1.THE HISTORY AND PRESENT in career counselling

24. května 2012 v 13:36 | Prof.PhDr.Rudolf Kohoutek,CSc.

Gives information on the development of career counselling which
deals with professional counselling and guidance in the choice of career and studies.
Sound counselling has a positive effect on the person's peace of mind and personal
satisfaction of pupils and students of elementary and secondary schools in
the Czech Republic. Described are the basic theories, regulations and directives on
which the activities of the present educational and psychological career counselling
are based.

Career counselling, choice of career and studies, tradition, psychotechnics,
professiography, counsellors

At present career counselling is the abbreviated name for guidance in the choice of
profession and studies and in cases of adaptation problems in studies or profession.
In the European Union (as documents on the topic of counselling imply) the interest
in career counselling and its development is considerable because it is assumed that the
economic and social impact of counselling services will be seen in the optimal development
and employment of qualifi cations and talents on the labour market, the employment
rate and in making the productive and salaried labour market accessible for all who are
able to work.
The resolution of ministers of education of the European Union of 2004 says
that fi rst-rate lifelong counselling care is the key element of strategies in the area of
education, professional preparation and employment rate in order to achieve the strategic
objective of Europe to become the most dynamic society based on knowledge
before 2010.
Career counselling is about discovering the properties of the mind and personality
of the individual with regard to predictions of success of his/her study or working
activities and helping him to make an effective choice of the educational and career
path. It has a long tradition. Correct choice of career is closely connected with health
because it is the source of well-being and satisfaction.
As far back as antiquity it was known that not all men are formed to the same
end in their career as the stoic Epictetus, philosopher from the 1st century AD, stated
(56-136 AD):
"Friend, bethink you fi rst what it is that you would do, and then what your own
nature is able to bear. Would you be a pentathlonist or wrestler, consider your shoulders,
your thighs, your lions - not all men are formed to the same end". In his own way
Epictetus in fact anticipated the modern trend that before choosing a career everybody
should consider if his abilities are in tune with the requirements of the chosen career.
We can even go so far as to say that Epictetus pronounced one of the basic theoretical
problems in which present career counselling is involved. It is the problem of optimal
harmony between man and his activities.
However, in antiquity the profession was mostly based on clanship and more
or less was prescribed by social conventions. These restrictions applied for the ruling
classes as well; their members could not accept a profession which would no doubt be
in accord with their potentiality and aptitudes but would be in confl ict with their social
Harmony between man and his activities is dependent not only on his abilities
and skills and his overall potential. It is also dependent on his motivations, orientation,
i.e. on his needs, interests, tendencies, inclinations etc.
It is connected with the demand that man's activities be not only objectively effective
but also to evoke subjective feelings of satisfaction and well-being and in this
way contribute to man's healthy lifestyle. After all, health is defi ned not only as physical
contentment but also as psychological and social well-being.
As early as the medieval ages, and naturally also in modern times, we see that
fi rst it is demanded to examine the abilities, possibilities, aptitudes, potentialities and
other qualities of the individual, that is his potential subject and only then to choose
the type of studies or the profession. For instance the Spanish physician Juan Huarte
y Navarro (1530-1592) in his book Examen de los ingenios para las ciencias from
1575 on ability testing for scientifi c disciplines set down the rules for exploring the
capacities in various free professions and he proposed a motion to the government
to ensure that everybody should pursue such a career (occupation) which would be
most in accord with his natural talent. It was probably the fi rst textbook of differential
psychology. If we are to accept J.Huarte's proposal it is of course necessary fi rst of all
to specify exactly the demands which the profession or studies lay on the mind and
In 1708 at the new-humanistic university in Halle an offi cial letter from Berlin
appeared which as though urged to carry out selection processes in the professional and
study area for "those elements which on the basis of their intellectual qualifi cations are
not suited for university studies to be rather engaged in manufactures, crafts, military
service, even in agriculture".
Jan Ámos Komenský (1592-1671) voiced important opinions on future career
counselling and in his "Velká didaktika" (The Great Didactic) he stated: "The work of
the academy will be easier and more successful, fi rstly, if only youths of defi nite talent,
the elite of mankind, are sent there, while the others will be left to the ploughs, crafts and
trade, each to the end to which he was born."
In the 18th century Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) to a certain extent anticipated
the present opinion that to perform various professions various qualities ("steps") of intellectual
properties are necessary; today we embrace them in the conception of general
and special abilities. Kant differentiates three cognitive faculties: Verstand, Urteilskraft
and Vernunft. Verstand, i.e. the ability to imagine something under concrete terms, will
do for instance for a servant, whereas an offi cer who has to abide only by general rules
requires Urteilskraft, independent reasoning because he must make his own decision
whether the instruction is or is not a rule. Finally the general, if he has to deduce the
specifi c from the general and himself come up with rules, he must have Vernunft. In his
teaching that "many who become invisible on the highest step, stand out on the second
step," Kant is in accord with the recognised opinion that people of lower capacities and
possibilities cannot fi nd their place in the higher career category (the so-called Peter
Pan Syndrome).
However the findings of earlier thinkers have not penetrated generally and so
even today the statement of B.Pascal (1623-1662) that frequently "it is coincidence that
rules the most important matter in life - choice of career" although the economic, health
and moral losses from a bad choice of profession and studies are ever more obvious for
the individual as well for national economy.
Random or preferential selection of career which enables incapable individuals
to take up positions the demands of which they absolutely cannot manage and frequently
making individuals of outstanding qualities do simple and monotonous work is
a dangerous waste of intellectual powers of the nation.
In the 1920's, based on the exigency for adequate professional selection of individuals
for specifi c professions and as a consequence of technology progress which laid
increasingly higher demands on the human factor, a new branch of applied or practical
psychology, called psychotechnics, with its specifi c working methods, started to develop.
It was based on the mottos: "The right man for the right position" and "Contribute
to management with the natural talent of the population."
The idea of professional (now career) counselling emerged in the late 19th century;
it became more intensive at a time when the fi rst possibilities of differentiated
psychological studies of the psyche and personality of the individual appeared and when
general criteria were formulated of qualitative and quantitative assessment of the individual
differences among people, and that was in the late 19th century.
However career and study counselling centres as institutions did not appear until
the 20th century and rapidly spread to all cultural nations.
The fi rst career guidance centre was established at the instigation of Frank
Parsons (1854-1908) in 1908 in Boston; it became a co-initiator of the later international
movement, the scientifi c foundations of which were built principally by Hugo
Münsterberg, professor at Harvard University, who is also the author of the term psychotechnics
(with W. Stern).
Frank Parsons proposed to institute the special profession of "counsellors" and
began to organise courses for them. Apart from the techniques and methods of counselling
work he stressed the specifi c profi le of the counsellor highlighting his/her personal
traits, quick mind, university education and several years of practical teaching, social
work or work in other similar vocation, age over 25 years and wide knowledge in social
science disciplines (economics, history, sociology etc.). Basically Parsons wanted everyone
entering the job market to consider his own talents and interests and have knowledge
about the job. The result of a sound confrontation of understanding oneself and the
profession could be an adequate choice of vocation or studies. Through a confrontation
mechanism Parsons attempted to describe and infl uence the personality. His major work
"Choosing a Vocation" was published posthumously in Boston in 1909 at the Hougton
Morfi n publishing house.
The concrete impetus for H. Münsterberg's (1863-1916) studies was the increasing
number of accidents on electric tram lines in large cities in USA before WW1.
The owners of the tramlines asked the German psychologist living in the USA to explore
the human factor of the accidents.
Münsterberg proceeded by modelling some of the components of the work process
of drivers of electric trams stressing the changes in the working situations and studying
the mental reactions of the drivers. He used the conclusions of this research in his
psychological selection of candidates for the jobs of tram drivers. The accident rates of
drivers selected by the psychologist (psychotechnician) were compared with accident
rates of drivers of the control group who had not been subject to psychological tests and
showed that psychological counselling was very effective when choosing candidates for
the jobs of tram drivers.
Later Münstenberg explored the job of female telegraph operators and other professions.
Basing on his results he formulated the following scientifi c-practical conclusions:
to succeed in a number of professions one must be equipped with a complex of
mental traits and each one must exist within certain limits or boundaries (both
lack and excess are undesirable),
for such professions obligatory selection is necessary (desirable) applying the
so-called small psychological experiments because the traditional methods of
selection when assessing the required traits of the psyche and personality were
According to Münsterberg the prerequisite for the development of psychotechnics
was on the one hand to establish and elaborate the vocational science (Berufskunde), i.e.
the professiographical determination of those traits which are important for the vocation,
on the other hand to construct and launch examinations to determine the candidate's
ability for the vocation. He further pointed out that it is necessary to explore not only the
general intelligence level but also memory, attention, motor and other functions of man.
Methods of psychological selection rapidly spread during WW1. Special psychological
services were formed in the armed forces for psychological selection. The fi rst
was apparently instituted in France to select airmen. Analogical services were formed in
England, Germany, Italy and the USA. In the USA one million and seven thousand soldiers
and forty thousand offi cers took tests organised for the literate and illiterate (army
alpha, army beta). The fi nal effect of the selection carried out by a psychologist many
times exceeded the costs involved.
The very fi rst counselling bureau was opened in Moravia on 15 November 1919
attached to the Czech department of the trade land council in Brno.
The psychotechnics department of the bureau was built up by the later academician
Otakar Chlup (1875-1965). Here an employment agency for apprentices was opened.
The fi rst counselling bureau in Bohemia was established in 1920, attached to the Land
Labour Offi ce in Prague. In 1921 the fi rst Psychotechnical Institute of Masaryk Academy
of Labour in the Czechoslovak Republic was instituted and was primarily involved in
physiology and psychology of labour in industry. Later this Institute branched off and as
the Central Psychotechnical Institute pursued issues of choice of career of adults. At that
time the director of the Institute in Prague was František Šeracký (1891-1942).
As early as 1932 academician Vilém Chmelař (1892-1989) characterised this new
situation saying: : "Only the 20th century brings a clearly formulated and therefore innovative
thought that the choice of career and consultations (hitherto based only on an interview
the validity of which is too dependent on the personality of the interviewing person)
must be based on scientifi c grounding; that young people and adults will not be assigned
to positions primarily on the basis of the social conditions and job market but according
to their talents and leanings (i.e. psychological aspect), health conditions and effective
distribution of the labour force within the entire national economy in order to prevent any
coincidences and other harmful side effects in the course of the choice of career."
In the Czechoslovak Republic the vocational guidance bureaus were instituted
usually at youth welfare offi ces but also other institutions began to be interested in
counselling; namely institutes for the development of trades, social and health institutes
and others. On top of that counselling bureaus of other specialisations were established,
for instance student (academic), military and other. Some companies also established
their own career counselling, e.g. Prague Electric Companies (which on psychological
grounds did not recommend about 30 % of candidates), Vítkovice Ironworks etc.
In Bohemia for instance Rudolf Mudroch (born 1904) explored the abilities of
young persons to practice the chosen vocations or studies. He devoted his attention to
apprentices, students of secondary schools and universities and he sought to exclude
individuals who lacked adequate intelligence, i.e. the necessary intellectual powers. He
proceeded in accordance with the then promoted psychotechnics and psychometrics.
Among others he was involved in the low quality of university students.
In 1930 he published his study "Otázka výběru studovaného dorostu" (The issue
of choice of the studied young people). He compared the results of a 70-minute investigation
with the school results and he came to the conclusion that his prognosis corresponded
with the annual school reports. Nevertheless he admitted that unfortunately we
have no objective 100% reliable methods to assess the student's aptitude for university
studies. Even today we have no such methods. Still, a 75% reliability of the diagnostic
psychological methods is better than only laic selection.
It is remarkable that as early as in 1933 the vocational guidance centres in Moravia
investigated medically and psychologically 24 % of all boys and 11.5 % of girls out of
the total Czech population of 14-year-olds. Academician Vilém Chmelař (1892-1989)
recommended to work out exact annual statistics of the supply and demand of young
people for all vocations across whole Moravia and to follow roughly the economic perspectives
of the respective branches.
The group and particularly individual investigations of the candidates in Moravia
were based on methods, tests and diagnostic examinations recommended by the Land Central Office for Choice of Career
in Brno. At the guidance centres the material obtained
from the investigations of the candidates was elaborated on a regular basis before
the end of May and in June the eligible candidates were placed and distributed. Many
schools and many craft enterprises did not accept candidates who had not undergone
psychotechnical examinations and were not found eligible for the respective vocation.
The Bohemian guidance centres were managed by the Prague-based Central
Offi ce for Career Counselling. However, the Moravian guidance centres were not managed
by the Bohemian central offi ce (personal statement of Stanislav Štech, (1967), the Brno
In 1939 the 59 guidance centres in Moravia examined 11363 young people, i.e.
34.6 % of all the school-leaving youngsters. Bohemian and Moravian guidance centres
closed down during WW2 (in 1941).
In terms of the investigations proper in the guidance centres, the investigation of
one individual took, on average, 5-6 hours.
Dozens of diagnostic tests were used. Collective investigations were frequently
conducted in the schools and they were completed with individual investigations at the
guidance centre. Many of the diagnostic tests had a high validity rate and were constantly
The counsels were confi dential and were passed on to the candidates or their
parents mostly only orally. In cases of contractual covenant the enterprises received the
recommendation in writing.
In actual fact the same principles of investigations in the guidance centres were
applied in all parts of the Czechoslovak Republic; small differences were only in the
greater or smaller emphasise placed on the individual methods. For career choice the
following was investigated: general and practical intelligence, defects of the senses (in
particular sight, hearing, sense of touch), level of concentration, memory, spatial imagination,
technical faculty, work speed, steadiness of hand movements and manual skill,
level of basic mathematical operations and some special traits required for performance
of the vocation.
As a certain drawback in career counselling we can see the tendency to diagnose
the psyche and to make decisions on the basis of a single or short-term investigation
and the assumption that many psychic traits are changeable only a little. Scientifi cally
and professionally insuffi ciently sound procedures could also be caused by the fact that
a large part of the staff working in career counselling were non-psychologists showing
interest in this problem, even though the staff of the centres mostly leaned upon the then
Central Psychotechnical Institute in Prague. Special individual psychological examinations
were conducted only in some cases.
It is beyond dispute that the staff of the Psychotechnical Institute, later the Human
Labour Institute and then the Czechoslovak Institute of Labour had a great share in the
development of professional counselling services. For instance J. Doležal (1902-1965)
worked here (he was director until the institute was dissolved on 30 June 1951), J.
Čepelák (1915-1989), Lubomír Stejskal and others. Allegedly (according to L. Stejskal) the
professional staff of the Institute counted more than a hundred members.
After WW2, in the 1950's to be exact, career counselling was mistakenly considered
as an institution preventing the development of economics. The staff of the labour
departments said that counselling would only complicate their work. Psychological counselling
was criticised particularly from the ideological point of view. The ground for the
anti-counselling arguments was the statement that after the defeat of the exploiting classes
a class society emerged and that there would be no problems with education, with criminality
of children and the juvenile and with the choice of career and studies. In various
forms these arguments lived on until the 1960's despite statistical fi ndings. It was as if
pedagogy was without children, i.e. without knowledge of their psyche, without psychology.
In the process of education the psychologists were taken as a foreign element, as a
"Trojan horse". Extremists even called them "sorcerers of imperialism".
In the totalitarian period a fi ner differentiation of people, as well as regard of
their individual traits, were not desirable.
After 1948 pursuant to the new Education Act career counselling was conducted
only in schools and the schools gave preference to economic-recruitment aspects and
administrative and organisation methods of work. The correlation among the social,
economic and individual aspect of professional counselling was underestimated.
It was not until the late 1950's that attention was again devoted to vocational and
educational counselling in our country and abroad. The countries most readily developing
career counselling institutions were Poland, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. In
Poland the fi rst psychological counselling was established as early as 1957.
In our country further development of career counselling was interrupted from
WW2 until 1957 when psychological consulting centres, psychological educational consulting
centres and clinics were established under the national committees (Bratislava
1957, Brno 1958, Košice 1959).


Kohoutek, R. Historie pedagogicko-psychologického poradenství. Brno: Akademické nakladatelství CERM, 1999. 24 stran ISBN 80-7204-115-0.

Koščo, J. a kol. Poradenská psychológia. Bratislava. Slovenské pedagogické nakladateĺstvo, 1987.544 stran.

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