Holland’s Typology Theory Overview

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Career counseling assumes knowledge in counseling theories and models, which helps form more transparent plans for working with clients. Counseling models also offer tools in the form of various questionnaires and inventories that assess self-knowledge and occupational knowledge, skills, values, attitudes, and the state of the patient’s psyche. For example, in connection with the use of Holland’s theory, such tools as Strong Interest Inventory (SII) or the Self Directed Search (SDS) are used. Equally well known is the Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) theory, which contains a problem gap bridging scheme that reflects the gap between the real and the desired state of career affairs. This theory is applied using the Career Thoughts Inventory (CTI) tool – a workbook that a client fills out to map out their strengths, weaknesses, and career development goals. This paper aims to present an overview of Holland’s and Cognitive Information Processing theories, consider how these theories can be applied to clients’ needs, and what objections exist among scientists about these theories.

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Applying Theories to Counselling Career

Holland’s Typology Theory Overview

John Holland’s Typology theory reflects Holland’s view that people choose careers due to their preferences, which are associated with the personality type and multiple aspects of their background. Holland recognizes that self-knowledge and occupational knowledge are two key concepts that influence career decisions. Simultaneously, the choice is influenced by the person’s conformity to the occupational environment, which is called congruence and strongly influences the subsequent job satisfaction. Particular needs in the occupational environment are called modal personal orientation, which is conclusive in decision-making.

According to Holland, six personality types reflect modal personal orientation and fit into the acronym RIASEC. R stands for Realistic occupational environment orientation, and I stands for Investigative, A – for Artistic, S – for Social, E – for enterprising, and C – for Conventional occupation. Based on this typology, Holland further developed the Holland’s Occupational Classification (HOC) system that utilizes the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) numbers (Zunker, 2016). The presented theory implies that there are six types of people described above and six corresponding environment types in Western culture.

Therefore, people tend to work in environments that provide an opportunity to manifest their innate or acquired skills, attitudes, and values. Holland assumes that three types can be dominant for each person and places the distinguished types in the form of a hexagon. Then he deduces five basic concepts related to the relationship between types. According to the scientist, the first key concept is consistency between the dominant types; the second concept is differentiation. The third is the identity of individuals and environments, the fourth concept is congruence, and the fifth is calculus.

Holland’s theory applies to everyone, including practicing and future psychologists. For me, this model makes sense, as it reflects a principle that work should be a continuation of a person – their spiritual aspirations, dreams, talents. Holland’s theory’s uniqueness is that he paid particular attention to the occupational environment and defined a specific connection between the individual and the environment inherent in a specific profession. From early childhood, many people intuitively feel this connection that determines their future choices. The environment is more a way of life than a set of work tasks and can express a person’s real dreams and aspirations.

My 3-letter code is SIA, which means that I belong to the Social-Investigative-Artistic type. According to the concepts of consistency and differentiation, and given the dominance of type S, my metrics say that I have a consistent and well-defined personality style. Besides, I have clear and stable goals, interests, and talents according to the results. It is good news as I would like to continue my professional development in psychology, especially considering that my occupational environment is highly congruent with my type.

The prevalence of type S indicates that I tend to find myself in social situations and environments, care about other people’s problems, and strive to change the world for the better. High I and A scores are also favorable for the psychology profession, as they indicate a potential for information analysis and artistic presentation. Moreover, a psychologist’s career is included in the list of recommended occupations for the SIA type. Unfortunately, earlier I had a chance to work in an environment, which had a low congruence with my type. For a while, I worked as a manager in a small company, and my responsibilities included filling out forms and serving customers by phone; this job seemed unbearably dull to me, and I soon quit.

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Applying Holland’s Theory in Counselling Practice

The application of Holland’s theory in counseling practice is possible by using specific inventories and diagnostic measures, like the Strong Interest Inventory (SII) and the Self Directed Search (SDS) assessment tools. Using an SDS assessment booklet may entail four main steps. The first step is asking the person to list occupational inspirations, indicate preferred activities, competencies, occupational preferences, and rate their abilities in the six areas. The client is then asked to score the responses, calculate six summary scores, and obtain a 3-letter summary code. The second step is finding related occupations through an occupational finder. The third step is comparing the code of the current vocational inspiration with the summary code. The final step is encouraging the person to make some next steps on the career decision-making journey.

The most striking evidence of the versatility and widespread acceptance of Holland’s theory is that its related tool, the SII, has been translated into 20 languages and is still used in consulting practice worldwide. Some scholars think that when using Holland’s theory, the counselor should consider the peculiarities of the occupational environment, for example, in the field of sports (Pierce & Johnson, 2017). Other scholars believe that the theory is universal and applicable to both consultants and their clients (Reardon, 2017). It must be admitted that, despite its practicality, Holland’s theory is not the only way of career counseling, and therefore should be complemented by other approaches. In particular, in a multicultural framework, consultants can use the Multicultural model, which implies establishing culturally appropriate relationships, evaluating the impact of cultural variables, and making culturally appropriate interventions.

Cognitive Information Processing Theory Overview

Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) theory provides a framework for the consultant, who helps the client change maladaptive thinking related to careers by formulating an Individual Learning Plan (ILP). According to this theory, the career decision-making process can be defined as problem-solving. In this case, problem-solving is viewed as a series of cognitive functions or decisions that bridge the gap between the current and preferred career situations.

The framework includes a sequence of actions or steps when working with a client. These are initial interviews, preliminary assessment, defining problem gap, formulating goals, developing ILP, executing ILP, making summative review and generalization, and repeating the third through sixth steps if needed. The CIP theory and CIP model utilize the CASVE approach. C stands for Communication during which the problem is perceived as a gap, A – for Analysis when the problem is reduced to components. S stands for Synthesis when the problem is restricted, and alternatives are created, V – for Valuing solutions or evaluating options, and E – for Execution, when problem solutions are accomplished.

A consultant who applies this model works in three dimensions: Knowledge Domain, Decision Skills Domain, and Executive Processing Domain. Within the first domain, an assessment of self-knowledge and occupational knowledge is given, and the second consists of five stages associated with the CASVE cycle. The third domain reflects the patient’s ability to initiate, coordinate, accumulate, and retrieve information. It is noteworthy that the seven steps that outline the model and lead to the development of ILP are more or less standard for all developmental models, including the multicultural model. The existing five career counseling models contain counseling goals, intake interviews, assessment, diagnosis, and counseling.

Once I was seriously puzzled by the need to get my dream job, and at this time, I had to face many problems. On the one hand, I was hampered by issues with self-esteem and self-confidence. Despite my rather good self-knowledge, I tried to adapt to interviewers’ expectations during job interviews. Moreover, I strived to convince myself that I have the broadest spectrum of professional and personal qualities. One of my main concerns was the fear of commitment, as I didn’t want to be the target of family criticism in case of failure. I also understood that I lacked experience and occupational knowledge. Over time, I managed to dispel my illusions and accept that it is impossible to make a career in all areas. It gave me confidence and allowed me to expand my occupational knowledge with great interest and inner peace.

Applying CIP Theory in Counselling Practice

As part of the CIP model, counseling starts by asking the client to share their background. It is the first step named initial interview, which allows find out the client’s self-assessment, goals, and level of confidence in their abilities and skills. The client is then asked to submit their career goals in writing to conduct a preliminary assessment. After that, the consultant and client have another conversation, discussing what was written to define the problem gap, consisting of several elements. During the conversation, the consultant offers the client to form career goals and suggests using the Career Thoughts Inventory (CTI) tool. Based on new goals, the consultant and the client develop and execute an Individual Learning Plan to overcome a problem gap.

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The CTI tool can also be used in stage 2 when a preliminary assessment is carried out if the client does not provide enough information about himself. The completed CTI is often used for dysfunctional clients with personality disorders in Stage 6 when the client and the consultant review the completed CTI workbook. Its full title is Improving Your Career Thoughts: A Workbook for the Career Thoughts Inventory. It is used for cognitive restructuring, within which the client uses a four-step procedure of identifying, challenging, altering destructive thoughts, and taking action.

It must be admitted that not all clients have the cognitive capacity to restructure their thoughts. Therefore, filling out a CTI and its subsequent analysis is not always useful. The consultant’s invisible guidance may be much more effective. In the career decision-making process, the client uses all his mental and emotional resources to advance in self-knowledge and occupational knowledge. Scientists believe that the client experiences memory overload at such moments since changes in self-knowledge entail occupational knowledge changes when the client becomes open to new prospects. It is thought that the treatment of personality disorders can be carried out simultaneously with career counseling, in particular, using the CTI model. Scholars also see the importance of the ethical use of assessment tools, including the CTI workbook (Sargent & Lenz, 2017). At the same time, scientists emphasize that the assessment method’s usefulness can be determined by how effectively it combines research theory and practice, noting that the CTI tool successfully integrates these elements.


Thus, an overview of Holland’s theory and Cognitive Information Processing theory was presented. These theories are the most versatile and useful in career counseling, as they offer a clear set of tools for working with clients. The first theory allows finding the occupational environment that best matches the client’s personality type. The second theory enables the instructor to look at career development in terms of the client’s ability to make career decisions. It is highly effective when dealing with clients who have personality disorders or other individual problems. In particular, the CIP theory is useful because it allows clients to find balance and self-confidence. The paper also presented the scientists’ criticism, who nevertheless recognize the value of the proposed theories.


Pierce, D., & Johnson, J. (2017). Applying Holland’s vocational choice theory in sport management. Sport Management Education Journal, 11(2), 72-87.

Reardon, R. C. (2017). Holland’s integration of career theory, research, and practice. Society for Vocational Psychology: Integrating Theory, Research, and Practice, 4(1), 28-38.

Sargent, A. C., & Lenz, J. G. (2017). The Career Thoughts Inventory (CTI) and CTI workbook: A purposeful integration of theory, research, and practice in career assessment and intervention. Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, 33(4), 45-51.

Zunker, V. (2016). Career counseling: A holistic approach (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

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