Career counseling across the lifespan

For this discussion, synthesize your understanding of career counseling as an integral part of human development. From the perspective of your specialization, how does the developmental lifespan perspective influence career and educational planning, placement, and evaluation? Discuss the influence of career counseling when working with children (elementary school), adolescents (secondary), and older adults. Identify models that would be appropriate for children and adolescents in the school setting, including identity models such as Erik Erickson.

Respond to at least two of your peers, commenting on the effectiveness with which your peer addressed each developmental stage, identifying the needs of elementary, secondary, and older adults. The response needs to include at least one reference

Career Counseling as an Integral Part of Human Development

Career development is not a one-time event, rather it is a process that occurs across the lifespan and is an integral part of human development.  Further, the counseling that may be offered to support career development must also be offered from a lifespan perspective, with counselors supporting a client’s unique needs at the various stages of their life and career.  Zunker (2016) also points out that changing cultural and environmental systems can effect human development, and best practice involves case conceptualization from a holistic perspective.  Humans are actively growing and changing throughout their lives, and their vocational interests, goals, and preferences are no exception.  Career counseling is a dynamic and lifelong process that evolves with each client throughout the course of their life.   

The Developmental Lifespan Model Influence on Career and Educational Planning, Placement, and Evaluation

From a mental health counseling perspective, the developmental lifespan model of career planning is highly influential.  Mental health counselors will need to be prepared to address all phases of career counseling in all phases or stages of a client’s life.  Career and education planning begin in early childhood and continue throughout the course of life.  Mental health counselors will need to be aware of the foundational career needs of the children they serve, and be prepared to focus on improved social skills, industry, and communication skills.  When working with adolescents, mental health counselors also need to be aware of the importance of developing quality relationships outside of their family, and how these interpersonal skills will benefit them later in the workforce.  Also, mental health counselors will need to understand life stages when selecting assessment tools, conducting evaluations, and placing individuals in jobs.   

The Influence of Career Counseling When Working With Children, Adolescents, and Older Adults

Career counseling can easily be integrated into work with children by focusing on the foundational skills necessary for successful education, vocational, and social experiences.  Some of the foundational skills that counselors can focus on with children include prosocial skills, positive work habits, diversity skills, pleasing personality traits, and entrepreneurship (Gysbers, 2013).  Counseling work with adolescents can begin to focus on planning, goal setting, and decision making skills, along with a focus on curricula that supports a possible career direction.  Interestingly, Newman and Newman (2012) highlight the concept of career maturity, which suggests postponing career decisions until an adolescent or young adult matures and gains valuable life experience.  Career counseling with adults in the new workforce places more emphasis on career development than remaining at a particular company (Zunker, 2016).  Retirement counseling should also be highlighted as individuals move to transition from the world of work to increased volunteer and leisure opportunities.  Finally, more retired individuals are going back to work on a part time basis in order to supplement their retirement income, and may require counseling to make this change. 

Appropriate Career Counseling Models for Children and Adolescents, Including Erik Erickson’s Model

Stage theorists such as Erik Erickson conceptualize career counseling from the developmental life stage that a particular client is navigating.  Between the ages of 6 to 11, for example, children are actively learning a variety of social, academic, and work related skills that will create a foundation for later more complex career development.  This stage of development is also associated with achievement of self-efficacy and an understanding of the importance of productivity.  Adolescents are actively working on the developmental task of achieving a group and individual identity and avoiding isolation.  Adolescents work hard to expand their social circles and distance themselves from their parents in an effort to achieve independence (Newman & Newman, 2012).  An overarching principal associated with Erickson’s stage model is that children or adolescents who fail to successfully achieve their developmental tasks may require special supports later in life (Zunker, 2016).  Career counseling from this stage model would consider this developmental information as the foundation from which to create a comprehensive career plan. 

Other career counseling models appropriate for children and adolescents include Super’s self-concept theory, Krumboltz’s learning theory, and cognitive development theory.  Because elementary school students are busy forming their identity or self-concept through their childhood relationships, Super’s self-concept theory may be applied (Zunker, 2016).  Krumboltz’s learning theory looks at the way that children and adolescents utilize observation in learning new things, and are able to adapt their behavior based on this observational learning (Zunker, 2016).  Piaget’s cognitive development theory is also a stage theory in that it views children’s knowledge acquisition as developing in specific steps or levels through their environmental engagement.


Gysbers, N. C. (2013). Career-ready students: A goal of comprehensive school counseling programs. Career Development Quarterly, 61(3), 283-288. doi:10.1002/j.2161-0045.2013.00057.x

Newman, B. M., & Newman, P. R. (2012). Development through life: A psychosocial approach. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Zunker, V. G. (2016). Career counseling: A holistic approach (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. ISBN 9781305087286.


Second peer posting

Newman & Newman (2012) stated that career identities are “a well-integrated part of [people’s] personal identities rather than as activities from which they are alienated or by which they are dominated” (p. 412). Career counseling across the lifespan has implications in all fields of counseling practices. As it pertains to mental health counseling, career counseling becomes an integrated conversation about the wants, needs, & desires a person has to have a satisfied existence.

Developmental Lifespan from a MH Perspective

Zunker (2016) stated that early life experiences tend to influence later life decisions. As it applies to career counseling, this is the core and foundation for how young children begin to view the world and all it has to offer. For example, children who have parental figures who exhibit hard work ethic are likely to influence their young children especially if it is reinforced with at-home activities (e.g., chores). These experiences, along with other life experiences, are likely to shape what a child decides to do. From a MH perspective, because the child’s feelings about these practices greatly challenge or confirm their beliefs, it will affect their behaviors.

Erikson’s Psychosocial Developmental Model illustrates the challenges that people face at different stages of their life development. What made Erikson’s model much more appealing (versus Freud’s Psychosexual Theory) is that it included polarities that challenged each individual’s relationship to his/her culture, family, and life environment (Syed and McLean, 2015). So as it is applied to career counseling in the cases of young children and adolescents, Erikson’s developmental model provides a theoretical explanation for the decisions and choices one makes at certain times of his/her life.

Branje, Lieshout, & Gerris (2007) studied personality development across adolescence and adulthood to see if the Big Five personality factors (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness to experience) changed as individuals aged and gained experience. Their research suggested that males have fewer changes than females, but both sexes showed increasing signs of maturity and adaptation as they aged. The importance of their study was that it showed that personality continued to develop during the middle adulthood potentially because of the delegation of new responsibilities (i.e., parenthood). As it is applied to career counseling, the changing course of one’s career can have profound impact on their livelihood and decisions that (in)directly affect how one views his/her future.

Thoughts from the “Other Side”

Based upon Maslow’s (1943) Hierarchy of Needs, there exist several, innate physiological needs during infancy: food, water, shelter, sleep, air (breathing), excretion, and sensory satisfaction (e.g., touch, taste, hear, feel, and smell; Daniels, 1992; Maslow, 1943; and Seeley, 1992). The early, formative years allow the child to experience the world through their parent’s permission. Fast forward to adulthood, and these same basic needs are still required; however, they have evolved into something much more complex. When integrated with the work life, it is not surprising that these same needs are still needed in the workplace environment; however, they are ascribed new titles or new entitlements. For example, infants have the need for food; employees have the need for a clean environment to enjoy said food. Another example: infants have a need for sleep; employees need an hour per day for a break to do with it whatever they would like. These needs have never left; they have just evolved. The career demands that one has available to him/her that are most desirable are the attributes the (s)he will seek. In these instances, it will be necessary to determine if a client is okay with where (s)he is at this junction of his/her life. If they are not, it will be important to determine how career counseling and lifespan developmental theory can be influential in assisting with producing changes.

Wm D. Stinchcomb


Branje, S.J.T., Van Lieshout, C.F.M., & Gerris, J.R.M. (2007). Big Five Personality Development in Adolescence and Adulthood. European Journal of Personality, 21, 45-67.

Daniels, J. (1992). Empowering homeless children through school counseling. Elementary School Guidance & Counseling, 27(2), 104-113.

Maslow, A.H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.

Newman, B. M., & Newman, P. R. (2012).Development through life: a psychosocial approach (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Seeley, E. (1992). Human needs and consumer economics: The implications of Maslow’s theory of motivation for consumer expenditure patterns. Journal Of Socio-Economics21(4), 303.

Syed, M., & McLean, K. C. (2015). Understanding identity integration: Theoretical, methodological, and applied issues. Journal of Adolescence, 47, 109-118. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2015.09.005

Zunker, V. G. (2016). Career counseling: A holistic approach, 9th Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from




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