is likely having a heck of a time growing up – and, that he is probably enraged with his parents – he is at least furious at the notion that his parents are insisting that he go to career counseling. All of those feelings are likely being projected onto the career counselor.

      I imagine she must have a countertransference feeling or two. This guy sounds entitled and infuriating. Likely, career counseling is not where the action is for him. At least not yet. First, he needs some intensive psychotherapy or psychoanalysis aimed at helping him to overcome his fear of growing up.

      • Exactly. Here’s one more vignette. A 40 year old engineer gets laid off every few years. He’s not sure why. He says that he is not a “go getter” and he’s already looking forward to retirement, adding, “Maybe a career coach can help but I doubt it”. I’ve tried it before and it’s been fruitless. As we speak, I get the feeling that the “umph” should come from me, not from him, as if it were my job to prove that my services, (to quote him)
        “aren’t just a scam”. When I point out the relationship between his “non-go-getter-ness” at work and the message he conveys to me, he makes the connection.

        My countertransference in this situation was one of irritation as if I had to prove something rather than to just help him in the usual and expected ways. He’s sitting there daring me to help him while he stands by passively rejecting any of my efforts. He doesn’t seem to want to do anything YET, he comes for help.

        His transference to me appeared to be to the mother who should take care of him. But, there’s so much aggression in it. It made me wonder what happened to him in his family. He acts as if he’s owed something … but he relates in ways that might frustrate employers. No wonder he gets laid off every few years.

        He has a career problem but the difficulties are well beyond the scope of any career counseling endeavor. He needs to work through his anger with a skilled psychotherapist or even a psychoanalyst.

  13. O.K. Again, I’m seeing that someone who is non-compliant with the career counseling process probably has something going on that warrants a psychological evaluation.

    Can you describe the kinds of concerns that are the province, typically, of the career counselor and those that yield only to psychotherapy or psychoanalysis?

    • I listen to try to understand what sorts of conflicts are contained within the person’s career conflict and what types of interventions might be useful.

      Typically, short-term difficulties and focal problems are likely to respond to career and organizational consultation. For example, most relatively healthy people can be helped to negotiate salary, apply to graduate school, interview for jobs or develop an effective job search strategy, if they are not excessively conflicted about these goals. In contrast, longer-term struggles that have been repeated throughout the person’s work and relationship history such as difficulties with commitment, motivation and self-esteem, often require psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. These types of therapy may also be indicated for difficulties with separation and growing up, establishing a coherent identity, character pathology and more significant psychological troubles.

      I assess nearly everyone who seeks me out for career consultation using this method. So, my bias is that all career clients should have this type of evaluation.

      This allows you to assess on the front-end, what sort of help might be most useful.

  14. I am hoping that you can flush that out a little more. Tell me, what are the warning signs that career difficulties may signal an internal conflict?

    • I listen to try to understand what sorts of conflicts are contained within the person’s career conflict and what types of interventions might be useful.

      Typically, short-term difficulties and focal problems are likely to respond to career and organizational consultation. For example, most relatively healthy people can be helped to negotiate salary, apply to graduate school, interview for jobs or develop an effective job search strategy, if they are not excessively conflicted about these goals.In contrast, longer-term struggles that have been repeated throughout the person’s work and relationship history such as difficulties with commitment, motivation and self- esteem, often require psychotherapy or analysis. These types of therapy may also be indicated for difficulties with separation and growing up, establishing a coherent identity, character pathology and more significant psychological troubles.

      I assess nearly everyone who seeks me out for career consultation using this method. So, my bias is that all career clients should have this type of evaluation.

      This allows you to assess on the front-end, who might be most helpful.

      • Oops! It looks like the same post, posted twice. Here’s more about how to identify those people who need career counseling from those who might warrant psychotherapy or even psychoanalysis.

        Here’s a list:

        1. A parent, or a spouse, calls to explain the situation and to make the initial appointment.

        2.They are coming at the behest of someone else (parents, significant other, spouse).

        3.The client reports several previous, failed, career counseling attempts.

        4.There’s difficulty setting the initial appointment.

        5.The client comes late, repeatedly.

        6.The client brings a stack of exercises that they have completed in career books. And, reports that the exercises have been of no help to them.

        7.They own numerous career books but have neither read them nor completed the exercises.

        8.They agree to do some exercises for the next session but show up empty-handed.

        9.They arrive 20 minutes late to a 45 minute session.

        10.They are distracted, unfocused and talk about problems, seemingly, unrelated to their career difficulties.

        11.They are talking about how anxious or depressed they are.

        12. They are talking about relationship difficulties, conflicts with authority or marital concerns.

        13. They have been fired or have quit in order to avoid being fired, repeatedly.

        14. At the end of the initial appointment, you learn for the first time, that they are in therapy for these same issues.

        15.The parent is paying and you can hear the subtle glee in squandering the parent’s money.

        Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.
        Washington DC Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Master Career Counselor
        301.656.9650

  15. That makes sense to me. The person has to really want career counseling and to be able to use it.

    Thank you so much, Dr. Friedman. This has been very informative.

    Now, let’s open it up to the audience. Does anyone have any questions?

  16. Bethesda, MD says:

    Dr. Friedman,
    have you published anything about this in the professional career literature? If so, can you provide some links?

  17. Bethesda, MD says:

    Dr. Friedman,
    What is psychodynamic psychotherapy?

    • Thank you for this question.

      I’ve written an article on psychodynamic psychotherapy – here it is: http://www.drlynnfriedman.com/psychodynamic-psychotherapy/

      Also, some have asked how can they learn more about psychoanalysis. I’ve written about that, too. Here’s my website on psychoanalysis: http://www.washingtonpsychoanalyst.com

      Let’s stop for tonight. Regrettably, I have not been able to answer every question.

      Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.
      Washington DC Psychologist, Psychoanalyst & Master Career Counselor
      5480 Wisconsin Avenue,
      Chevy Chase, MD
      301.656.9650

      For those who want to reach me whether for psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, career counseling, or for those career counselors and clinicians seeking consultation, feel free to give me a holler: 301.656.9650.

      If you call, to streamline things, please leave your day and evening numbers and the times that it is best to reach you.

      Thank you very much for joining me on my very first, live online show. And, thank you to Dr. Lindsay Brancato for being a great moderator.

      Best to all, Lynn Friedman

  18. Good evening, everyone!

    We are just getting ready to start the seminar, Career counseling or psychotherapy in Washington DC –

    When Their Parachute Doesn’t Open: Psychoanalytic career assessment for Understanding and Helping the Incontrovertibly, Lost Career Client

    Please take a moment to introduce yourself. Say your first name, where you are living or working and whether you practice career counseling, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis or something else. Also, say anything else that you’d like me to know about you.

    I won’t post your introduction unless you ask me to do so. In a minute, our moderator, Dr. Lindsay Brancato, Psy.D. will get us started. Looking forward to it. Best to all, Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.

  19. Dinorah says:

    I’m Dinorah, a career counselor in San Francisco. How do I join the seminar?

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