Vocational guidance and career counseling is the primary service provided to all applicants applying for vocational rehabilitation services. Vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors specialize in helping people with a disability acquire employment. Yet, when the person has a disability and a criminal record this adds an additional element for consideration. The object of this research is Louisiana vocational rehabilitation counselors in the Baton Rouge Regional Office (BRRO) and their vocational guidance and career counseling skills of people with a disability and a criminal record. For vocational rehabilitation counselors are required to apply theoretically-based career counseling practices in the provision of vocational guidance and career counseling. The expected outcome is the agreement of an employment goal between both the person with a disability and a criminal record and the VR counselor. The purpose of this qualitative research study is to explore the perceptions and actual experiences of vocational rehabilitation counselors in their usage of career theories when providing vocational guidance and career counseling to with people with a disability and a criminal record.
Given the scarce amount of research on career counseling of people with a disability and a criminal record, anecdotal information from BRRO vocational rehabilitation counselors, and the researcher's experience working as a VR counselor, the researcher used the heuristic qualitative design to explore these perceptions and actual experiences. The nature of heuristics incorporates the researcher's work experience as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. Therefore, through review of literature and face to face interviews, the efficacy of the career theories is explored along with successes and challenges faced by Louisiana rehabilitation counselors in helping clients select an appropriate employment goal.
From the individual case studies, the themes of expectations, autonomy, counselor development, and fidelity to theories emerged from the data analysis. Eventually, the core category of incongruence in theory and practice emerged from the themes. The final chapter provides a discussion of the findings through the heuristic lens of the researcher. Additionally, implications for VR counselors, educators, and supervisors, future recommendations for research, and closing summary are provided. (author abstract)