Career, Work, and Mental Health: Integrating Career and Personal Counseling


Vernon Zunker

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  • Dedication

    Rosalie, my wife and best friend for more than 57 years of never a dull moment, and an abundance of inspiration and love. All accomplishments in this relationship have been the result of a joint venture in this exciting journey.

    Robert Partain, my appreciation for and enjoyment of our neighborly talks, encouragement, and sincere interest in this book. Dr. Partain should also be recognized for his skills as a neurosurgeon and for the countless lives he has restored and saved.


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    A few years ago, I was director of a counseling center at a large state university. The career center was housed within the counseling center. During my 18 years as director, I observed that some students who came for career counseling were actually testing the waters while waiting for a chance to see a counselor about a troubling personal problem. Likewise, some students who were there for personal concerns also participated in career counseling. Over the years, my colleagues and I found that integrating our services had some definite advantages. It also became clear that there was a definite interest in a broad-based approach to selecting a career that went beyond the typical measure of interest and ability. We came to the conclusion that students wanted to explore a broad range of topics that included personal concerns and lifestyle dimensions. Evaluations from students who completed counseling programs, for example, rated discussions on the interrelationship of life roles as most informative.

    It should not surprise anyone that those early experiences in a counseling center and teaching experiences in graduate school have inspired me to address the issues you will read about in this book. What I have attempted to compile are valid examples of the connectedness between career and personal concerns. Such mental health issues as depression and other mood disorders, for example, serve to develop the case for spillover effect from one life role to another. Substance abuse, personality disorders, and somatoform concerns are other examples that are used to illustrate the interrelationship between personal and career concerns. Faulty beliefs and negative cognitions are highlighted as to their pervasive nature. The focus of this book is on how personal and career concerns can affect all life roles and how career, work, and mental health are intertwined.

    This book is not a theoretical one. It is offered as a text that provides a solid scientific basis for evaluating influences that contribute to the development of behavior and follows this with solutions that are effective and practical. It will offer you step-by-step procedures for delivering intervention strategies that have proven to be effective. Where we go from here in the development of future helping programs that address personal and career concerns as being intertwined perhaps will be the subject of someone else's book, and I wish him or her the best of luck!

    Overview of the Book

    The theme of this book is that career choice and development comprise a process that is intertwined and connected with mental health issues. A whole-person approach to counseling is considered to be an effective way to address concerns that are interrelated. An integrative approach developed by Barlow and Durand (2005) provides a solid foundation upon which one can evaluate the unique individuality of each client. The whole-person perspective touted in this book is a means of evaluating a broad spectrum of individual needs and how they are interrelated. Interventions are suggested as solutions for clients who experience interrelated concerns. This book is divided into two parts. Part I is entitled “Career Counseling Perspectives,” and Part II is entitled “Mental Health Issues and Solutions.” A brief overview of Chapters 1 through 12 follows.

    The first chapter contains an introduction to an integrative approach that is used throughout this text as a means to uncover three dimensions of influences on behavior. Some comparisons of career and personal counseling are made; however, career counseling has been viewed as a separate domain. In a whole-person approach to counseling the interrelationships of concerns take precedence. Basic issues introduced in Chapter 1 include how multidimensional influences shape behavior, the pervasive nature of psychological disorders, the pervasive nature of work stress, the case for the client's unique cognitive schemas, recognizing and uncovering constraints of career choice, and cultural diversity and acculturation.

    The second chapter is entitled “Career Development Theories: An Overview.” Nine career development theories are introduced in this chapter. The overview of each theory includes basic assumptions, key concepts, and implications for career counseling. The nine theories are grouped according to the following categories: trait oriented, social learning and cognitive, developmental, and person-in-environment. At the end of each group of theories, each group's contribution to the practice of career development is summarized.

    Chapter 3, entitled “Career Counseling Practices,” is devoted to the practical application of the theories discussed in Chapter 2. A learning theory of career counseling model is presented as an example of current counseling practices that are very inclusive. The stages of this model suggest a progressive agenda that begins with establishing a working consensus relationship. A discussion of the intake interview includes an outline that is straightforward but very inclusive. Other sections of the chapter include using assessment in career counseling, effective interventions, and an example case of a whole-person approach to career and personal concerns.

    Chapter 4, “Constraints Affecting Career Choice and Development,” is the first of two chapters that focus on constraints of career choice. This chapter is primarily devoted to constraints that are associated with social class, socialization, and socioeconomic status. A review of an updated version of social class in America is presented in which class status is primarily determined by the income level of one's family and status of the breadwinner's occupational position. One's ability and financial resources to obtain an education have been found to be strong determinants of social mobility (moving to a higher level in the class structure). Aspirations for social mobility with accompanying career constraints may be influenced by environmental factors that promote the position that one's future is a matter of fate or luck and, most important, has nothing to do with self-determination.

    Chapter 5, “Career Choice and Development and the Changing Nature of Work,” is a continuation of career choice constraints but with quite a different twist. It begins with the position established in the preceding chapter that many social forces shape human development. A discussion of identity crisis and four identity status groups follows. One of the problems addressed is that an increasing number of young adults are delaying career commitment. Uncertain and unpredictable job markets are barriers faced by many young adults in the initial career choice process. Constraints in the career choice process may be the result of economic restructuring and external markets that have changed the nature of work and the workplace. The responsibility for the career development of employees in organizations has been diminished, and with it job security is no longer guaranteed. These factors and others may have intimidated prospective employees to the point that a career commitment is delayed. A list of career barriers is provided at the end of the chapter.

    The rationale for the use of the biopsychosocial model is developed in Chapter 6, “Depression and Its Impact on Career Development.” This interactive model is the basis of an integrative approach that is used to determine influences in the development of the mood disorder of depression. The interrelationship of concerns provides the helper with a perspective from which concerns are conceptualized. In the case of depression, interrelationships of concerns are addressed through technical eclecticism in four categories: (1) career, (2) affective, (3) cognitive–behavioral, and (4) culture.

    Chapter 7, “Other Mental Health Issues and Career Concerns,” focuses on several psychological disorders that can influence one's ability to function in society. Some anxiety, somatoform, and substance-related disorders are selected as examples to illustrate symptoms. The purpose of this chapter is to point out that psychological disorders can affect all life roles, including the work role; personal and career concerns share negative consequences. Being preoccupied with unfounded medical conditions, as in hypochondriasis, for example, can negatively influence social interactions and relationships and be responsible for performance impairment, absenteeism, job instability, and the loss of a work identity.

    Chapter 8, “Cultural Diversity Dimensions,” takes you beyond the usual and focuses on the understanding of human behavior from a cultural perspective. Culturally developed cognitive schemas are thought to be shaped by cultural context and, as such, may influence behavior that is based on culture specific beliefs, values, attitudes, and customs. Cognitive schemas create expectations that influence behavior; cognitive development is not the same universally. Helpers should focus on different worldviews in the helping process, including the meaning of family, cooperation versus competition, communication style, and locus of control. One must realize that there are distinct and vast differences as well as similar behavior patterns embedded in cultural contexts.

    Chapter 9 is entitled “Personality Development and Disorders and Their Effect on Career.” This chapter contains a brief review of four personality perspectives: (1) predispositions, which are inherited influences on personality development; (2) both genes and environment drive human development, which in turn contributes to the formation of human traits; (3) personal goals in life tasks are viewed as a unifying concept of understanding personality and career development; and (4) work experiences also contribute to personality and career development. Studies of gender and cultural factors are also reported. Ten personality disorders that are grouped into three categories, labeled Cluster A, Cluster B, and Cluster C, are described by standard symptoms. The severity of symptoms in each personality disorder and the length of time one has experienced abnormal behavior patterns are the major criteria for identifying a true personality disorder. Some symptoms of personality disorders that are related to personal and career concerns are highlighted.

    Chapter 10, “Assessing Personality Development Through Personality Inventories,” focuses on the use of personality inventories in the helping process. The Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (Cattell, Cattell, & Cattell, 1993) and NEO Personality Inventory—Revised (Costa & McRae, (1992) and also known as the Big Five Personality Inventory, support the position that personality factors are thought to be personality traits derived from factor analysis. Studies involving these inventories suggest that personality appears to be related to vocational interests, career progression, job performance, and work behavior. In addition, the NEO Personality Inventory- Revised studies indicate that personality factors can be used across cultures.

    Chapter 11, “Work Stress,” is focused on the dynamic process of stress and stressors that can lead to physiological, psychological, and behavioral outcomes. In this chapter, we learn that work stress can be responsible for health problems of workers and for negative reactions to work, other employees, absenteeism, and poor work performance. Work role demands can interfere with family roles demands, and vice versa. Work–family conflicts are thought to be the result of spillover effect from stressors experienced in the workplace.

    Chapter 12, “Interventions and Case Studies,” is devoted to the topic of how and why to use cognitive–behavioral interventions. The major focus of cognitive–behavioral approaches is on client concerns and symptoms involving cognitive schemas that are thought to influence behavior. One of the basic assumptions is that behavior is learned and can be unlearned; negatively oriented schemas can be changed to self-enhancing thoughts. Readers will find that the following cognitive–behavioral approaches are practical as well as therapeutic: problem solving, assertiveness training and behavioral rehearsal, systematic desensitization, cognitive restructuring, role of cognitive schemas, Ellis's A-B-C theory of personality, self-enhancing thoughts, homework assignments, behavioral change by Meichenbaum, and stress inoculation training.

    Three case studies provide examples of how personal and career concerns are interrelated.


    I wish to thank the reviewers of this book for their suggestions, which were most relevant and helpful. Their insightful recommendations have made this book a better one! In alphabetical order of last name: Charlene Alexander, Ball State University; Darlene M. Hannigan, LaSalle University; Henry L. Harris, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Harvey Hoyo, National University; and Chadwick Royal, North Carolina Central University. My sincere appreciation and gratitude go to Kassie Graves for her immediate recognition of this book's potential to fill a void in current counselor training programs. I greatly appreciate the editing skills of Kathy Savadel and the production oversight of Diane Foster. I also want to recognize the faithful companionship of my canine friend Toddi, who made this task easier and enjoyable.

  • Appendix A: Acculturation Scales

    Group Title

    African Americans Racial Identity Attitude Scale

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    African Americans Developmental Inventory of Black Consciousness

    Milliones, J. (1980). Construction of a Black consciousness measure: Psychotherapeutic implications. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, 17, 175–182.

    American Indians Rosebud Personal Opinion Survey

    Hoffman, T., Dana, R. H., & Bolton, B. (1985). Measured acculturation and MMPI–168 performance of Native American adults. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 16, 243–256.

    Asian Americans Asian American Multidimensional Acculturation Scale

    Chung, R. H., Kim, B. S., & Abrew, J. M. (2004). Asian American Multicultural Acculturation scale: Development, factor analysis, reliability, and validity. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 10, 66–80.

    Central South Americans Abbreviated Multidimensional

    (Caribbean, Mexican, Spanish) Acculturation Scale

    Zea, C., Asner-Self, K. K., Birman, D., & Buke, L. P. (2003). The abbreviated Multidimensional Acculturation Scale: Empirical validations with two Latino/Latina samples. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 9, 107–126.

    Chinese, Japanese, Koreans Suinn–Lew Asian Identity Scale

    Suinn, R. M., Ahuna, C., & Khoo, G. (1992). The Suinn–Lew Asian Self-Identification Acculturation Scale: Concurrent and factorial validation. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 47, 401–407.

    Cubans Cuban Behavioral Identity Questionnaire

    Garcia, M., & Lega, L. J. (1979). Development of a Cuban ethnic identity questionnaire. Hispanic Journal of Behaviorial Sciences, 1, 247–261.

    Japanese Americans Ethnic-Identity Questionnaire

    Masuda, M., Matsumato, G. H., & Meredith, G. M. (1970). Ethnic identity in three generations of Japanese Americans. Journal of Social Psychology, 81, 199–207.

    Mexican Americans Acculturation Rating Scale for Mexican Americans

    Cuellar, I., Arnold, B., & Maldanonado, R. (1995). Acculturation Rating Scale for Mexicans II: A revision of the original ARSMA scale. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 17, 275–304.

    Mexican Americans Acculturation Balance Scale

    Pierce, R. C., Clark, M., & Kiefer, C. W. (1972). A “bootstrap” scaling technique. Human Organization, 31, 403–410.

    Mexican Americans Cultural Lifestyle Inventory

    Mendoza, R. H. (1989). An empirical scale to measure type and degree of acculturation in Mexican-American adolescents and adults. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 20, 372–384.

    Puerto Ricans, Mexican Brief Acculturation Scale for Hispanics Americans

    Norris, A. E., Ford, K., & Bova, C. A. (1996). Psychometrics of a brief acculturation scale for Hispanics in a probability sample of urban Hispanic adolescents and young adults. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 18, 29–38.

    South Asian, Hispanic, Anglo Americans Multicultural Acculturation Scale

    Wong-Rieger, D., & Quintana, D. (1987). Comparative acculturation of Southeastern Asians and Hispanic immigrants and sojourners. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 18, 145–162.

    Vietnamese, Nicaraguan, Refugees Acculturation Questionnaire

    Smither, R., & Rodriquez-Giegling, M. (1982). Personality, demographics, and acculturation of Vietnamese and Nicaraguan refugees to the United States. International Journal of Psychology, 17, 19–25.

    SOURCE: Compiled from Paniagua (2005).

    Appendix B: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition, Text Revision) Classification System

    Axis I

    Identifies clinical disorders except for personality disorders and mental retardation

    Example: 305.00 Alcohol Abuse

    Axis II

    Identifies current personality disorders and mental retardation

    Example: 301.83 Borderline Personality Disorder

    Axis III

    Identifies current relevant medical conditions

    Axis IV

    Identifies any psychological or environmental problems relevant to diagnosis

    Example: Educational issues, occupational issues, and housing issues

    Axis V

    Global assessment of functioning

    Examples on scale of 100 to 0


    100–91 Superior functioning

    81–90 Absent or minimal symptoms

    71–80 Expectable reactions to stressors

    61–70 Some mild symptoms

    51–60 Moderate symptoms

    41–50 Serious symptoms

    31–40 Some impairment in reality testing or communication

    21–30 Behavior influenced by delusions or hallucinations or serious impairment in communication and judgment

    11–20 Some danger in hurting self and others

    1–10 Persistent danger in hurting self or others


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    Name Index

    About the Author

    Vernon G. Zunker, EdD (University of Houston, with postdoctoral training at the University of Texas Medical School at Galveston, where he completed a residency in clinical psychology) is Professor Emeritus, Texas State University. Dr. Zunker had a joint appointment during most of his tenure at Texas State University, where he was Director of the Counseling Center for 18 years and taught graduate courses in counseling psychology for 24 years. In addition, he established a student learning resource center, a career development resource center, and was instrumental in the development of a testing center and the university's credit-by-examination program. A licensed psychologist, Dr. Zunker was also a consultant to the Texas Rehabilitation Commission for more than two decades. He was a member of a statewide committee for several years that was charged with the responsibility of selecting psychological assessment instruments for the state vocational rehabilitation testing program that established eligibility of its clients. He has written seven editions of Career Counseling: A Holistic Approach (the fifth edition was translated into Chinese, and the sixth edition was translated into Korean), four editions of Using Assessment for Career Development, and been coauthor on three editions. He has also authored two editions of A Dream Come True: Robert Hugman and San Antonio's Riverwalk (translated into Japanese). He considers his almost 3 years of sailing in the Merchant Marine as one of his greatest learning experiences. He often told his students that as a teenager on his own in a number of foreign countries, he learned to appreciate the significance of cultural differences. He and his wife Rosalie and canine companion, Toddi, reside in San Antonio.

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