The Challenges of Long-Term Unemployment: The Promise of an Inclusive Psychology-of-Working Perspective for Counseling Practice and Public Policy David L. Blustein Boston College firstname.lastname@example.org
My Contribution to the Conference • As a scholar in vocational psychology • As a practitioner who works with the long-term unemployed • As a researcher who studies working and unemployment • As an educator of counselors and psychologists • As a passionate advocate for justice and equity for all.
Overarching Question • What sorts of interventions work with the long-term unemployed? • To what extent is traditional career counseling effective? • What are our best options to help the long-term unemployed… • At the individual level??? • At the systemic level???
What do we know about long-term unemployment? • In order to think carefully about how to manage this crisis, we need to know more about the experience of long-term unemployment.
Where can we find answers? • Narratives and memoirs of the unemployed: • Staying in touch with the real lived experience • Research: • Creating the foundation for evidence-based practice
Vignettes from the Unemployed • It’s done a number to my confidence…it’s affected my desire to be proactive in myself… there’s certainly a depression involved in there. I’m certainly down. I know I was happier when I worked ‘cause I had friends. I was keeping busy, healthier in more ways than one… physical, mental, everything. • Boston College Unemployment study
Vignettes from the Unemployed • And they said that you had counselors here but a counselor cannot do anything for me. You have a job-- what can you possibly do for me that you’ve got a job… And when I leave you, you still have a job. I’m out here hustling the best I can to make sure that I still have a roof over my head and still able to eat and I can still apply myself and get some a little bit of satisfaction in the process… • Boston College Unemployment study
Vignettes from the unemployed • “Every time I think about money, I shut down because there is none. I get major panic attacks. I just don’t know what we’re going to do.” • “After struggling and struggling and not being able to pay my house payments or my other bills, I finally sucked up my pride; I got food stamps just to help feed my daughter.” • New York Times, 12/14/09
Unemployment and Mental Health:What does the research tell us? • Marie Jahoda proposed that work provides us with five important life needs: • Time structure • Social contact • Collective purpose • Status • Activity
Unemployment-Mental Health • Meta-analysis: Paul and Moser • Integrated results of 237 studies with nearly half a million participants. • Results included the following: • People who lost their jobs experienced an increase in mental health problems • Once people became reemployed, their mental health improved • Journal of Vocational Behavior, 2009
Paul and Moser’sMeta-Analysis • Mental health problems exist in 16% of the general population and 34% of the unemployed.
Paul and Moser’sMeta-Analysis • Mental health problems are more pronounced among • Men • blue-collar workers • long-term unemployed
William Julius Wilson:When Work Disappears • Wilson studied urban Chicago to understand the impact of the loss of employment. • The loss of work was associated with increases in family problems, the breakdown of communities (increased crime, substance abuse, etc.) • Work creates the link to the greater social community. • People suffer individually without work. • Communities suffer as well, creating a cycle of poverty and despair
Individual-Level Interventions • Two interrelated types of interventions exist: • Career counseling focuses on helping clients develop and implement meaningful career plans. • Focuses on exploring self, the world of work, and the process of optimizing the match. • Job search counseling (aka employment counseling) • Focuses on helping a client locate work; • Used in working with unemployed and underemployed • Also relevant for employed people making transitions
Career Counseling Is Effective • As reflected in numerous meta-analyses, career counseling interventions are effective in… • enhancing career decidedness • satisfaction with work • confidence about decision-making skills.
Why Do Career Counseling Interventions Work? • Brown and Krane (2002) found that individuals benefited the most from career counseling interventions that took 4-5 sessions to complete. • Five components of effective career counseling were identified: • (1) individualized interpretation and feedback • (2) finding and building supportive social networks • (3) effective role models • (4) learning about the world of work • (5) use of written exercises.
Job-Search Interventions • A recent 2014 meta-analysis by Liu, Huang, and Wang of job search interventions concluded the following: • Job search interventions, in general, are effective in helping people to obtain work. • Job search programs are particularly effective when they blend skills development with motivational interventions
Job Search Interventions • The effective interventions tended to include the following: • Teaching job search skills • Improving self-presentation (includes in person presentation as well as written materials) • Boosting self-efficacy • Encouraging proactivity • Promoting goal setting • Enlisting social support
Job-Search Interventions • Lui and colleagues also identified that job search interventions are less effective for long-term unemployed job seekers. • They suggest that the complex needs of the long-term unemployed may require: • Occupational skills training • Interventions that focus on enhancing self-esteem • Interventions that involve the entire family to reduce stress and enhance social support
What’s missing???? • Means of connecting the career counseling and the job search processes—in effect integrating short-term and long-term goals for clients • Means of connecting work-based issues to mental health and relational issues • Means of intervening in a way that will empower clients, especially those facing long-term unemployment, to be active agents in their lives • Means of taking our collective knowledge and advocating for transformative change in the economy!
A New Perspective:The Psychology of Working • What is the psychology-of-working perspective? • An inclusive framework that seeks to examine the nature of working in an integrative fashion. • A perspective that is built on the principles of social justice, equity, and access to opportunity. • A perspective that reduces artificial boundaries between career counseling, job search, and other helping interventions. • A perspective that focuses on empowerment and the development of agency for individuals and communities.
Assumptions of the Psychology of Working • At its best, working can fulfill our… • Need for survival and power • Need for social connections • Need for self-determination
Relevant Assumptions of the Psychology of Working • Work is a central aspect of life. • Working is central to mental health. • Work and non-work experiences are often seamlessly experienced in the natural course of people’s lives.
The Psychology of Working and the Long-Term Unemployed What is the value added by the psychology of working perspective? a. Integrative interventions: • Link job search and career counseling into a cohesive intervention. • Link mental health interventions/prevention into a cohesive approach
The Psychology of Working and the Long-Term Unemployed • Infusing social justice into individual and systemic interventions: • Following Sharone’s findings, we need to find ways of reducing self-blame. • Introduce critical consciousness into the counseling and job search work.
Critical consciousness • Critical Consciousness • Based on Friere’s critical pedagogy and liberation psychology, critical consciousness development refers to helping members of marginalized groups critically analyze and act to change their social conditions. • As Friere advocated for the peasants in Brazil, we need to help our clients “read the world”…. • Reduces “blaming the victim” • Enhances agency and collective action
The Psychology of Working and the Long-Term Unemployed Systemic Change: • One of the participants in the Boston College Unemployment study asked me to make sure that our findings reach the broader public. • In a nutshell, this participant said… • We are not doing well—we are not content and we need jobs!!!! • We want our political leaders to take action. • I am trying to follow up this participant’s recommendations….
Systemic changes • We are bearing witness to a crisis that is affecting individuals and communities. • We need to use our knowledge, both intellectual and emotional, to advocate for full employment. • We need to advocate for the implementation of the Millennuium Development goals and the UN Human Rights charter here at home…. • Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. (UN Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23)
Systemic changes • Extend unemployment benefits • Enhance funding for one-stop career centers across the country • Identify best practices from one-stops and other programs • Infuse funds into evidence-based training programs in community colleges • Create nimble and responsive institutions that can provide wrap-around services for the long-term unemployed.
Closing Comment • Thanks to Ofer Sharone and his colleagues at MIT for putting together this important conference. • Let’s take the ideas and energy culled here to infuse our work with new initiatives. • Let’s call upon our political and corporate leaders to develop a “Marshall” type plan for the long-term unemployed… • Eliminate discrimination against the long-term unemployed. • Create work for the long-term unemployed that will rebuild our communities and rebuild their shaken inner lives.