Life design and career counseling innovative outcomes.

Author:Di Fabio, Annamaria

This article presents a case study that aims to describe the effectiveness of a life-design counseling approach using the Career Construction Interview (Savickas, 2010) with a final-year female engineering student. A qualitative tool, the Career Counseling Innovative Outcomes (CCIO), was administered before and after the intervention to describe the client's change when using the life-design model. The results of the analysis using the CCIO coding system indicate that the life-design counseling allowed the participant to have a greater awareness of herself to autonomously develop her own career and life path. Further research on the CCIO may provide additional support for its effectiveness.

Keywords: career construction, life construction, innovative moments, life-design counseling effectiveness, Career Counseling Innovative Outcomes coding system


In life-design counseling characterized by a narrative perspective, individuals construct their own selves through narration (Savickas et al., 2009). They are considered to be responsible for the direction that both their personal and professional lives will take (Guichard, 2013). The purpose of the life-design intervention is to help people meet the career challenges of the global economy and digital age by increasing the metacompetencies of adaptability and identity (Savickas, 2013). Rather than using objective scores to match people to jobs, the narrative career approach, based on comprehensive career theories such as career construction theory (Savickas, 2001,2005, 2011) and life construction theory (Guichard, 2013), focuses on the meaning-making of projective stories (Savickas, 2001, 2005).

Although it is growing in popularity and use, the effectiveness of life-design interventions has been studied infrequently. One reason for this relative absence of research is the lack of narrative research methods that fit the constructionist base of the life-design paradigm. The majority of studies that examine the effectiveness of career interventions use the positivist paradigm and objective measures (Brown et al., 2003; Heppner & Heppner, 2003; Oliver & Spokane, 1988; Whiston, Brecheisen, & Stephens, 2003; Whiston, Sexton, & Lasoff, 1998). In general, metaanalysis of research on the outcomes of career counseling interventions shows the effectiveness of such interventions, although the effect size varies in different studies (Brown & Ryan Krane, 2000).

The emergence of the narrative perspective in career counseling (Hartung, 2010, 2012, 2013; Maree, 2007; McMahon & Patton, 2002; Rehfuss, 2009; Savickas, 1995, 1997) has revealed the need both to develop qualitative assessment and to verify the effectiveness of life-design counseling interventions (Di Fabio & Maree, 2012) with new modalities that are innovative and congruent with the perspective (Rehfuss, 2009). Traditional quantitative instruments are limited in terms of their capacity' to measure and understand the nature of qualitative changes in individuals' self-narratives (Rehfuss & Di Fabio, 2012).

Given the vast array of changes taking place currently in the world of work, the nature of assessing career interventions will need to change accordingly. The process of self-narrative regarding life and occupation as a tool to help clients create meaningful change in their lives by developing an expanded, fuller, or clearer conceptualization of the self (Savickas, 2010) is emerging as the object of intervention strategies based on the life-design model (Rehfuss & Di Fabio, 2012; Savickas et al., 2009). However, a key challenge in developing outcome tools for life-design counseling is that the narrative approach to career intervention is intrinsically qualitative. For this reason, we have to carefully reflect on this aspect to realize that we do not have many qualitative tools focused on assessing narrative change (Blustein, Kenna, Murphy, Devoy, & DeWine, 2005; Blustein, Kozan, & Connors-Kellgren, 2013; Rehfuss, 2009; Whiston & Rahardja, 2005). Furthermore, we have to cope with increased demands for accountability and for assessing the effectiveness of narrative career counseling intervention in terms of life design; however, we need to develop tools that are congruent with the new narrative perspective on intervention. These new instruments must be able to identify moments and markers of narrative change. The present study addresses this need by producing a new qualitative tool for evaluation of the effectiveness of life-design interventions.

Qualitative Evaluation Initiatives

The only available narrative method that emerged in the literature for assessing life-design counseling outcomes is the Future Career Autobiography (FCA; Rehfuss, 2009). The FCA consists of a blank sheet of paper with these specific instructions: "Please use this page to write a brief paragraph about where you hope to be in life and what you hope to be doing occupationally five years after graduating from college" (Rehfuss, 2009). The FCA is administered before and after life-design interventions and enables the detection of personal and career motives, values, and direction in a narrative form. The narratives produced in the FCAs before and after the intervention are compared, and the presence of change is analyzed on the basis of the eight degrees of change themes identified by Rehfuss (2009).

Although the FCA represents a positive step in evaluating the effectiveness of life-design counseling, its relatively vague directions and lack of specificity, as reflected in its capacity to discern only broad change themes, may hinder a full exploration of the impact of a counseling experience. As such, a more refined tool is needed to fully capture the depth and nuance of life-design counseling. The psychotherapy literature offers an interesting qualitative tool in the form of the Innovative Moments Coding System (IMCS; Gonsalves, Ribeiro, Mendes, Matos, & Santos, 2011), which may be useful in this regard. Innovative moments are "novelties that emerge in contrast to a client's problematic self-narrative as expressed in therapy" (Gonsalves et al., 2011, p. 497). Innovative moments appear every time there is a new way to feel, think, or act in relation to a problematic pattern that is different from what would have emerged had the person continued to function in the same way (Gonsalves et al., 2011). Innovative moments are detected through the IMCS (Gonsalves et al., 2011), which permits the evolution of a psychotherapeutic intervention to be monitored after each session by analyzing transcripts of audio or video recordings to identify five different types of narrative change: action, reflection, protest, reconceptualization, and performing. The IMCS is used to analyze the transcript of the therapy sessions, thereby permitting examination of the change process throughout the sessions (Cardoso, Silva, Gonsalves, & Duarte, 2014).

Purpose of the Study

Taking inspiration from the IMCS, I developed the Career Counseling Innovative Outcomes (CCIO) as a new narrative tool for assessing counseling outcomes and, specifically, life-design counseling effectiveness (Di Fabio, 2014). The CCIO is intended to respond to the current need for qualitative instruments to determine the effectiveness of the new life-design counseling interventions. Herein, I present a case study to demonstrate the CCIO and its coding system as a method for assessing client change after a life-design intervention using the Career Construction Interview (CCI; Savickas, 2010). Two questions guided the case study: (a) Can the CCIO be used to assess for client change after a life-design intervention? and (b) Can the CCIO be used to describe the sort of changes that may be facilitated by a life-design intervention?


Participant and Context

The participant in this study, Lucrezia (a pseudonym), was a final-year engineering student at a large university in central Italy who requested career counseling. Lucrezia was specializing in biomedical engineering, and she requested career counseling as she approached the moment of transition from university to the world of work. For the intervention, I chose a life-design approach using the CCI to facilitate her exploration of her professional and life path. Lucrezia is 25 years old and comes from a small town in southern Italy, where her family still lives. She has been living in a medium-sized city in central Italy where her university is located since the beginning of her academic studies. Like other students from southern Italy, where the current economic crisis has accentuated the already limited chances of finding a skilled job, Lucrezia chose to study at this particular university and hoped to find work in line with her training and her interests, possibly remaining in her current location or moving to another big city in central or northern Italy.


The CCIO (Di Fabio, 2014) aims to assess the outcomes of life-design counseling interventions. This instrument was conceptualized after a comprehensive perusal of the IMCS used in psychotherapy (Gonsalves et ah, 2011) and its application in life-design counseling (Cardoso et ah, 2014). Whereas the IMCS (Cardoso et ah, 2014; Gonsalves et ah, 2011) is used to monitor the process of change during psychotherapeutic intervention, the CCIO is instead an instrument developed to elicit and analyze specific narratives produced before and after life-design counseling.

The CCIO comprises seven questions developed on the basis of the narrative paradigm (Savickas, 2011). These questions, administered before and after the life-design counseling intervention, provide access to the client's narrative expression at two points in...

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