Counseling Female Military Veterans in Career Transition: Integrating Wellness and Career Models
By G. Gail Rouse, Lesley Riley and Natasha Barnes
The number of women entering the military is projected to reach 23 million by 2040, an increase of approximately16% (National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, 2016). As a result, more female veterans are expected to transition into the civilian workforce at the conclusion of their military service. Compared to male veterans, these women are more likely to experience reintegration issues such as underemployment, mental health and PTSD concerns, and difficulty balancing the career development process with other life roles (Reppert, Buzzetta, & Rose, 2014; Simpson & Armstrong, 2009). Therefore, it would be beneficial for the counseling profession to implement a combination of mental health and career guidance services that identify and address the aforementioned issues for these clients. This article discusses related models, interventions, assessments, and considerations for counseling professionals who work with veteran women in transition.
A Case Study
Sharon was discharged from the Army in 2013. During the past two years, she has held several jobs that are not related to her experience as a junior officer with a nursing specialty. Sharon is single, suffers from depression, and is the primary caregiver for her aging parents and children. Sharon is experiencing difficulty maintaining consistent employment and has recently sought services from a licensed professional counselor.
The above story is a sampling of the complexity of challenges facing female military veterans in career transition, including mental health issues, work/life balance, and career indecision. Career counselors are advised to utilize intervention models focusing on a range of dimensions to facilitate client understanding of how to achieve mental health and work/life integration.
A Wellness Model
Myers and Sweeney’s (2005) Indivisible-Self Model asserts that the self is at the core of wellness. The five factors of the Indivisible-Self model are:
- Creative Self: thinking, emotions, work, control, positive humor;
- Coping Self: leisure, stress management, self-worth, and realistic beliefs;
- Social Self: friendship and love;
- Essential Self: spirituality, gender identity, cultural identity, and self-care; and
- Physical Self: exercise and nutrition.
The above factors are influenced by ecological contexts that include local, institutional, global events, and lifespan. Research from Degges-White and Myers (2006) found utility of the wellness approach when working with women in transition. Specifically, the use of the five factors of wellness or “5-FWel” (Myers & Sweeney, 2005) above may facilitate this process. Counseling interventions based on the Indivisible-Self Model involve:
- Assisting clients with strength identification, and explaining how the decision to change one area of wellness will potentially improve other areas of wellness, in addition to total wellness.
- Reviewing scores from the 5-FWel-A inventory (Myers & Sweeney, 2005), encouraging clients to select the area(s) of wellness they wish to enhance, and then both helping clients develop a concrete wellness plan, and providing resources such as the Five Factor Wellness & Habit Change Workbook (Myers & Sweeney, 2006).
A Career Model
The Kaleidoscope Career Model, or KCM (Mainiero & Sullivan, 2005), recognizes the changing life patterns of women. Similar to a “kaleidoscope,” the work/life balance of women may “shift” at various points, requiring an adjustment or readjustment to meet new demands. Based on the KCM, the authors identified three parameters applicable to the life patterns and career development of women:
- Authenticity: by being true to self, relevant to work and non-work values;
- Balance: integration of life and work decisions; and
- Challenge: the need to engage in leadership roles and meaningful work adding to self-worth.
As female veterans enter the civilian workforce post military service, they are often faced with balancing the complexities of finding relevant employment, managing family responsibilities, and identifying social support structures (Simpson & Armstrong, 2009). The KCM could be useful in facilitating successful transition of women veterans by providing guidelines for counseling interventions and selection of relevant assessments. Counseling interventions based on the KCM involve:
- Assisting clients with the identification of knowledge, skills, and technological abilities that may translate to suitable employment in the civilian workforce. Relevant assessment tools include:
- Kaleidoscope Career Self-assessment Inventory (KCSI) (Mainiero & Sullivan, 2006)
- Barriers to Employment Success Inventory (Liptak, 2011)
- Career Transition Inventory (CTI) (Heppner, Multon, & Johnson, 1994)
- Military-to-Career Transition Inventory (Liptak, 2012)
- The Values Scale (Super & Nevil, 1989)
- Exploring clients’ work/life values. This will involve discussing intersections of specific job requirements, life values, and family responsibilities, as well as listing barriers that may hinder sustainable employment.
- Creating a proactive self-care plan, to address mental health concerns, identify essential physical activities, social support networks, and exploring creative interests.
- Providing client with resources, such as veterans support networks, specialized career information, professional mentorship, and/or connection to post-secondary opportunities.
The American Counseling Association Code of Ethics (2014) and the National Career Development Association Code of Ethics (2015) established principles that guide the ethical responsibility of counselors in the delivery of counseling and career services. Prosek & Holm (2012) suggest mental health professionals identify specific ethical standards and decision-making models relevant to working with veterans. These may include standards related to confidentiality, informed consent, cultural awareness, counselor competence, selection of assessments and interpretation of results. A focus on these standards will enhance ethical practices when working with female veterans in transition.
Recommendations for Counselors
The complexity of experiences that military women in career transition face may include economic, social, family, mental health, physical health, and career exploration concerns. This can necessitate counseling interventions that occur in multiple settings (e.g., higher education, hospitals, and community agencies) and focus on interventions and assessments that address the diverse concerns mentioned above. Linehan and Scullion (2008) found that psychosocial, social support and counseling provide an integral means of supporting career development. Hilton and Anderson (2009) recommended that counselors capitalize on a client’s strengths by focusing on a sense of mastery, self-efficacy, and life satisfaction in the process of supporting an involuntary career transition. Use of the Indivisible-Self Model (Myers & Sweeney 2005) and the Kaleidoscope Career Model (Mainiero & Sullivan, 2005) may facilitate positive adaptive strategies for military women in career transition. These models encourage self-reflection in clients and examine a range of dimensions that impact client’s work/life balance. Successful facilitation of these interventions may be enhanced thorough competency and understanding of military culture to address the unique professional development challenges of female veterans.
References & Resources
American Counseling Association. (2014). Code of ethics and standards of practice. Alexandria VA: Author.
Degges-White, S. & Myers, J. E. (2006). Transitions, wellness and life satisfaction: Implications for counseling midlife women. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 28(2), 133-150.
Heppner, M. J., Multon, K., & Johnston, J. A. (1994). Assessing psychological resources during career change: Development of the Career Transitions Inventory. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 44, 55-74.
Hilton, J. M., & Anderson, T. L. (2009). Characteristics of women with children who divorce in midlife compared to those who remain married. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 50(5), 309.
Linehan, M., & Scullion, H. (2008). The development of female global managers: The role of mentoring and networking. Journal of Business Ethics, 83(1), 29-40. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-007-9657-0.
Liptak, J. (2011). Barriers to success inventory. Indianapolis, IN: JIST Publishing.
Liptak, J. (2012). Military-to-Career transition inventory. St. Paul, MN: JIST Career Solutions.
Mainiero, L. A., & Sullivan, S. E. (2006). Kaleidoscope Career Self-Assessment Inventory (KCSI). Retrieved from http://www.theoptoutrevolt.com/questions.html.
Mainiero, L. A., & Sullivan, S. E. (2005) Kaleidoscope careers: An alternate explanation for the “opt-out” revolution. Academy of Management Executive, 19, 106-123.
Myers, J. E., & Sweeney, T. J. (2005b). Counseling for wellness: The Five Factor Wellness Inventory, Adult (5F-WEL-A). Palo Alto, CA: Mindgarden.
Myers, J. E. & Sweeney, T. J. (2005e). The indivisible self: An evidence-based model of wellness. Journal of Individual Psychology, 61, 269-279. (Reprinted from Journal of Individual Psychology, by J. E. Myers and T. J. Sweeney, 2004).
Myers, J. E., & Sweeney, T. J. (2006). The Five Factor Wellness & Habit Change Workbook. Retrieved from www.mindgarden.com.
National Career Development Association (NCDA). (2015). Code of Ethics. Broken Arrow, OK: Author. Retrieved from https://ncdaconference.org/aws/NCDA/asset_manager/get_file/3395?ver=738700
Prosek, E. A., & Holm, J. M. (2014). Counselors and the military: When protocol and ethics conflict. The Professional Counselor 4(2), 93–102.
Reppert, M. L., Buzzetta, M., & Rose, T. (2014). Implications for practice: Assisting female veterans in their career development. Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, 30(3), 80-91.
Simpson, A., & Armstrong, S. (2009). From the military to the civilian work force: Addressing veteran career concerns. Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, 25(1), 177-187.
Super, D. E. & Nevill, D. D. (1986). The Values Scale: Theory, research, and application. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs (2016). National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. Retrieved from: http://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/QuickFacts/Population_quickfacts.PDF.
G. Gail Rouse, Ph.D., LPC, is an Associate Professor in the Counseling program at Argosy University, Atlanta campus. She has a master’s degree and doctorate in counseling psychology. She has presented at national and local conferences related to the field of human services, mental health, and career development. Her research focus is in the area of human services, career development, and program evaluation. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Georgia. Dr. Rouse is a member of NCDA and additional professional organizations. Dr. Rouse may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lesley Riley, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, CPCS, is an Associate Professor in the Counseling Department at Argosy University, Atlanta. She has a master’s degree in Secondary School Guidance and a doctorate in Counselor Education. Her research interests include, autism advocacy, and wellness interventions for human services professionals. She has presented at national and local conferences related to the field of human services, mental health, and career development. Dr. Riley is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Professional Counselors Supervisor in the State of Georgia, as well as a National Certified Counselor. Dr. Riley may be contacted at email@example.com.
Natasha Barnes, M.S. is currently a doctoral candidate in Counselor Education and Supervision at Argosy University, Atlanta campus. She has a B.S. in Psychology, a M.S. in Counseling. She has extensive experience as an online instructor and a mobile assessment counselor. She has held various positions in the field of human services. Her research interests include career counseling/planning and mental health services for veterans and their families. She holds memberships in professional organizations. Currently, she is pursuing licensure as a professional counselor in the state of Georgia. Natasha may be contacted at NatashaBarnes0@stu.argosy.edu.