Career Counseling: The Value of Attachment Theory Term Paper

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Career Counseling: The Value of Attachment Theory

To be an effective career counselor, a counselor must address the psychological needs and desires of a prospective client, not simply prescribe a career based upon the individual's education as it fits into the needs current job market. Books such as What Color is Your Parachute (2002) often stress such personal qualities as introversion or extroversion in determining an individual's desired career choice. However, theories of matching personalities to career paths, or using an individual's hobby to suggest what he or she really ought to be doing, is only helpful in answering the question of 'what do I like to do?' While answering this question is undeniably an important part of a career counselor's task, an equally frequent question that occurs in counseling is: 'I know what I want to do, but I don't think I can do it.'

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Answering this question by empowering the client's self-esteem requires a certain basic knowledge of the concept of self-efficacy, one of the core concepts developed from the larger psychological theory of attachment. Attachment theory was the brainchild of the British psychoanalyst John Bowlby who wished to explain the intense distress experienced by infants separated from their parents, even for a short time. Bowlby stated that this response was a necessary evolutionary mechanism to ensure that children were cared for by their parents, and that the separation between child and parent was taken seriously. Bowlby theorized that children who grew up in a household with accessible and attentive caregivers grew up feeling secure and became greater risk-takers and more sociable because their basic needs for secure attachment and attention were satisfied. A child without such an available caregiver who was forced to cry without being comforted developed a sense of learned helplessness, a low sense of self-efficacy or ability to affect the environment, and eventually may sank into despair and finally, depression as an adult (Fraley 2004). A person whose attachment needs was unsatisfied as a child may be highly avoidant of new tasks that may provoke anxiety, as well as fearful of others (Bartholomew, 1990).

TOPIC: Term Paper on Career Counseling: The Value of Attachment Theory Assignment

Bowlby evolved his thesis to create broad overviews about general personality orientations. In essence, a person from a stable background is likely to have a more positive sense of self-esteem and self-efficacy about the world than a person who lacks such a foundation. In the field of career counseling, self-efficacy is usually looked at in terms of specific tasks related to vocational life. According to Betz (2004): "self-efficacy expectations refer to a person's beliefs concerning his or her ability to successfully perform a given task or behavior. Because self-efficacy expectations are behaviorally specific rather than general, the concept must have a behavioral referent to be meaningful. One could refer to perceived self-efficacy with respect to mathematics, initiating social interactions, investing in stocks, or fixing a flat tire. Because each type of self-efficacy is discussed in reference to a specific behavioral domain, the number of different kinds of self-efficacy expectations is limited only by the possible number of behavioral domains that can be defined" (Betz 2004:1).

In short, this suggests that a mother returning to the home after taking time out of the workforce to raise her children may have an intense sense of self-efficacy regarding taking care of children and cooking, because she has received positive reinforcement for her success in these activities. She may feel 'ready' to move into the world of work in these traditional areas, or in areas of employment where she has had success before, such as in her previous occupation before she became a homemaker. But if the woman has been made to feel insecure about her ability in quantitative skills, she may shy away from occupations such as accounting that require a great deal of math. "Low self-efficacy expectations regarding a behavior or behavioral domain are postulated to lead to avoidance of those behaviors, poorer performance of those behaviors, and a tendency to 'give up' when faced with discouragement or failure. As an example, low mathematics self-efficacy would be postulated to lead to avoidance of math course work, poor performance on math tests when such course work could not be avoided, and 'giving up' at the first sign of poor performance or failure in math" (Betz 2004:1). A lack of self-efficacy in a particular behavioral arena creates a self-fulfilling prophesy of failure.

However, self-efficacy, although often viewed by career counselors as task-specific, can also have a 'general' component in terms of career development in the sense that some persons are more secure of a greater and wider range of abilities than other persons, and this may contribute to a more general sense of a 'can do' attitude, optimism, and leadership ability at all tasks. Reinforcing social stimuli that one 'can't do' something like math, for example, or physical tasks, can cause less confidence and risk taking behavior even in domains in general: "lower self-efficacy was related to the lower likelihood of considering a nontraditional (male-dominated) career" although these occupations might be better-paid (Betz 2004: 3).

One might say that self-efficacy can be analyzed both in terms of multiple intelligences or categories, but also as a kind of general quantity. Personal convictions about 'not being good' at something may also limit the ability to try new, other skills. Someone who is computer or math phobic will limit his or her vocational opportunities. A person may wish to enter a field such as marketing that they do feel they are 'good at' because of their creativity, but may shy away from exploring such opportunities out of their math phobia when doing market research. "The simplest paradigm for this uses a two by two classification of interests and confidence for a given domain of behavior...Theme areas characterized by low interests and low efficacy would probably be worth avoiding. However, areas where there was interest but low confidence could become options if self-efficacy could be increased through a targeted intervention" by the counselor (Betz 2004:6). Using "assertiveness training, communication and inter-personal skills, and public speaking, can be very helpful" for individuals wishing to increase their general sense of self-efficacy as well as in a specific career area (Betz 2004: 10).

Creating a sense of security to foster self-efficacy in a task-specific area and an overall sense of self-efficacy are both critical to enable a person to explore his or her full range of career goals (Betz 2004:2). To experience meeting "performance accomplishments, that is, experiences of successfully performing the behaviors in question" attachment theory counsels the importance of mentoring and positive reinforcement, which can be given through "vicarious learning or modeling" with a mentor and then creates "lower levels of emotional arousal, that is, less anxiety, in connection with the behavior" (Betz 2004:2). One might view a mentor as a kind of vocational 'parent' for the client. A career counselor might suggest shadowing someone engaged in the occupation the client wishes to enter, to gain a sense of the skills he or she could conceivably perform. "For example, a woman teaching automobile maintenance and repair or carpentry to other women will provide helpful modeling effects, because these have been regarded as traditionally male domains" (Betz 2004:6). Simply seeing someone else doing the task can contribute to a form of security, and is not just effective for women in nontraditional occupations, but also for minorities wishing to enter non-traditional fields where low-self-efficacy may be rooted in a lack of social models (such as African-Americans in the fields of the sciences)

During an initial discussion and assessment it is a good idea for the counselor to include the concept of self-efficacy in initial discussions with the client. This entails, in general, questions regarding the client's beliefs in his or her competence in domains relevant to career decision making, performance, or… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Career Counseling: The Value of Attachment Theory.  (2007, April 15).  Retrieved September 17, 2021, from

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"Career Counseling: The Value of Attachment Theory."  15 April 2007.  Web.  17 September 2021. <>.

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"Career Counseling: The Value of Attachment Theory."  April 15, 2007.  Accessed September 17, 2021.