Vocational and Career Counseling in the Time of COVID-19

by Jen L’Insalata

Vocational and career counseling has always had direct ties to historical events and cultural trends. The notion that people dedicate large swaths of time to work is a testament to the socio-cultural importance of work. Parsons recognized this in during the second industrial revolution in the early 1900s; a period known for extreme economic inequality and intense labor disputes. His ideas emphasized an occupational fit during a time of increased urbanization, need for factory labor (Stebnicki, 2015), and a culture consisting of extremes.

During the mid-1900s, the rise of fascism and Nazi occupation in Europe saw many noteworthy psychiatrists and psychologists seek refuge from persecution in America. Concepts such as behaviorism, Gestalt philosophy, cognitive, and personality theory mixed with existing emphasis on scientific measurement and correlative outcome (Hunt, 2007). Interests in gender roles, social values, and childhood upbringing paved the way for career theorists to recognize the evolution of occupational interest over the course on one life. The 1950s saw an integration of work and leisure into the construct of the self and the cold war era saw the increased demand science and technology industries (Stebnicki, 2015, & Sperdakos, 2002).

Economic factors influence career and vocational trajectories. The Socio-cognitive model highlights levels of commitment and anxiety related to career decision making. Contextual societal supports provide means to self-efficacy and comfortability in career exploration while barriers inhibit exploration, goal setting, and potential outcome (Lent, Wang, Morris, Ireland, & Penn, 2019). This is true on a more intimate familial level as well as a larger social level. In economic recessions or depressions, barriers to employment are high leaving those with limited means in a more vulnerable position to secure career fulfillment. Emphasis is placed on survival and securing monetary income. During times of economic expansion, there is often a reduction in societal barriers that afford more people the latitude to engage in career exploration.

We are presently living through an event which will certainly leave its mark and shape our future. The COVID-19 crisis has fundamentally altered the concept of economy and work. Quarantine and social distancing measures have limited commerce in most industries deemed non-essential. This has resulted in a rapid increase of unemployment as companies and freelancers are unable to maintain operation.

Viruses and pandemics are nothing new. Humans have existed alongside of deadly viruses and bacteria since the beginning of time. Each rise of deadly illness has had effects on the civilizations and economies effected. Anxiety surrounding the illness itself is compounded by the economic response of the governments of the time. The preparedness or unpreparedness of a society has a lasting effect on the greater social psyche. Such notions have effects that echo through the public and private sectors of work (Wolf, 2020).

While we may not yet understand the extent of COVID-19’s impact on work, we do understand that there will likely be fundamental shifts in its aftermath. Many companies have set up opportunities for employees to continue to sustain employment via remote work (Wolf, 2020) through various digital platforms. This shift is likely to highlight the value of remote work for many industries. Career and vocational counselors will be part of the adaptation assisting both employers and employees navigate the challenges and benefits of a more remote workforce.

The greater psychological community has widely accepted the idea that isolation has negative consequences. At present we are seeing polarized responses to social distancing and quarantine measures which is both health and financially oriented. This becomes rather apparent if one follows activity on any social media platform. The commonality between polarized responses appears to be the complex combination of fear and anxiety caused by unknown health outcomes, financial means, and the break down in daily schedules or structure.

Children are impacted as education remains halted. Parents struggle to balance work, continued remote education, and daily childrearing obligations in households with a moderate income. Children of low-income household loose access to the benefits provided by public schools such as student food programs and afterschool care (Wilkinson, & Pickett, 2007). Many low-income households may be unable to provide optimum alternatives for continued education.

Income inequality and extreme class striations impact overall health and psychological outcomes. Those existing in neglected or impoverished communities face hardships that those in higher income and socio-economic classes do not. As income disparity and stratification increases, trust, corporation, and reciprocity decrease between class divisions (Wilkinson, & Pickett, 2007). This breakdown increases the potential for criminality and exploitation as a form of to make ends meet (Wolf, 2020). We have begun to witness reports of larger employers engaging in exploitive practices of both customers and employees as well as reports of increased petty crimes in COVID-19 affected communities.

As career and Vocational counselors, we will need to consider these effects on the concept of work and society as we engage in recovery efforts. Counselors can use their advocacy platforms to aid in increased pay and benefits for low wage essential workers and consult with companies surrounding recruitment strategies for hard to fill positions. This may include shifts in compensation benefits, in the notion of work life balance, and the flexibility to increase remote work options.

Work offers social connection, inclusion, and friendships for many people (Brown & Lent, 2013). In the absence of work, many communities are coming together to offer support. Digital groups are forming to increase social activity, and many are finding meaning in volunteer activities to help aid those most effected. It may be safe to suggest that we are beginning to see a shift in the relationship between purpose and social contract within vocational spheres that reflect a more corporative society.

In the upcoming months and throughout the duration of the pandemic crisis, career and vocational counselors will play a significant role in helping many who are employer and unemployed. Counselors can help emphasize, create, and develop a new sense of route and structure to combat social isolation, loneliness, and loss of purpose due to the lack of work. Counselors will also help people connect to and learn new digital networking platforms in order to access work. Most important, career and vocational counselors can help society shift the emphasis away from being ‘the best’ and our obsession with hyper productivity to one in which we embrace radical acceptance and become comfortable in our personal limitations.

References

Brown, S. D., & Lent, R. W. (Eds.). (2013). Career development and counseling : Putting theory and research to work. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.library.capella.edu

Hunt, M. (2007). The story of psychology. New York, NY: Anchor Books. ISBN 9780307278074

Lent, R. W., Wang, R. J., Morris, T. R., Ireland, G. W., & Penn, L. T. (2019). Viewing the Career Indecision Profile within a theoretical context: Application of the social cognitive career self-management model. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 66(6), 690–700. https://doi-org.library.capella.edu/10.1037/cou0000367

Sperdakos, H. A. (2002). The practice of dharmic livelihood: A heuristic study of the transformative experience of integrating work on the self (inner work) and work in the world (outer work) (Order No. NQ74807). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (305489867). Retrieved from http://library.capella.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fsearch.proquest.com%2Fdocview%2F305489867%3Faccou

Stebnicki, M. A. (2015). The professional counselor’s desk reference, second edition. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.library.capella.edu

Wilkinson, R.G., & Pickett, K.E. (2007). The enemy between us: The psychological and social costs of inequality. European Journal of Social Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2275

Wolf. R.D. (2020, April 13). Economic Update: The Psychological Aspects of Today’s Crises featuring Tess Fraad Wolf. Democracy at Work. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/ZA02qZndDSA

Ethics in Research : Informed Consent

By Jen Linsalata

Prior to the 1970’s few guidelines and standards existed to protect human subjects in research studies. Research on human subjects is paramount in the advancement of science, medicine, and psychology, however one may only need to look to the experiments conducted on unwilling subjects during the Nazi regime in which concentration camp prisoners were subjected to heinous experiments for the advancement of science. Similarly, the Tuskegee syphilis experiments resulted in the spread and death of hundreds of poor African-Americans due to the disease being unwittingly injected into a non consenting population (Williams, et. al., ND). 

Since then, the APA has emphasized ethical standards surrounding informed consent in research. Institutional Review Boards assess proposed research studies provide another layer of scrutiny to ensure the safety of human subjects (APA, 2019). The diversity of backgrounds serving on IRBs provides insight into differing professional domains that may not have otherwise been addressed during the research planning phase (Drogin, 2019). 

All research conducted must first garner support form an IRB and should be conducted in an area familiar to the researcher. This reduces potential risk of harm that may arise to human subjects (Drogin, 2019). Informed consent in research must be provided. Psychologists must disclose the purpose, expected duration, and the procedures that will be used during a research study. Human subjects must be made aware of their right to decline participation at any point during the study and any foreseeable consequences that may arise as a result of declining (APA, 2019).  

Informed consent documents must outline the nature of the experiment or treatment, services available to the control group, and the method in which control groups are selected. Documents must inform participants of alternative treatments available if the participant wishes to withdraw from the study (APA. 2019). Consent documents otn present the participant with a multitude of information at one time. Study suggest that participants do not retain much of the information presented in the consent documents. Some cases suggest that participants are unaware that they have signed consent documents for study participation and were unaware of their options to withdraw (Festinger, et. al., 2009).

It is not uncommon for research projects to offer incentives for human subject participation. Festinger, et. al., (2009) suggests that monetary incentives increase research participation, reduce participant drop out, and increase retention of informed consent information. The APA Code of Ethics acknowledges that the use of incentives occurs and warns against offering excessive incentives (APA, 2019). Excessive incentives can be viewed as a form of coercion for participation and corrupt the scientific credibility of the research outcome.  

References

American Psychological Association (2019). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of  conduct including the 2010 and 2016 amendments. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/index

Drogin, E. Y. (2019). Ethical conflicts in psychology (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Festinger, D. S., Marlowe, D. B., Croft, J. R., Dugosh, K. L., Arabia, P. L., & Benasutti, K. M. (2009). Monetary incentives improve recall of research consent information: It pays to remember. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 17(2), 99–104. https://doi-org.library.capella.edu/10.1037/a0015421

Williams, S., Schiller, T., Lepro, C., Hettwer, N., & Greunke, J. (ND). KEY EVENTS IN ETHICAL RESEARCH. Capella University, retrieved from http://media.capella.edu/CourseMedia/HS5318/key/key_ts.html