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Applying cognitive behavioral therapy to career counseling

New model of career coaching draws on therapeutic techniques.

Already a practicing career coach, Steven Sheward attended Goldsmiths University of London to add a degree in cognitive behavioral therapy to his résumé. Shortly after graduating, a big idea hit him: Traditional CBT techniques could be very effective in career counseling. He soon partnered with Rhena Branch, a fellow Goldsmiths professor and co-author of "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Dummies."

Sheward and Branch's new book, "Motivational Career Counseling and Coaching: Cognitive and Behavioral Approaches," was released by Sage Publications last week. It is the first-ever manual for CBT-style career coaching.

"Although some counseling models have been used in careers guidance, I don't think there's anything that's been around that's as extensive as this," says Sheward. "We're hoping this is a new model."

A practicing therapist in the U.K. National Health Service, Sheward treats patients with post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and other diagnoses on a daily basis. But he is convinced that CBT is not just for mental illness.

"In our profession, we assume that there's a psychological problem to be treated," says Sheward. "But in this context, it's about using the theory and the skills to optimize the way people deal with everyday challenges: going for jobs and succeeding in the workplace."

CBT 101




Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common form of psychological therapy practiced. Based on longstanding research related to human behavior and perception, the practice encourages participants to examine their perceptions of past experiences -- especially traumatic ones -- in order to diminish or eliminate current negative behaviors.

Breaking it down




Psychologist Steve Sheward claims that utilizing the principals of cognitive behavioral therapy can help the unemployed find work by reducing out-of-work stress in three key areas:

1. Breaking through a lethargy cycle

2. Helping to alleviate constant or recurring negative thoughts

3. Diminishing the high levels of anxiety that are commonly experienced by the recently unemployed