Green Career Guidance and Counselling

Thursday, October 27, 2022
Helena Košťálová
There is a lot of talk about ecology today, sometimes passionately, sometimes with great disdain, and sometimes it feels like a fight to the death. And isn't it just a fad? Let's try to look at this topic with perspective and without emotion. Imagine living in a partnership with someone you pay close attention to while he/she ignores you. Or what if you just worked every day, without sleep and without following a lifestyle? Whether it's a relationship with a person, your own body, or the planet, balance is important. One cannot take long term without providing care.

You may ask why this topic should be relevant to career counseling. The world of work is closely tied to money, big companies, power and influence far more than the world of home. To maintain ecological balance, it is not enough that I sort yoghurt cups if I also work in a company that produces non-recyclable waste on a large scale. And few people have as much opportunity to influence the future shape of the world as career counsellors working with young people. Let's explore possible ways to put green counselling into practice.


For me personally, there are at least two perspectives on how to work with the topic of nature in career counselling. One is to integrate environmental themes into career counselling activities (i.e. we take care of nature). The other is to use the nature around us as a tool for self-discovery (nature takes care of us).


A) Taking care of nature

It may occur to some that there is often no time or energy left for "standard" career guidance in schools, let alone "green" career guidance... Let's try not to see it as an extra task, but as a natural part of the activities you would normally do. Show young people that it is normal to raise this topic. We all have a choice, and every choice has a consequence. For example, when you talk to pupils about what jobs exist, have them think about 'green' options at the same time. For example, Professor Peter Plant, who has been working on the subject for a long time, suggests these green jobs:

·      A lawyer who deals with environmental issues

·      A hairdresser who uses eco-degradable cosmetics

·      A farmer who uses organic fertilizers/feeds

·      A builder/mason who uses eco-friendly materials

·      A transporter who prefers an environmentally friendly form of transport etc.

Can you think of what a green footballer, chef, surveyor, designer, bartender, teacher, journalist, guitarist, discotheque operator or travel agency owner might look like?

In addition to existing careers, you can also make your clients and students aware of the possibility of creating new career. 


How about this: Crows may soon be Sweden’s newest litter pickers“. A Swedish start-up is training wild crows to pick up cigarette butts and place them in machine which dispenses food. A perfect example of what green guidance can be in practice. I can see a cooperation of humans, modern world (machine) and nature (crows). Our needs (clean streets) have been satisfied as well as the needs of crows (food). We all want to live better, but it must not be at the expense of our planet. And as the world changes, we need to find new ways to live in harmony with nature. We, humans, have been blessed with creativity, let's use it – like our colleagues in Sweden who have found a way to make both birds and people happy.


B) Nature takes care of us

But we can also take it from the other end. If we are part of nature, then nature can provide us with valuable information about ourselves. How so? Being in nature is an experience, and if we reflect on our experiences, we can learn a lot from them. It is very hard to imagine "what if..." and draw conclusions about our future based on that. How can a young underage person really know whether he or she will be a good baker, lawyer or zoologist, when he or she relies almost entirely on theoretical hypotheses, often influenced by distorted or incomplete information?


That is why the topic of self-knowledge must be an integral part of career counselling. And that is why we career counsellors work with real experiences – experiences that really happened and where we can say with certainty how we behaved (and how we felt). It's not realistic for every student to have tried a large number of careers, so we use any experiences for self-discovery.

And they can be experiences of nature, if we learn to listen to it. Ideally, school trips to the outdoors are a great opportunity to step slightly out of our comfort zone and experiment. For example, you could let your clients or students find their own spot (each different) around your temporary home and give them plenty of time to explore. The assignment is very simple - stay in place and be present with all your senses. Allow them to observe details, examine the texture of leaves or berries, smell forest scents, listen to silence or taste the bark of trees. Emotions will automatically come up and pupils can observe, make a record and look for connections. Follow-up reflective questions could be, for example: What thoughts were going through your mind? What did you like about the place? What did you like? Which of your senses was the strongest? Which did you notice more - the small details or the overall impression? Do these feelings remind you of any other situation? What do you take away from this experience? If you could keep any of these feelings for the future, what would they be? What else is important to you? What have you realized about yourself? etc.


Thanks to a real experience, your clients will realize some important information about themselves and then use this knowledge to plan their future (they already know better what they want...). This is the principle behind eco-art therapy, a therapeutic direction that promotes self-expression and self-knowledge through being in nature, in all weathers and at all times of the day and year. It is a way of learning to listen more to one's real needs and possibilities and less concerned with artificial images in the virtual world.


Eco-art therapy is a “daughter” of eco-psychology – a synthesis of psychology and ecology and the promotion of sustainability. It focuses on studying the emotional bond between humans and the Earth. Instead of forcing people to protect the environment (because we should, because we have to…), there are respectful invitations and understanding. As a green counsellor, we don´t tell people what they should do (“you should care about the environment…”). The green counsellor rather supports clients to find their own way, their own reasons why they should care for nature and the environment. And it means that in the end, both partners are happy, not only the people, but the nature too (like people in Swedish city Södertälje and the crows). As part of the green consulting process, we support the clients to build their own lifestyle that is sustainable not only for the planet, but also for themselves. And the client's well-being is an important part of the outcome.


Anything can be green. And green is also a symbol of naturalness. And that's what green consulting should be all about. You don't have to wait for complicated methodologies or regulations, start where it feels most natural to you personally, you certainly won't go wrong. Just like your students, your work must make sense to you. Whether you're looking for a fresh start or need to "recharge your batteries", try going green yourself, you'll do something for your body and mind. You may discover your own path to green counselling in the process.


Would you like to explore possibilities of green guidance with us? Sign up for our Eco-Art Therapy in Education course! It can be fully covered by Erasmus+ Programme. There we will introduce the concepts of eco-psychology and sustainability and show how to use these practically in school teaching and personal development courses. This unique training will bring you range of creative methods and the possibility to try them all out on yourself.




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