Shaping the Story

Book Review by William C. Briddick

Shaping the Story: A Guide to Facilitating Narrative Career Counseling

Edited by Kobus Maree, 2011, Sense Publishers, 236 pages, $29.00 (paperback)

ISBN 978-94-6091-386-0



Kobus Maree, delivers the much awaited edition of this publication available for readers in the United States. Maree’s genius is reflected in the book’s cadre of scholars. Maree taps narrative career counseling’s finest from around the globe. This most excellent text takes its place beside Cochran’s landmark publication on narrative career counseling and the recent, long awaited book by Mark Savickas, continuing a stellar legacy to advance the narrative approach within career counseling. The prologue entitled Reshaping the story of career counselling , penned by Savickas, perhaps best summarizes Maree’s impact.


Larry Cochran provides an excellent foundation for the narrative approach in his chapter for the first section of the book devoted solely to theory. Other essential contributions are made by Charles Chen, Erin Thrift, and Norm Amundson in understanding the emergence of the narrative approach within career counseling. John Winslade’s chapter entitled Constructing a career narrative through the care of the self, challenges the reader to think beyond the confines of middle class conceptualizations of careers toward a more inclusive vision. Mary McMahon’s chapter on narrative and identities reminds us that the narrative approach may be as important to our own profession’s multi-storied identity as it is to the identities of our clients. Mark Watson’s chapter on postmodernism covers considerable theoretical ground in a few short pages. Robert Chope and Andrés J. Consoli’s chapter on narrative perspective and multicultural career counseling explores the significance of cultural context and highlights what the authors recognize as the “relevant dimensions” for multicultural career work.


The second section of the book is devoted to practice. Paul Hartung’s chapter on Savickas’s Career Construction Theory leads off this section and is likely some of the best writing on the theory outside of Savickas’s own original work. Maree masterfully invites chapters emphasizing helpful techniques in working with career narratives. Marie Sacino’s brief chapter provides a great overview of activities and considerations in getting younger clients started on the narrative path and the significance of stories that illustrate the transformation from preoccupation to occupation. Yvonne Sliep and Elmarie Kotzé’s contribution to this work describes the technique of a “tree of life” they use to later bring the power of deconstruction and the emergence of one’s own voice into sharp focus. Liesel Ebersöhn advocates for the use of a memory box approach, assisted by other techniques such as collage work, life line drawings, or written narratives, as a means of helping others develop and understand their own stories. Elzette Fritz and Litha Beekman highlight some of the same techniques but add to these the use of card-sorts and even sand tray work as creative paths toward narrative development and discovery. In a final chapter of Section 2, Maree discusses the use of early recollections in career construction.


In Section 3 Belle Wallace devotes a chapter to the personal stories of prominent, successful individuals who themselves have dedicated considerable time in their own careers toward empowering young people. These inspiring stories clearly illustrate the hard work of resilience and the success to be found in what Savickas might say involves “actively mastering what one has passively suffered.” The book’s epilogue by Maurice Elias and Reuven Bar-On explores emotional intelligence and social emotional learning as relevant considerations for the narrative approach in career counseling stretching the narrative approach in the direction of further possibilities.


Maree deserves considerable credit for his own contributions to this work, his choice of contributing authors as well as for mapping a rather diverse, narrative terrain so admirably. While Korzybski might remind us “the map is not the territory,” Maree’s book serves to remind us that any good map is in fact a territory’s story, its landmarks, pathways known, and those yet to be discovered en route toward new horizons.



William Chris BriddickWilliam C. Briddick, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Counseling and Human Development in the Counseling and Human Resource Development program at South Dakota State University. Dr. Briddick teaches the career counseling and planning course at SDSU. His scholarly efforts have focused on the history of career counseling as well as Career Construction Theory among other topics. He is founder and facilitator of ACA’s Historical Issues In Counseling Network and presently serves as the chair of the Professional Development Committee for NCDA. He can be reached at chris.briddick@sdstate.edu

Printer-Friendly Version

1 Comment

Betsy Johnson   on Wednesday 08/08/2012 at 03:13 PM

Looks like a book to put on my "Must Read" list.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.