Is Career Guidance Therapeutic or Educational?


woman wearing blue jacket sitting on chair near table reading books

Photo by George Dolgikh on

Does career guidance come from a therapeutic basis or an educational basis? I admit that this is a bit of a forced distinction but I find in my thinking these two different worlds often come into view when discussing career guidance. More so when people make arguments for defending or reforming career guidance they often lean on one of these two traditions. In practice, most people have a foot in both camps but it can still be helpful to think through the distinctions.


A therapeutic approach to career guidance tends to draw its routes from Karl Rogers views of person-centred psychology and from Egan’s skilled helper. It very much tries to position career guidance as a branch of counselling with a person-centred focus. This leads to a desire to bring about positive outcomes for individual clients and does so by focusing on combining emotional and cognitive development. This can have a deficit model when looking at the individual which focuses on an individual’s needs in the same way that you would aim to heal a disorder. In other words, it is a model that focuses on finding out what is wrong. A therapeutic model because of its focus on a person-centred approach is almost always framed individualistic, aiming to find out an support how an individual can have a better career. In practice, a therapeutic approach tends to want to steak out and protect personal guidance as a gold standard for careers delivery and something unique that career professionals can offer to clients.


An educational stance towards career guidance, in the UK at least, draws a lot of its tradition from thinkers such as Tony Watts and Bill Law and ideas such as their DOTS model of careers education. An educational approach takes a curriculum stance, it pays reference to the idea of content and what should be delivered. This often leads to concepts such as “systematic instruction” an attempt to define a subject area (such as career guidance) and then enable students to engage with it. Rather than wanting to overcome problems an educational approach focuses more developmentally and aims at supporting people develop mastery and application in various domains. It also deals more with issues around knowledge, what people have thought about particular topics before and how this relates to us as individuals and society. Finally, an educational approach is often framed socially, either through making use of groups pedagogically to support instruction or to see education as something which is owned by and “for” a community.


Now it is important to say that there are often grey areas where you have an education which takes on more counselling/ person-centred approaches and therapeutic approaches that borrow more from education. What I am hoping to do is sketch out some common distinctions because I feel in practice people feel at home in one of these camps more than the other. So where do you feel you fit in?

This is day 8 of my 30 days of blogging challenge