People often ask me, “what is psychodynamic career assessment? Career or Executive Counseling is effective for many people. But, it does not work for everyone. Some are uncertain as to what sort of career would be satisfying to them. Others know what they would like to do. Yet, they become stymied when it comes to figuring out how to pursue their career goals. Still others, know what they want to do; and, they’ve designed a plan for achieving their work-life goals. However, when it comes to implementing their plan, they seem unable to put one foot ahead of the other.
Often, they have taken many steps to clarify and pursue their career goals. In fact, they may have a copious bibliography on the topic. They’ve completed numerous career exercises or consulted more traditional career counselors. Sometimes, they have even undergone comprehensive career assessment and testing. They hand me a compendium of papers which outline their talents and make recommendations as to potential careers. Yet, they show up in the consulting room feeling immobilized, frustrated, sad and helpless.
A psychodynamic career assessment is a psychological assessment. It takes a psychoanalytic approach to understanding the career difficulty. It asks, “what are the origins of this difficulty?” Does it reflect some sort of internal conflict? Is it indicative of a skills deficit? Or, both. What is happening inside this person that leads to their feeling immobilized in this area?
As with any psychological assessment, I attempt to understand you in the context of your early beginnings, your current situation and your hopes for the future. For example, when someone asks for help with anxiety and depression, I am very interested in hearing their personal and family history with these, and related, difficulties.
I attempt understand their anxiety and depression in the context of their current and historical, personal and family experience. I conceptualize anxiety or depression as the “presenting problem”. But, I know that, typically, these symptoms are signs that something is going on, “underneath the hood”. I try to learn more about the psychological, personal, family and, times, biological factors that have led to these difficulties.
Similarly, I view career difficulties as signs that something is operating outside of the individual’s conscious awareness. In a psychodynamic career assessment, I view “career difficulties” as the person’s “presenting problem”. That is, I believe that career difficulties are, often, a sign of internal struggles.
Therefore, I take a comprehensive approach. I obtain a detailed work history. I ask about early experiences and role models regarding the world of work. Beyond this, since school is the “career” of children, I ask about their educational experiences starting with, today, and going back to their earliest beginnings.
I inquire about family attitudes towards education and careers. What were the parental expectations? As they struggle to identify and pursue career goals, who are they attempting to please? What did their parents do? What are their siblings doing? What are the career expectations within their friend group and within their community? If they have a life partner, what is that partner doing, career-wise? How has their partner reacted to the individual’s career challenges?
What happens if they, actually, find a satisfying career? What obligations and stresses will that bring? How will success shift the dynamics in their family of origin? If they have a partner, how will success alter their relationship? How will it change how they are seen by the key people in their lives? How will it affect their view of themselves? What seems frightening about success?
At first blush, people often find these questions bizarre. Most are quite able to identify the benefits of success but less able to see its downside. This is because, often, their fears are outside of their conscious awareness.
Beyond this, a psychodynamic assessment explores whether the career difficulties are recapitulated in other areas of the individual’s life. For example, does the person who has difficulties with self-assertion in their career also have difficulties with self-assertion in relationships?
Answers to these questions lead me to a tentative formulation as to what’s going on beneath the surface. I attempt to articulate how beliefs, outside of the individual’s awareness, are interfering with the individual’s motivation to achieve work-life satisfaction.
This assessment leads to a recommendation as to what sort of intervention might be helpful. Sometimes, this extended psychological assessment functions as a mini-career counseling experience or a short-term psychotherapy; the roadblocks are clarified, understood and overcome. More often, however, a recommendation is made for further career counseling, psychodynamic psychotherapy, psychoanalysis or a hybrid.
To learn more about psychodynamic career assessment (aka psychoanalytically-informed, career assessment), read, The Role of Unconscious Conflict in Career Counseling, The Role of Transference in Career Counseling and Analyze this: My job, my life and why I’m not thrilled.
If you are seeking consultation from a Psychologist in DC. I welcome your call: 301.656.9650.