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The experience and meaning of career decision-making as lived by women with brain injury Iaquinta, Maria

Abstract

Through explicit attention to diversity and a positive psychology frame, this phenomenological inquiry investigated the experience of career decision-making for women with brain injury. This group has been previously ignored in the career development and counselling, vocational psychology, and psychology literatures. There is a paucity of information about the subjective experience of career decision-making. The purpose of this study was to give women with brain injury a greater priority in career research and to illuminate the lived experience and meaning of career decision-making from the perspective of women with brain injury. Eight volunteers, involved in the community as a worker, volunteer, or student, described their career decision-making experiences through in-depth audio-taped interviews. Notwithstanding the initial severity of brain injury, participants richly articulated and illuminated their personal experience and meaning of career decision-making. Six common themes and five sub-themes emerged from a thematic analysis of the interview data. These were: (1) Continued Centrality of Career comprised of two interrelated sub-themes: the intensified meaning of paid work career, and the influence of rehabilitation in career decision-making; (2) Continued Centrality of the Relational in Career; (3) Sense of Life Purpose and Altered Life Perspective with a concomitant sub-theme of increased agency in career decision-making; (4) Sense of Continuity and Change in Identity; (5) Sense of Increased Vulnerability in Interactions comprised of two inversely related sub-themes: the sense of being devalued, and the sense of equality; and (6) Sense of Insecurity and Emotionality. The findings of this study revealed the experience of career-decision making to be a highly complex ongoing experience imbued with emotion and subjective meaning. Social interactions and the societal context, giving rise to positive or negative emotions, facilitated or obstructed the women's experience of career decision-making. These findings point to a. critical need for training about the potential of women with brain injury for rehabilitation and counselling professionals. The theoretical implications of the findings are discussed as they relate to research in brain injury and career. The implications for career counselling process, in relation to models of career-decision making and career counselling, are discussed and recommendations for future research are provided.

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