Returning to Vocational Counseling: Addressing the Unemployment Crisis due to Covid-19

The Coronavirus has created a crisis that extends into every aspect of our daily lives. Beyond its impact in how we socialize, it has greatly shifted how and if we work. The April jobs report, which highlights the number of employed and unemployed individuals in the United States, reached the highest level of unemployment since it began in 1948.

Currently, there are 23.1 million people unemployed. Throughout the Coronavirus crisis, America has lost 20.5 million jobs; however, 18 million of those jobs are considered temporary reductions. Thus, the US economy lost more than 2 million jobs during this crisis. Such drastic job loss suggests that careers are changing and people will need help.

Individuals who lost their jobs and who are looking to change their career may need career guidance. Several large corporation employees protested their working conditions during this crisis. Individuals who did not like how they were treated or what they endured during this crisis may look for different opportunities that provide more flexibility. Some experts believe that automation and the need to be technology savvy will be a new trend post coronavirus. While most States have begun reopening to improve the economy and restore some sense of normalcy, many employees and employers will need to restructure their daily operations to accommodate the changing employment landscape.

These challenges create a unique opportunity for counseling psychology. As a discipline, we are most fitted to be on the frontline of helping individuals emerge from this crisis. Our unique history of conducting career counseling and mental health counseling, best prepares us to meet the need of employees who have lost their jobs or who are seeking to transition to a different career. As counseling psychologists transitioning from remote work and reentering our offices, research labs, or classrooms, it is important that we find ways to integrate career counseling into our practices.

Here are some possible ways to integrate vocational psychology into our practices:

Professors—Within your courses, you may consider adding vocational psychology literature.

  • Look for ways to explore how vocational issues can impact mental health.
  • Ensure that students can conduct career assessments and query for employment backgrounds and concerns adequately.
  • Make sure that your program adequately helps current students locate a career in counseling psychology that meets the changing landscape of our field.
  • Ensure that your program integrates telehealth competencies and provides training opportunities to gain competency in career counseling.
  • Remember that there are several “leadership coaches” or “career coaches” that make excellent salaries but who may not have the psychological background that our students do; thus, allowing students to explore how vocational psychology is a broadening field may be helpful.

Private Practice & Clinical Practicing Psychologists—Consider ensuring that you are proficient in helping people navigate career issues.

  • Consider taking CEUs or professional workshops that address topics within vocational psychology (i.e., unemployment, career stress, career advocacy).
  • Consider contracting to become an employee assistance program provider so that you can help employees manage their anxieties as they return to work.
  • Providing some sliding fee scale sessions or becoming an in-network provider for Medicaid may help ensure that the individuals who have lost their jobs, and their private insurance, during this crisis can obtain quality mental health treatment.
  • For those psychologists who practice within health service agencies, you may want to start a vocational group that explores how COVID-19 has impacted their jobs.
  • Developing workshops that provide ways to reduce stress while working during and after this crisis may also be helpful.

Researchers—It is important for us to begin to explore how vocational issues are impacting our mental health.

  • Developing research projects that explore the impact of sudden unemployment, working from home, and working outside of the home during this crisis is important.
  • Examining how companies can better prepare for another possible pandemic may be helpful.
  • Ensuring that samples include career diversity. While there are certain “hot topics” that funders prefer, researchers may need to be innovative in how they include vocational issues within their current niche.
  • It is essential that science leads the discussion of best practices as we reemerge from this crisis.
  • Employers will need to know how to best protect employees physical and mental health. Thus, researchers must fully understand how this pandemic impacts career satisfaction, career outlook, daily work habits, productivity, and other vocational psychology topics.

Training Directors—It is unclear how coronavirus has impacted the number of face-to-face training hours for students. It is also unclear how or if training will be impacted next year.

  • Career counseling may be a way for students to obtain face to face hours (or telehealth hours).
  • Training directors that frequently use practicum, externs, or interns, may want to see if they can expand their site to include career counseling.
  • By including more career assessments, sites can continue to provide robust assessment experiences if social distancing continues into the next academic year.
  • Developing structured career counseling interventions may allow trainees to work within the practice guidelines within their state.

I hope that we as counseling psychologists are taking time to reflect on how this experience has impacted our career. We must ensure that we are utilizing the tips that we are providing our patients, friends, and family during this time. Review resources available in Div 17, including a webinar by Dr. Blustein on unemployment and Covid, which is located here and Div 17’s section on vocational psychology. I appreciate the way our field has worked to help people during this crisis. We have to continue to adhere to our social justice mandate and advocate for best practices within the career sector. Continue to stay safe and healthy!

Al’Uqdah PhD, Assistant Professor and Director of Training, Howard University Counseling Psychology Program

Tags: , ,
Posted on: