The life-design group: a case study assessment.

Author:Barclay, Susan R.

The life-design group (LDG) comprises an intervention designed to aid career specialists in helping groups of individuals work through career problems, transitions, and traumas. In this article, the authors describe the LDG and present case study results for 3 undergraduate students who were struggling with gaining movement in their career trajectories. Results indicated decreases in career uncertainty and indecision and increases in readiness for making academic major and career decisions. Although the LDG originated in a higher education setting, the LDG has application possibilities across the spectrum of career counseling clients.

Keywords: life-design group, career counseling, career construction theory, student career development, Career Construction Interview


Career counseling groups might prove to be more efficient than individual counseling for reaching greater numbers of people (Darner, Latimer, & Porter, 2010; Epstein et al., 2014; Siskind, Baingana, & Kim, 2008). Research indicates multiple benefits of group counseling, including social support (e.g., peer support), social skills rehearsal, self-efficacy and intrinsic motivation enhancement, and universality (Clark, Severy, & Sawyer, 2004; Darner et ah, 2010; Dennis, Phinney, & Chuateco, 2005; Fitch, Marshall, & McCarthy, 2012; Mattanah et ah, 2010; Waldo, Kerne, & Kerne, 2007; Yalom, 2005). The life-design group (LDG; Barclay & Stoltz, in press; Barclay & Stoltz, 2015; Stoltz & Barclay, 2015) described in the present study includes the added benefit of peer support, which is an important ingredient for many cultural groups (e.g., ethnic minority first-generation students; Barclay, in press; Dennis et ah, 2005).

We developed the LDG in response to calls for innovative and efficient ways of assisting college students, in particular (Berrios-Allison, 20hl; Hunt, 2010), and in response to calls to offer career services from a postmodern perspective (Barclay, 2013; Brott, 2001, 2004; Bujold, 2004; Maree, 2010; Savickas, 2011, 2013; Stoltz & Barclay, 2012). The restructuring of the work world in the 21st century requires individuals to approach their careers from a self-management mind-set rather than relying on employers to mentor them and help nurture their careers (Hall, 2002; Savickas, 2013). The LDG is one method for career development specialists to use in helping clients explore possible careers and create meaningful lives. The present study aims were to assess the effectiveness of the LDG with traditional-age college students and to examine the viability of the LDG for providing life-design counseling in a group setting.


The LDG is a constructivist career counseling group comprising five to eight members who provide peer-supported space for members to explore their personal identities, envision possible selves, and plan purposeful action. LDG members experience facilitator and peer feedback that assists with strengthening or reframing their personal career identities and adaptability. A central element of the LDG process involves highlighting one group member per week. During this highlighting session, the highlighted group member and leader construct career episodes using the Career Construction Interview (CCI; Savickas, 2011). The leader and group member deconstruct the narratives elicited by the CCI into elements that provide a map of the microstories gleaned from the CCI questions. Once deconstructed, peer-group members and the leader provide feedback to the highlighted group member that links the micro-narratives to depict general life themes, values, passions, and cognitive maps that intermingle with emotions and goals. The group facilitator then uses ThemeMapping (Stoltz & Barclay, 2015) to construct the highlighted group member's future career and life story. ThemeMapping is the process of using coding categories and cues to organize client CCI responses and aid group members in reauthoring their narratives and designing their lives.

Purpose of the Study

The present study examined the efficacy of the LDG. We hypothesized that group members would experience positive changes in measures of career development and career decidedness because of the group experience. Specifically, we expected group members to show increases in career exploration and planning and decreases in career uncertainty and indecision.



Participants (N = 5) were all Caucasian undergraduate students at a 4-year public university in the southeastern United States. We excluded two participants because they did not complete the posttest instruments. Of the remaining three participants, one was a 19-year-old sophomore female student, one was an 18-year-old lst-year female student, and one was an 18-year-old lst-year male student.


CCI. The CCI (Savickas, 1998,2011,2013) comprises a semistructured interview containing five questions about characteristics of the self, preferred work environments, life script, self-support in the form a motto, and early memories that indicate a central life problem, preoccupation, or pain. The CCI elicits client narratives that the client and counselor use to assist the client in dealing with career problems, transitions, or traumas. Budding research on the CCI indicates encouraging results. Rehffiss, Cosio, and Del Corso (2011) evaluated use of the CCI with practicing counselors (N = 34), who stated they found the CCI helpful in working with career clients. Additionally, Rehfiiss, Del Corso, Galvin, and Wykes (2011) noted that clients moved toward more specificity in career types (Holland coding recall) after a CCI. Stoltz, Wolff, and McClelland (2011) found increased decidedness (decreased scores in indecision) among African American rural high school students (N = 44) by including the CCI with traditional career counseling approaches. Barclay and Wolff (2012) also indicated a moderate correlation (r = .466) between written CCI responses and participants' (N = 83) Strong Interest Inventory RIASEC (see next paragraph) theme codes.

Self-Directed Search-Form R, 4th Edition (SDS; Holland, Fritzsche, & Powell, 1994). We used the SDS (Holland, 1970) to assess vocational personality type across six theoretical constructs of Holland's (1997) RIASEC model. Individuals indicate preferences in the form of like or dislike for lists of activities, competencies, and occupations that represent the six Holland categories (i.e., Realistic [R], Investigative [I], Artistic [A], Social [S], Enterprising [E], and Conventional [C]). Scores are tabulated by counting the number of likes and adding the self-estimates on each of the categories. Final scores are arranged in total values for each of the six Holland categories. High scores represent more of the trait, and low scores represent less of the trait. Internal consistency coefficients for the summary scale range from .90 to .94, with test-retest reliability correlations ranging from .76 to .89 (Holland et al., 1994).

Career Decision Scale (CDS)-Third Revision. The CDS (Osipow, Carney, Winer, Yanico, & Koschier, 1976) assesses levels of career decidedness and career choice certainty. Individuals respond to the 18 CDS items using a Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (not like me) to 4 (like me). Item 19 is a self-reflective question asking for further description of the person. Summing Items 1 and 2 creates the Certainty scale. Certainty represents the level of confidence about a career decision. Items 3 through 18 total into the Indecision scale, which indicates the level of career decidedness; an example is, "I know what I want to major in, but I don't know what careers it can lead to that would satisfy me." The Certainty and Indecision scales correlate inversely, and test-retest correlations for the Indecision scale have reached .90 and .82 (Osipow, Carney, & Barak, 1976). Slaney, Palko-Nonemake, and Alexander (1981) reported test-retest item correlations of .19 to .70 and item total correlations between the two test administrations of .70.

Career Development Inventory (College Form; CDI). Developed by Super, Thompson, Lindeman, Jordaan, and Myers (1979, 1981), the CDI measures readiness for making educational and vocational choices and operationally defines Super's structural model of adolescent career maturity. The CDI contains five scales and three subscales. We report information and data related to the five main scales only. The five main scales are Career Planning (CP), Career Exploration (CE), Decision Making (DM), World of Work (WW), and Preferred Occupation (PO). The CP scale measures the extent to which individuals have given thought, effort, and planning to their future. Test-retest reliability coefficients for the...

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