Something I've sought to convey to my students--be they career clients, res hall supervisees, or students in my classes--is to trust the deepest part of themselves. What I mean by this is that when these fabulous potential-full students feel unable to choose between many possible paths (what I remind them can be considered a "good problem") they can look at the patterns across their life experience to give grounding and direction. Their personality is the unifying thread between even seemingly disparate choices they've made over time.
I was gratified recently to see that someone else was able to phrase this more clearly than I may have been doing! Emilie Wapnick has created this inspiring blog and community, Puttylike, which focuses on the plight and possibility of multipotentialites. That is, people with many options, like my students! Though they may feel they are pulled in many directions, one of the options Emilie suggests for these folks (among a few other great ones) is the "group hug" approach to career, in which someone finds the meaningful intersections of their varied interests instead of just picking one. There's a great, short post by a Puttylike writer on the intersection option here. I agree with other posts on this site that these intersections are a space of creativity and bridging between parts--things I love and am drawn to, but which are challenging, too, especially for some.
The existence or meaningfulness of these intersections is not evident right up-front. It takes time to get to know yourself and to trust the deeper unity in yourself to see the validity and value of these sometimes-odd intersections within our varied expressions of ourselves (interests, values, even our personality). We may need to provide space for some creative wandering and exploration to imagine what these intersections may have to offer. In my experience, it's taken all the self-reflection investment afforded to me by nature of being a practicing counselor and career instructor to figure this out--which is to say, no small amount of time and reflection. (I practice things on myself before trying them on clients or students, so I've career-therapized myself quite a bit, as well as I can.)
I encourage those who feel they are many parts pieced together--like a "Frankenstein" as a client put it once--to seek to get beneath the perceptions and expectations of others (however subtle or well-ingrained in you) and to spend some time with your own self. And let it speak. Give it time to start to make sense, too; when we haven't been listening, these things might be easy to reject at first while we are still encumbered by lifelong lessons of what "won't work" or "is stupid." But these things are from far too intimate and valuable a source to take lightly or beat down. That's your inner compass; in there is YOU. And I hope we all get to meet more of YOU soon.
I just got back from the National Career Development Association conference, which gave me many great sessions on career development, with topics that focused on college students, counseling interns, trauma in career, career courses, and private practice! It was a rich three days!
One of my biggest take-aways as a counselor was the Career Construction Interview. I valued hearing it applied to a case study, learning about how clients and counselors react to it, and then seeing it put into action with a volunteer client. I enjoyed realizing how much the technique has in common with the sandtray career sessions I've implemented with Dr. Swank at our career center.
In all, I especially love the qualitative and personal nature of this intervention. I can see how its storying approach can help clients get a sense of themselves in a humanistic way. I agree that it could be of use in counseling outside of career concerns, too. At the moment, I don't think I'll implement it directly with my current clients (since my career work is not as a counselor, and my counseling work is for crisis/trauma clients). However, I think I'll certainly be drawing on the questions and processing considerations, as well as re-grounding myself in some of its underlying principles.
In particular, I'll be thinking about the sense of coherence that comes through considering the client's experience over time. Last night while unwinding after the conference, I read a bit about van der Kolk's work and how his approach helps re-create an internal sense of time for the client that is missing after trauma. I can imagine combining these ideas in my work. Importantly, both of these approaches consider a creative aspect that helps clients connect with themselves in novel ways to process their concerns. The van der Kolk reading emphasized the importance of nonverbal processing such as through creative and body-focused interventions, which I am gradually leaning more and more into. In connection with that, I think that the CCI's strong use of metaphor takes it out of the typical linear-verbal realm into a more symbolic way of processing that has value for processing trauma.
I believe I currently sit in that area, often naturally using metaphor to help clients feel heard and to better understand their experiences. I also use connection to the body (tension, breath) as a way for clients to recognize their reactions within the process, both physical and emotional. With my lifetime of arts involvement and education, I want to keep bringing in more artistic-based creative interventions, too. Something I am working on growing in is my sense of offering trauma-informed care; I have learned so much about this already, and as my learning grows my respect for what I don't know also grows. The needs of clients with trauma are so important, I want to keep improving how I serve them.
I'm grateful that NCDA gave me a chance to grow not only as a career counselor but as a whole counselor. I'll definitely be thinking about what I learned for some time to come, and look forward to sharing resources and ideas with others! What it offered me in terms of my career course deserves its own entry another day...