Workshop ~ Assess whether your client needs Career Counseling vs Psychotherapy

Workshop ~ Assess whether your client needs Career Counseling vs 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 or 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 even 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 hampered them from 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, read the articles, below.

Want to learn more? Read the articles, below.


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.


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.

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Dr. Lynn Friedman

Dr. Lynn Friedman, Ph.D., FABP, is a Clinical Psychologist, a Supervising and Training Analyst, and a Clinical Supervisor in full-time, private practice. She provides evaluation, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as well as supervision to psychoanalysts-in-training and other mental health professionals. Beyond this, she is a board certified, psychoanalyst who teaches at Johns Hopkins University and the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis.

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I provide psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, clinical consultation, supervision & executive coaching. If you are seeking consultation from a psychologist, psychoanalyst, in DC, feel free to call me: 240.483.3530.