Distance career counseling… are we ready to take the leap?

Distance career counseling… are we ready to take the leap?

January 6, 2020

Over the past few years, I’ve been working on a doctorate on the practice of distance career counseling. In French I use the expression “accompagnement à distance en orientation .”

The title of my thesis project is “An analysis of the transfer and production of professional skill and knowledge in distance career counseling practises.” In Quebec, we could also use the expression “career counseling  telepractice.” This last expression tends to prevail in Quebec when referring to distance practices in the field of mental health and human relations. This winter, I’m completing the data collection by interviewing career counselors, most of whom are members of the Order of Career Counselors of Quebec. Over twenty counselors who have developed a practice of distance career counseling have participated in the research so far.  I’ve pondered many observations and thoughts and continue to do so as I progress in my doctoral research.

I like to remind counselors who question me on the subject that, of all the professionals in the field of mental health and human relations, it’s probably the counselors working in career development who are most familiar with the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).  ICT has been used for over 40 years to disseminate educational and professional information and labour market information, and to administer questionnaires and tests to our various client bases (Sampson et al., 2019).  Which counselor hasn’t used “Career Cruising,” “Choice,” “REPÈRES,” “LMI online” and “Jobbank.gc.ca” in its practice?

My readings and participation in various congresses and conferences in the field of career development, both in Canada and abroad, have brought my attention to the fact that few career development counselors offer distance counseling, and when they do, it is generally anecdotal; in other words, at some point, a client may request that the session be held at distance on the next occasion (Turcotte and Goyer, 2017). These counselors spontaneously use the application they know best for their email exchanges or videoconference meetings. Among the comments I’ve gathered from the surveys I’ve conducted among career counselors, which I’ve also found in the results of similar international surveys, career counselors and other professionals who work in career development would be willing to engage in distance practices if they felt supported by their associations or orders, whether through practice guides or training courses.

In a comparative analysis of the available literature on the subject in the field of counselling and psychotherapy, which I conducted when determining my research question, I came up with several observations (Turcotte and Goyer, 2018). In particular, that most counseling practises using ICT are generally short-term interventions; that these distance methods respond to various difficulties, particularly those related to career development, relationships, employability, anxiety, etc. And that these distance interventions can be as effective as those conducted in person.

This is what sparked my interest in the transfer and production of professional skill and knowledge.  What happens when counselors who have always offered career counseling in person decide to offer this service remotely? This is the subject of my thesis, and a very preliminary analysis of the data collected already seems to indicate that this is more likely a tendency to adjust, to adapt skills and knowledge, than a totally new practice in comparison to in-person career counseling.  I’ve also noted that the participants in this research generally take an ethical stance on this practice, in particular with regard to the protection of information and the confidentiality of conversations. This winter I am therefore devoting myself to data analysis, and over the course of the year, I plan to make presentations at annual conferences or symposiums in the field of career development. In the meantime, if you wish to discuss the subject and share your experience with me, you may reach me at the following email address: turcotte.michel@gmail.com

Michel Turcotte, Career Counselor, Psychologist

PhD student in Sciences de l’orientation (the sciences of career counseling), Laval University



Sampson, J.P., Kettunen, J. and Vuorinen, R. (2019). The role of practitioners in helping persons make effective use of information and communication technology in career interventions. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance. Doi.or/10.1007/s10775-019-09399-y

Turcotte, M., et Goyer, L. (2017). L’utilisation des technologies de l’information et des communications dans la pratique des conseillers et des conseillères d’orientation du Québec. [The use of information and communication technology by career counselors of Quebec.]  Revue canadienne de développement de carrière, 16(2), 6-11.

Turcotte, M., et Goyer, L. (2018). L’accompagnement en orientation à distance à l’ère du numérique : nouvelle forme d’accompagnement ou nouvel environnement ? [Distance career counseling in the digital age: new form of counseling or new environment?] Revue de l’éducation de l’Université d’Ottawa, 5(3), 55-59.


About the author :

Michel Turcotte is a guidance counselor and psychologist. The Canadian Career Development Foundation has recently awarded him the Audrey Stechynsky Scholarship. After a thirty-year career at the Canadian Department of Employment and Social Development, where he worked as a counsellor, counselling trainer, and Research and Policy Development manager, Michel started a doctoral thesis in vocational guidance on the subject of remote career guidance at Université Laval in 2013. He is a member of the Centre de recherche et d’intervention sur l’éducation et la vie au travail (CRIEVAT) and the Laboratoire de recherche sur l’analyse des dispositifs d’accompagnement et de la compétence à s’orienter (ADACO). He received the Etta St. John Wileman Award from Ceric in 2017, the Stu Conger Gold Medal in 2014, the Stu Conger Award in 2008 and the Quebec Interprofessional Council’s Merit Award in 2012 for the leadership he demonstrated throughout of his career in career development.