Group Career Counseling: a Lesson Plan for School Counselors
By Candise Leininger
As the National Vocational Guidance Association, the origins of the National Career Development Association, forged at a path for career development professionals a hundred years ago, I now find myself pioneering new roads in the Wyoming Schools for career counseling. I traveled the state of Wyoming to converse with administrators, Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers, career advisors, and academic counselors as the new manager of the Perkins Grant for the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) in the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Unit. A conversation I remember most was with a group of high school counselors who discussed how they were no longer provided time to meet individually with students to review “ACT’s World of Work” (WOW) results. These counselors adapted by reviewing the “WOW” results in small groups. Although the counselors were concerned this process wasn’t as effective as individual planning sessions, it was better than no discussion around career plans with the majority of their students.
With the Perkins Act calling for improvement in career exploration and career guidance programs in our schools, I went in search of a way to assist these weary counselors. I attended the 2012 National Career Development Association (NCDA) Global Conference in Atlanta and a pre-conference workshop led by Richard Pyle on “Group Career Counseling”. Dr. Pyle inspired me to present his model at the Annual Wyoming Counseling Association (WCA) Conference. Dr. Pyle’s three session group career counseling format was concise yet comprehensive. In his 2007 book, Group Career Counseling: Practices and Principles, he provides a scripted Group Career Counseling Model that could serve as a lesson plan for school counselors wanting to implement group career counseling in schools. This model could help both school and college counselors meet their students’ career counseling needs more efficiently.
Shortly thereafter, I presented a half day workshop using this same group format as Dr. Pyle did at NCDA. This hands-on workshop taught in a group format took the K-12 school and community college counselors through an abridged format of the three sessions. The focus was working through the different career exploration and planning activities such as The Millionaire Fantasy, Cool Seat, Career Matrix, and Strength Bombardment. The counselors would then step out of the group member role and process the activities. Discussion included how the counselors thought the activity would be helpful in their school setting. They brainstormed how they might change the activity to better suit their population and worked through logistical concerns. One of the career exploration homework assignments utilized the “WOW” as a career exploration tool. However, they best liked the follow up opportunity afforded them in the next group to process the students’ reaction to the WOW. By the time the morning workshop concluded, the counselors overwhelming agreed they felt prepared to implement this three session Group Career Counseling model in their schools. Some discussed how they could convert the model into a Career Development Course for credit. All participants were then given a copy of Pyle’s Group Career Counseling: Practices and Principles (NCDA, 2007). This 43 page book not only describes in detail the activities the group role played, it actually provides a script for the entire three sessions. This comprehensive resource also reviews group stages and gives theoretical career development support for the model. The counselors were now armed and ready to go forth and conquer the elusive career counseling expectations of their position.
For counselors hungry for more and passionate about career development in schools, I was able to foreshadow upcoming professional development opportunities in the area of career development the WDE has planned. The next phase of The Career Guidance Initiative includes providing Career Development Facilitator (CDF) Certification training to a staff member of every high school and middle school in the state of Wyoming. I was pleasantly surprised by how many school counselors jumped at the WDE plan to provide CDF training.This training requires substantial commitment of personal time to complete this 120 hour course; however that did not dissuade anyone. The school counselors were just thankful they were receiving the training they needed so to provide quality career guidance to their students.
As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I went from being lost in a sea of governmental acronyms to launching The Career Guidance Initiative in a brief 6 months. The goal of this initiative is to support career advisors and school counselors in providing quality career services to students, helping make education more engaging and relevant. It has been an honor to meet, listen, and respond to the needs of our hard working school counselors. As for myself, I received considerable support throughout this process and thanks to Master Career Counselor and Director of Casper College Career Services Janet de Vries, NCDA President and CSU Professor of Counseling and Career Development Rich Feller, and the many members of NCDA who offered resources and encouragement so that the students of Wyoming can experience quality career development.
Let’s hear it for 100 years for NCDA and 1 year for the Wyoming Career Guidance Initiative!
Pyle, K. R. (2007). Group Career Counseling. National Career Development Association: Broken Arrow, OK.
[Eds. Note: The second edition of Pyle's book is now available in the NCDA Career Resource Store.]
Candise Leininger, MS, NCC, LPC, is with the Wyoming Department of Education, CTE Unit. She practiced for years with her neuropsychologist husband in Casper Wyoming. She specialized in adolescent female issues and trauma reprocessing. She also taught adjunct for Casper College. Recently Candise and her husband relocated to Cheyenne Wyoming so her husband Bruce could work with combat veterans for the VA and Candise with school counselors as an Education Consultant for the Wyoming Department of Education. Candise is also a proud parent of two daughters Erika and Monika, who both attend the University of Wyoming. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org