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Seppo Kontiainen & Kari Nurmi (eds.)
Historical and Evaluative Studies in Finland

2001; 5 articles; 160 pp.
Price 23€
ISBN 952-10-0159-3

University of Helsinki
Department of Education

Helsinki University Press

Seppo Kontiainen & Kari E. Nurmi


The study describes interactional structures by which counsellors and students in Finnish career guidance training courses carry out counselling encounters. Career guidance training is a form of labour market training aimed at helping unemployed people plan their career and life and improve their employment situation. Counselling is one of the training methods: it facilitates the learning process which is largely based on students’ self-directed activities. Career guidance training concepts depict counselling as an emerging, ’alternative’ practice. So far, there have been no empirical investigations of how counselling as a method of adult education is conducted in the actual interaction.

This study aims at filling this gap by analysing recorded counselling encounters inductively. The data consist of video- and audiotaped recordings of 21 counselling encounters with 7 counsellors from different parts of Finland. The study applies conversation analysis (’CA’). CA examines the ways in which participants construct activities in their real-time, turn-by-turn actions, accomplishing particular tasks and maintaining particular settings. Following the principles of CA in data gathering, transcription, and analysis, this study identifies features of institutional interaction relevant to adult educational counselling.

The report is structured around empirical analyses. A description of the basic activities of counselling is provided as a context for the analyses. The analyses focus on three conversational phenomena: (1) counsellors’ questions in managing the agenda for the encounter, (2) counsellors’ responses to troubles brought up by students, and (3) counsellors’ advice to students, their responses to the advice and counsellors’ treatment of their responses.

The study provides three kinds of results. Firstly, it delineates the basic activities carried out in counselling encounters. Secondly, it describes structures of interaction connected to the central constraints and aims of counselling, especially those connected to avoidance of directiveness and encouraging self-directedness. The study also suggests that certain interactional features result from the counsellors’ attempt to balance contradictory aims; both to avoid explicit directiveness and to direct the student. Thirdly, some findings contradict certain concepts of counselling. This is discussed under two themes: rethinking counsellors’ expertise and acknowledging the interactional limits of self-directedness.

Key words: counselling interaction, career guidance training, counselling/guidance in adult education, conversation analysis, institutional interaction, advice in counselling

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