Swanson, J. L., & Fouad, N.A. (1999). Career Theory and Practice: Learning Through Case Studies. CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

220 pp.
$80.95     ISBN 0-7619-1142-1

Reviewed by Kimberly Hendry
The Ohio State University

January 30, 2004

Utilizing an interactive approach, Swanson and Fouad have developed a text to systematically engage the master's level student or the inquiring practitioner in career theory and practice. Collectively, they work diligently to effectively bridge theory and practice. Five theoretical approaches and two distinct practical approaches to career counseling are reviewed, supplemented by the recurring case study of “Leslie” in each chapter to serve as a working framework for implementation of each respective theory and/or career counseling approach. The extensive case study of Leslie is presented initially in chapter one to provide us with career counseling content information and assessment findings to most successfully integrate the theoretical and career counseling approaches in each subsequent chapter.

Following a conceptualization of Leslie's current situation based on each chapter's theoretical or career counseling approach, the text provides directions and implications for career counseling at the conclusion of each chapter. This section of each chapter is comprehensive, describing the goals of counseling, appropriate interventions, discussion questions, and additional cases provided for review. This is particularly helpful as the reader can fully ingest each approach and immediately receive feedback on the implementation of the theory and approach into practice.

Chapter three begins the theoretical discussion of Holland's Theory of Vocational Personalities and Work Environments. This theory is identified as a person-environment fit, in that people influence their environments, and environments influence people (Walsh, Price, & Craik, 1992). This theory is commonly used in the practice of career development professionals. It is quite popular to use Holland's first two working assumptions in describing vocational choice. This popularity is enhanced through the convenient application of Holland's six-category typology, in which personality types and environments are described as realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional. Swanson and Fouad go on to discuss Holland's third and fourth working assumptions, which are, respectively, that "people search for environments that will let them exercise their skills and abilities, express their attitudes and values, and take on agreeable problems and roles" (Holland, 1997, p. 4) and that personality and environment interact to produce behavior. The text examines the case study of Leslie in conjunction with Holland's theory, primarily focusing on personality, environment, and other external factors in describing the client's occupational choices.

“The Theory of Work Adjustment”, chapter four, has also been identified as a theory of person-environment fit, although the emphasis is placed on vocational adjustment. Swanson and Fouad eloquently provide that the Theory of Work Adjustment, similar to Holland's theory, uses the same dimensions to describe people as are used to describe environments. The Theory of Work Adjustment focuses on two sets of common dimensions to evaluate occupational fit: an individual's ability in relation to his/her job and an individual's needs and work values in relation to the awards available on the job. A counselor working from this theoretical approach needs to thoroughly examine an individual's abilities, needs, and values to assess congruency with those of his/her occupation. In the case of Leslie this theory is quick to highlight her dissatisfaction in administration and the change in her rewards. Primarily, this theory works well in working with job adjustment issues.

Theory focusing on the decision making process and the incorporation of developmental tasks brings us to the discussion of developmental theories. Chapter 5, “Developmental Theories”, highlights Super's life span approach and Gottfredson's theory of circumscription and compromise. In addition to Super's theory of decision-making, self-concept, and vocational choices, Super's five distinct life stages are reviewed. Gottfredson's theory examines the variance of vocational expectations based on sex, race, and social class. According to Swanson and Fouad, "Gottfredson differs from Super in that she views vocational choice first as an implementation of the social self and only secondarily as an implementation of the psychological self"(p. 86). As each theorist applies his/her developmental theory to the case of Leslie, decision making and developmental stages across the life span are of critical importance in determining a working hypothesis and implications for career counseling.

Krumboltz's Social Learning Theory of Career Choice and Counseling is focused on interacting with the environment in making career decisions, with the emphasis on the learning resulting from those interactions. The text describes the Learning Theory as employing two types of learning: instrumental and associative. Outlined are four factors influencing the career paths of individuals: innate genetic endowment and special abilities, environmental conditions and events, learning experiences, and task approach skills. Chapter 6 provides that these four factors interact and result in the formation of generalizations about self and world. It is only then that individuals identify interests, skills, work values, etc. Career decision-making is affected as one begins to internalize interests, skills, and work values, and, as a result, initiates career decisions. According to Swanson and Fouad, in conceptualizing Leslie's case, social learning career theorists would "examine her innate abilities, learning experiences, task approach skills combined with environmental events to influence her decision making and choices" (106).

Comparatively speaking, “Social Cognitive Career Theory”, Chapter 7, is new to the field of career development. Self-efficacy and career choice is described in the chapter as first being acknowledged by Hackett and Betz. This theory recognizes self-efficacy to be of critical importance in career decisions and choices. A social cognitive framework developed by Lent, Brown, and Hackett (1994) is used to explain and predict career behavior in a three-part model linking interests, choices, and performance (126). A specific overview of the framework is provided throughout the remainder of the theoretical description with complete figure analysis. Demographic variables and background and contextual variables are noted in the chapter as affecting self-efficacy expectations and career interests, respectively. Swanson and Fouad provide comprehensive examples to illustrate the tenets of social cognitive career theory. In reviewing the case of Leslie, social cognitive theorists would focus on Leslie's learning experiences, her self-efficacy beliefs, and her outcome expectations.

Chapters 8 and 9 bring specific career counseling approaches to our attention. These two chapters embrace gender-aware and feminist approaches and culturally appropriate approaches to career counseling. Swanson and Fouad attempt to heighten awareness through interactive descriptions from an extensive literature review. Three counseling orientations are reviewed that take gender into account: nonsexist counseling, gender-aware counseling, and feminist counseling. Assessment is reviewed as well as noting four major sex biases in testing. Swanson and Fouad provide an extensive basis on which to evaluate Leslie’s case from a gender aware and feminist approach. According to Swanson and Fouad, Leslie received mixed messages about careers for women, lack of interest with regard to career choice as pressure mounted to maintain strong familial commitments, and gender isolation in advanced math courses.

In chapter 9, the emphasis is on acknowledging race and ethnicity in a career counseling approach. The text reiterates the responsibility of counselors to become multiculturally competent professionals. Swanson and Fouad substantiate this assertion on a variety of occasions with statements such as, "Clients are shaped in part by factors such as their gender, racial identity and background, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or disability, all of which help to form their environments and their responses to it"(p. 172). The chapter describes three models to assist the student and/or practitioner in conceptualizing ways to incorporate culture into career counseling. Figures are included to enhance a more comprehensive understanding of each model. Five central tenets of career counseling are outlined to enhance an awareness of the importance of multicultural perspective in practice. In reviewing the case of Leslie, practitioners working from a culturally appropriate career counseling approach examine Leslie’s behavior and values from multiple cultural contexts(184). Ultimately, this would provide them with a framework to assess and deliver culturally appropriate interventions.

Career Theory and Practice: Learning Through Case Studies serves as an excellent text to bring theory into practice. It allows for the examination of specific theoretical approaches, yet reminds students and practitioners of the eclectic use of theory in practice. Chapter 10, “Summary and Integration”, provides the reader with a summarization of all the theories discussed in chapters 3-7. It integrates all the theoretical approaches and career counseling approaches as the chapter discusses individual contributions in discussing the case of Leslie. Further, it provides two additional cases for the student and/or practitioner to review and on which to apply theoretical and career counseling approaches. Certainly, the text enhances learning through this use of interactive case conceptualization exercises.

However, some limitations are to be considered by the reader. Extensive theoretical knowledge is not provided, although a practical amount is provided for a useful understanding. Some knowledge of assessment is assumed. As a result, an awareness of career assessment is significant for a comprehensive understanding of the text, especially in conceptualizing cases. Additionally, limited discussion on career clients with disabilities may foster a lack of knowledge of this special population. In light of this information, supplemental materials on theoretical approaches, assessment, and disabled clients may be appropriate, depending on student and/or practitioner knowledge.

Overall, though, the text is an outstanding contribution to the field of career development. It provides an interactive approach to learning and conceptualizing career development theories and career counseling approaches. The text encourages practitioners and students to examine theory and incorporate theory into practice, a luxury not often afforded in a classroom setting. Swanson and Fouad have developed a text that remains useful, both in the classroom and as a tool for career development practitioners.

About the Reviewer

Kimberly Hendry is a doctoral student in Counselor Education with a school counseling focus at The Ohio State University. Her research interests include: services provided for students in urban school districts, allocation of educational funding and resources, and career exploration and assessment opportunities with students from a variety of social classes. Ms. Hendry can be reached via e-mail at hendry.3@osu.edu.

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