The Relation of Negative Career Thoughts to Depression and Hopelessness

Daniel D. Dieringer, Janet G. Lenz, Seth C. W. Hayden, and Gary W. Peterson

Although some research literature focuses on the integration of mental health and career counseling, there has been little that examines both areas in relation to depression and hopelessness. This study investigated the relationship among dysfunctional career thinking, depression, and hopelessness in a sample of 139 undergraduate and graduate students seeking drop-in or individual career counseling services at a university career center. The authors found that two aspects of dysfunctional career thinking, decision-making confusion and commitment anxiety, accounted for a significant amount of variance in depression. Decision-making confusion also accounted for a significant amount of variance in hopelessness. Implications for counseling practice include the need for more careful screening of career clients who present with high levels of anxiety and negative thinking. Future research could involve more diverse client populations, such as unemployed adults, and explore the use of additional screening measures to assess the intersection of career and mental health issues.
Keywords: career counseling, depression, dysfunctional career thinking, hopelessness

Distinctions are often made between career counseling and personal
counseling or counseling that is more focused on mental health issues.
The existence of separate entities such as a career center and a counseling
center on a college campus is one tangible exhibition of this dichotomous
perspective. Although understandable from an organizational standpoint,
these distinctions ignore the reality that career and mental health issues
are often strongly connected. Career decision making involves complex
psychological processes that affect all aspects of life (Yost & Corbishley,
1997). Over time, counselors in a variety of settings have embraced more
holistic career counseling approaches that include consideration of mental
health issues (Blustein, 2008; Lenz, Peterson, Reardon, & Saunders, 2010;
Zunker, 2008). Hinkelman and Luzzo (2007) noted that there was little
research that considered the potential reciprocal effects of mental health
and career development issues on students. These authors pointed out that
career practitioners, as well as college counseling center staff members,
affirmed that students often present with both types of issues.
There have been indications of the relationship between career and
mental health concerns both in clients’ identified issues and in their desire to engage in self-exploration, receive emotional support, and
discuss general issues in the context of career counseling (Anderson &
Niles, 1995, 2000). Fouad et al., 2006; Zunker (2008) suggested that
although personal and career counseling have traditionally been viewed
as separate entities, they should be viewed through an integrative approach
that takes into account career, affective, cognitive-behavioral, and
cultural needs. Lenz et al. (2010) presented a career services delivery
model that was based on cognitive information processing (CIP) theory,
which integrates career and mental health counseling in a university
setting. College students often experience career decision difficulties
and psychological distress when making career decisions (Fouad et
al., 2006). Others have noted that mental health issues have emerged
as a source of difficulty in the career decision-making process (Lucas,
Skokowski, & Ancis, 2000).
Practitioners, in a variety of settings, are challenged to effectively
assess and treat both career concerns and a range of personal concerns
(Zunker, 2008). Practitioners who desire to be more holistic by treating
mental health and career issues concurrently may consider methods to
make better use of the assessment resources to which they have access.
Learning more about clients’ emotional functioning from career assessment
data may be invaluable for practitioners seeking to improve
the integration of career and mental health services (Dozier, Lenz, &
Freeman, 2016). Using measures that are commonly administered in
career-services settings to screen for potential depression and hopelessness
and career readiness factors (Sampson, McClain, Musch, & Reardon,
2013) can enable practitioners to more readily identify and treat at-risk
individuals, as well as refer them for additional psychological support as
needed. Despite suggestions regarding the connection between career
and mental health factors, more empirical evidence is needed on how
this connection can be explored using assessment tools in career services.
This study was designed to examine whether a measure used to
identify negative career thinking could also serve as a screening device for
identifying clients who may be experiencing depression and hopelessness.

Connection Between Career and Mental Health Concerns

Examining the connection between career decision making and mental
health, including the cognitive effects of depression, can provide insight
into the relationship between the two domains. Previous research has indicated
that depression may lead to higher levels of dysfunctional attitudes,
negative automatic thoughts, and cognitive distortions such as loneliness,
feeling trapped, and hopelessness about the future (Eaves & Rush, 1984;
Murgai & Sathyavathi, 1987). Research also indicates a link between
depression and the ability to effectively engage in career decision making
(Rottinghaus, Jenkins, & Jantzer, 2009; Saunders, Peterson, Sampson, &
Reardon, 2000; Walker & Peterson, 2012). Walker and Peterson (2012)
suggested that “venturing into the realm of mental health issues has the
potential to reveal severe or chronic pathological states or even suicide
ideation. . . for which career counselors should be adequately prepared
to manage” (p. 503). Several studies have shown that psychological distress
is associated with career decision-making difficulties, and depression
and general emotional distress are associated with career concerns and hopelessness (Constantine & Flores, 2006; Fouad et al., 2006; Gati et al.,
2011; Lease, 2004). Depression has also been found to have a significant
relationship with dysfunctional career thinking (Dagenhart, 2004; Saunders
et al., 2000; Walker & Peterson, 2012).


Read the complete article here.

DBHDD at the Georgia Mutual Aid Task Force Meeting

DBHDD was center stage at the Georgia Mutual Aid Task Force meeting on June 16, 2017. The MATF is a quarterly meeting held at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, GA, and attendees representing healthcare organizations from all over the state meet to share ideas and best practices in emergency preparedness.

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are Babs Hall (Aspire BHS), Steve Herndon (DBHDD), Catherine Ivy (DBHDD), Sabrina Tuten (Unison BH) and Jeannette David (DBHDD)

DBHDD’s Catherine Ivy, Director of Community Services for the Division of Developmental Disabilities, gave a presentation highlighting the shift from an institutional-based model of health care delivery to a community-based system of care for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Ms. Ivy emphasized the importance for disaster planners to have an understanding of the needs of this populations so they can collaborate with service providers to meet those needs during times of disaster.

Steve Herndon, Project Director for the Georgia Recovery Project, works out of DBHDD’s Office of Adult Mental Health in Division of Behavioral Health. Mr. Herndon gave a presentation on the Georgia Recovery Project, which is a FEMA funded crisis counseling program for the survivors of the January 2017 tornadoes in South Georgia. The GRP operates out of Aspire Behavioral Health Services serving Dougherty and Worth counties and Behavioral Health Services of South Georgia and serving Berrien, Cook and Turner counties. The GRP is a program that provides outreach to the tornado survivors and services include: individual and group counseling, psychoeducation, assessment, referral and linkage to resources.

There were representatives from two CSBs at the MATF meeting as well. Sabrina Tuten from Unison Behavioral Health was there with her local disaster planning partners from the Region M healthcare coalition in southeast Georgia. Region M’s leadership comes from Memorial Satilla Health and GA Department of Public Health District 9-2 in Waycross. Babs Hall, from Aspire Behavioral Health out of Albany, GA, also attended the meeting. Ms. Hall is the Team Leader for Aspire’s GRP and oversees all aspects of the crisis counseling program for Dougherty and Worth counties. In addition to supervising 13 staff members, Babs has done an excellent job networking with other agencies involved in the tornado recovery and she’s had much success marketing the program through local media outlets.

Behavioral health and intellectual and developmental disabilities have always been underrepresented at MATF and other disaster planning meetings but it doesn’t have to be that way. Providers are encouraged to attend future meetings and get involved with their local healthcare coalition. The next meeting of the MATF is on Friday, September 15, 2017 at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, 1000 Indian Springs Road in Forsyth, GA from 9:00 AM to 2:30 PM and lunch is provided. Attending one of these meetings is a great way to meet your local disaster planning and response partners and learn about trends and best practices in the field of disaster preparedness and response. If you’d like more information about MATF and disaster planning contact DBHDD’s Disaster Mental Health Coordinator, Jeannette David, at

Independence in its Deepest Meaning

Happy Summer to all! The transition to a new season on the calendar offers an opportunity to reflect upon the previous months and also peek forward into the weeks ahead.

Summer represents different things to each of us. For some it is the relief from school schedules, for others, the promise of a planned vacation, and still others, the joy of ballgames or concerns about sweltering heat. One element of summer that brings us all together is the celebration of July Fourth. There is something about the waving of the Red, White and Blue of our nation’s flag that brings us together and compels us to think about the gifts of freedom and independence. Hot dogs in hand, with family and friends we honor both the idea of independence, and also the reality of the liberties that we enjoy. It is a great way to unify in celebration.

Of course, independence has additional meaning for DBHDD team members, and our partner providers and advocates. We strive to promote independence and integration into the community for individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) each and every day. Creating opportunities that allow for individual advancement is our mission, and I thank all of you for your collective commitment to demonstrating that Georgia can be a leader in this movement toward recovery and independence. Like every civil rights movement before it, the drive for people with disabilities to achieve more has been bolstered by very capable individuals that inspire and challenge us to push forward. Sometimes that requires assistance from DBHDD, and other times, that requires us to step out of the way. We are working hard to do both, so that our administrative necessities do not stand in the way of independence, but instead, facilitate it.

In June, I had the privilege to share in a celebration of Georgia’s leadership for people with disabilities. Governor and Mrs. Deal hosted a press conference at the Capitol to celebrate the launch of Georgia’s STABLE program. STABLE is the fulfillment of federal legislation designed to enhance the ability for people with disabilities to save and invest without losing benefits. It is tax-free savings plan that allows for qualified disability-related expenditures through the use of a STABLE card. You can learn more about this progressive program through the link on the DBHDD website or directly at The press conference featured DCH Commissioner Frank Berry, Chair of the Georgia’s ABLE Board, Rep. Lee Hawkins, sponsor of Georgia’s ABLE legislation, and Tena Blakely, representing advocates and providers in Georgia. Governor Deal’s personal pride and commitment to people with disabilities was on full display. The wind beneath the wings of this effort is most certainly individuals that motivate us through individual courage and achievement. It is a proud step forward toward individual independence for people with disabilities.

This reflection upon freedom offers an additional opportunity for gratitude. This expression of thanks is to our veterans that bravely answered the call to serve our country and many of whom answered a similar call to serve Georgia’s most vulnerable individuals. DBHDD and our provider network employ numerous veterans, and we want to thank each of you for your commitment to serve. We honor your courage, dedication, and the selfless work you do each day. At our state office at 2 Peachtree, we are inspired every day by Dr. Emile Risby, DBHDD’s Medical Director. Dr. Risby is a Colonel in the United States Army Reserve and embraces this duty with the same enthusiasm that he leads our hospitals. This is further evidence that the goals and values we strive to achieve are often embodied by those right in front of us.

Happy Independence Day to us all!

Judy Fitzgerald, Commissioner
Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities

Coordinated Specialty Care Programs for First-Episode Psychosis: Georgia’s LIGHT-ETP Initiative

In 2015, under the leadership of Monica Johnson, Director of the Division of Behavioral Health, and Dawne Morgan, Director of Federal Grant Programs and Special Initiatives, DBHDD began developing the Listening, Inspiring, and Guiding Healthy Transitions Early Treatment Program (LIGHT-ETP), to bring Coordinated Specialty Care services to Georgia’s young adults ages 16-30.

Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC) is an evidence-based approach to providing team-based, integrated treatment to young people in the early stages of severe mental illness, with the goal of reducing disability and promoting long-term recovery.

Recognizing that many individuals with conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder experience the first symptoms of illness during adolescence and young adulthood; and that many encounter long delays before receiving effective, evidence-based treatment, LIGHT-ETP is an ambitious effort to address the needs of young people and their families at a critical point in their lives.

The goals of LIGHT-ETP include early detection of psychosis; rapid access to coordinated, team-based, specialty care; recovery-focused interventions; and youth- and young-adult-friendly services that emphasize engagement, person-centered planning, shared decision making, assertive outreach, and family involvement.

The services offered by these multi-disciplinary teams include psychotherapy, case management, supported education and employment, peer support, family support and education, medication management, and primary care coordination.  The intended outcomes: a reduction in the duration of untreated symptoms and illness; reduction in unnecessary hospitalizations; and improved clinical, social, and academic/occupational functioning.

Research conducted worldwide over the past two decades supports the value of early intervention following an initial episode of psychosis.  In the U.S., findings from the National Institute of Mental Health’s RAISE (Recovery after Initial Schizophrenia Episode) Study ( which was launched in 2009 spurred the implementation of CSC services in community settings throughout the country.

Over 150 young people have been served in DBHDD’s Coordinated Specialty Care programs, which are currently offered by four Community Service Boards and are funded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s Community Mental Health Block Grant.  Advantage Behavioral Health Systems in Athens, Aspire in Albany, and River Edge in Macon now have Coordinated Specialty Care programs.  View Point Health in Metro Atlanta has two CSC teams, one serving DeKalb and Fulton counties, the other serving Gwinnett County.  McIntosh Trail, in Region 6, will have a CSC program operating within the next few months.

Hospitalization rates and legal system involvement have substantially decreased for young people in DBHDD’s CSC programs, and the focus on education and employment has resulted in many program participants remaining in or returning to school, and finding and keeping meaningful work.

For further information on the LIGHT-ETP initiative, or to make a referral to a Coordinated Specialty Care program, please contact Project Coordinator Ellen Dean at