Career Counseling Issues and Techniques with Military Wives Who are Victims of Domestic Violence

By Shae McCain, MS

Creative Commons [Flickr, Vibrant Markets, deep cultural connections, September 8, 2012]
Creative Commons [Flickr, Vibrant Markets, deep cultural connections, September 8, 2012]
There are many issues that saturate the field of counseling, domestic violence being one of the most challenging.  In many situations, victims who leave the clutches of abusive relationships are left homeless, financially unstable, and in danger of being “hunted” down by their perpetrator [2].  A potentially beneficial, but certainly not as recognized, area of counseling that can serve victims of domestic violence is career counseling.  Oftentimes, survivors who leave relationships involving domestic violence are forced to start from the ground up and rebuild their lives.  In many instances, especially in the case of women, they are in need of finding a career to support themselves and possibly their children.  Career counseling not only offers services that help survivors of domestic violence find employment, but can also be key resources in helping individuals build self-esteem and learn valuable life-skills that allow them to become independent, and able to support themselves [1].

Techniques: Cognitive Information Processing Approach

Clinicians use various techniques and theoretical approaches to work with clients. This blog will focus on the use of the Cognitive Information Processing approach to career counseling in working with victims of domestic violence.  The Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) approach focuses on exploring negative or dysfunctional processes of thinking that inhibit clients from seeing personal strengths and making decisions [4]. Survivors of domestic violence often experience low self-efficacy and negative thoughts surrounding vocational potential and capability.  Therefore, this theory works well in helping clients explore those negative thought patterns that constrain the client from developing a career plan [4].

CIP Approach: Career Indecisiveness and Decision-Making

Another aspect of the CIP approach is its focus on career indecisiveness and helping clients who are caught in the whirlwind of trying to decide on a career that is a suitable fit for them.  Oftentimes, survivors of domestic violence may experience issues with decision-making that may present itself in the form of career indecisiveness [4]. CIP helps the client develop decision-making skills to help in finding a suitable career path.  The decision-making skills learned from CIP geared toward career development, but can be carried over in to everyday decisions [4].

CIP Approach: Career Thoughts Inventory Assessment

The CIP approach most commonly utilizes the Career Thoughts Inventory Assessment (CTI) to assess and evaluate dysfunctional career thinking that may keep the client stuck and unable to take part in the career decision-making process [3].  The CTI is a 48 item self-report inventory that utilizes a 4-point scale ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” [5].  The CTI yields a total score, but also individual scores on three domains: decision making confusion, commitment anxiety, and external conflict [5].  Furthermore, the CTI provides clinicians with possible CIP interventions that would help the client explore and break the cycle of dysfunctional thinking [3].  This assessment is a general assessment that is used to target the same form of negative thinking that domestic violence survivors may experience.

Clinicians can better serve their clients by increasing their awareness of the techniques used in career counseling that are complimentary to the needs of domestic violence survivors.  Often, domestic violence survivors are undeserved and not considered when it comes to vocational counseling.  Nevertheless, the need is present and clinicians can learn how to deal with the unique issues of finances, mental and emotional distress, and self-efficacy inherent in work with survivors.  Also, clinicians can find and acquire the tools necessary to familiarize themselves with the techniques of providing services to survivors of domestic violence.

For more information on domestic violence and financial abuse, check out MFLN FD’s previous blog and webinar.

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