Essentials of Career-Focused Counseling: The Quality Toolbox for Counselors-in-Training

By Zach Budesa

Luke, C. (2018). Essentials of Career-Focused Counseling (1st ed.). Cognella. (288 pages)

Dr. Chad Luke’s recent book, Essentials of Career-Focused Counseling (Essentials; 2018), is a textbook that doubles as a toolbox for educators and new counselors alike. The book is written in a relational tone and provides information that counselors and counselors-in-training can use immediately. Drawing on his years of experience as a counselor educator and researcher, Essentials integrates career theory and related case examples with current thinking on ethics, interventions, multicultural perspectives, and neuroscience into a package that is easy to digest and engaging.

Photo By Nick Seliverstov On Unsplash

A Focus on Practical Information

The book’s subtitle, “Integrating Theory, Practice, and Neuroscience” provides an accurate description for what readers will find inside. Viewing theories as tools, Essentials details how their critical theoretical components work within the counseling relationship. Chapters on theory show how counselors might assess, conceptualize, and work with clients from specific perspectives. Readers will find tools for navigating ethical and multicultural considerations, important considerations about populations, and career-focused counseling in different settings. More specifically, Dr. Luke demonstrates the importance of ethical and multicultural considerations by emphasizing ethical assessments and the intersection between cultural, social, and personal factors.

Some chapters discuss specific populations who have struggled in the world of work, including veterans and individuals with disabilities, challenging readers to consider mental health issues and their effects on career decision making. Essentials also illustrates how career-focused counseling can be undertaken in K-12 or college settings. The final chapter helps readers experience the process by applying the Essentials to their own career questions. Throughout Essentials, Dr. Luke’s focus remains user-friendly and practical, helping counselors select appropriate tools to benefit clients. Although the book emphasizes theory, it does not overwhelm readers with theoretical details.

Special Features

Essentials takes a novel neuroscientific perspective by introducing readers to how the brain is involved in the counseling processes. This information is accessible to novice counselors who have little to no experience in the area. While some readers may find that Dr. Luke’s description of neuroscience in need of refinement, he attempts to help readers begin developing a brain-based understanding of career counseling. The neuro-informed sections include information from across biopsychology, cognitive science, and on the psychology of learning.

Another unique feature is the inclusion of QR (quick response) codes, those square, pixelated images readers can scan with smart phones or other devices, that are scattered throughout the text. These, combined with a generous number of URL links, assist readers in locating resources like specific career-based websites (e.g., O*NET), published career assessments, professional associations and their specific ethical codes, and relevant laws. In this way readers have the choice of staying with the information presented in the book, or venturing into more details, research, and other specifics. Adult learners in particular may find these features to be a welcome addition not often found in textbooks.


Despite the simplicity and useful treatment of career-focused counseling contained within Essentials of Career-Focused Counseling, it is not without its limitations. The most significant limitation for readers may be the layout. Throughout the book, certain sections of text appear in the outside margins. Although this can be an effective way to provide further information to the reader, there needs to be a clear connection with the main text. Some material in Essentials seems tangential to the main text, whereas other material referring to case studies or dialogues “below” may be difficult to locate. In some cases, headings seem inconsistent in their formatting and placement. Finally, while many of the images are high quality, some are washed out, fuzzy, or difficult to read. Although these layout problems seem minor, they could cause readers confusion or result in important information being missed.

While Essentials covers a variety of theories, ethical considerations, and populations, the depth of its treatment of these topics is inconsistent. Regarding the integration of neuroscience into Essentials, the material needs further refinement. It will be interesting to see whether the field of career counseling, overall, embraces some of the concepts that Dr. Luke presents in Essentials. Nonetheless, what this book lacks in depth it makes up for with references to source material and provides enough material to explore a theory or career topic further.

Quality Textbook and Toolbox

Overall, Essentials of Career-Focused Counseling is a quality textbook for counselor educators. As a toolbox, the book equips students with an understanding of career theory while it also offers strategies for addressing specific career counseling issues. Dr. Luke’s relational approach is easy to read, familiar in tone, and engaging. The case studies are well-written and highlight the associated topics. QR codes and web-based links to additional resources support and augment learning for both learners and practitioners. Readers will come away from Essentials with the tools to provide high quality career-focused counseling.


Zach Budesa Zach Budesa, MA, LPC/MHSP (TN), is a doctoral candidate in Counselor Education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He holds a degree in clinical mental health counseling from Tennessee Tech University. His research interests include counselor skill development and expertise. Zach can be reached at zbudesa@vols.utk.edu.

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Chad luke   on Saturday 08/01/2020 at 02:11 PM

Very well done, Zach! Thanks for your thorough, conscientious review.

Antonia Hill   on Saturday 08/01/2020 at 02:41 PM

This review was very helpful and thoughtfully written. Thanks for sharing!

Melanie Young   on Monday 08/03/2020 at 11:50 AM

This is an excellent and thoughtful--and helpful--review. It does make me want to explore the text and the information further.

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.