Integrative Career Counseling (ICC)

A Career Counseling Approach for the Way Life Really Is

Career clients don't have the luxury of waiting for all life's challenges to be resolved before launching a job search. They need to get to work or get back to work NOW. So career counselors don't have the luxury of ignoring the other issues that their clients are facing.

Integrative Career Counseling (ICC) grew out of the need to help career clients succeed, regardless of what else is going on in their lives.

Many people have problems that complicate their job search, including:

  • Negative experiences with toxic workplaces or difficult bosses that have damaged their self-esteem and sapped their confidence.
  • Family histories of neglect, emotional abuse or trauma that continue to impede their career goals.
  • A serious medical diagnosis.
  • Divorce.
  • Illness of a family member.
  • A mental health disorder, such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder or bipolar depression.
  • Dependence on or addiction to drugs, prescription drugs and alcohol.

And some simply find the career exploration and job search process terrifying.

Four Levels of Integrative Career Counseling

The ICC model identifies and treats four distinct levels:

Level 1: Career Counseling. Clients need standard career counseling techniques: assessments, resumes, interview prep, life visioning, coaching on networking and job searching skills, job search support.

Level 2: Emotionally-Aware Career Counseling. Clients are often in the grip of emotions that interfere with good decision-making. They need basic counseling interventions such as active listening and reframing to address their runaway thinking.

Level 3: Therapeutic Career Counseling. Clients are struggling with issues such as severe depression, personality disorders, or untreated trauma and need interventions that address early experiences, maladaptive defense mechanisms, self-defeating rules or concepts, and unresolved trauma.

Level 4: Therapy with a Career Focus. Clients are facing severe emotional challenges, including suicidal ideation, panic attacks or major depression. Clients need a counselor who can respond effectively to the immediate emergency, but not relinquish confidence in the client's ability to achieve career goals once stable.

The trained ICC counselor can easily determine when a client needs work at a different level, and can explain, in simple, non-technical terms, what seems to be getting in the way.

Clients respond to the ICC approach with relief, enthusiasm, and gratitude. They are delighted to find a career counselor who can help them over the emotional hurdles interfering with their job search.

Advantages of Integrative Career Counseling

  • ICC dramatically expands the tools available to a counselor to help challenging career clients: Counselors can use and adapt tools from a variety of theoretical approaches — if you like narrative counseling, you can bring those elements into career counseling, if you approach things through an attachment lens, that will work, too.
  • ICC offers hope to clients who are in danger of dropping out of career counseling: Clients who stop making progress quickly lose faith and begin to feel broken. ICC ensures that there is always someplace to go in search of progress.
  • ICC makes career counseling relevant and useful to the widest possible range of clients: Career clients come in at all levels of readiness to do career work. This framework ensures that counselors can be effective with all of them.
  • ICC is easy to learn and easy to use. With four clear levels, four guiding principles, and the possibility to design new or adapt existing interventions, ICC supports the creativity of the counselor, and encourages the active participation of the client.
  • ICC can be used with any career counseling approach: ICC doesn't dictate a theoretical orientation or even specific interventions—each counselor will work in his or her unique way.
  • ICC makes it easy for therapists and mental health counselors to add career counseling to their practice: Therapists have many of the tools required for career counseling. This framework helps them to identify the skills they need to add, while affirming the value of what they already know.

Our career counseling clients lead complicated, emotional, intense and sometimes messy lives. Let's face it, their counselors do, too! That's just the way life is at the beginning of the 21st century. ICC is a way to deal with the way life is, not the way we wish it to be.

To sign up for announcements of ICC trainings, workshops, and new resources, please join our mailing list.

If you are interested in sponsoring an ICC workshop for your next in-service or conference, please email me at

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