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Artwork from Discovery Education http://www.discoveryeducation.com/products/streaming/

Special Event!

If you plan to attend the 2009 Counselling Arabia Conference, be sure to listen to Norm, who is featured speaker to give the closing address. He has also been asked to give a one day workshop after the conference. Norm says, "This conference brings together people from a number of countries and it should be interesting. If some of you decide to attend I would be happy to connect."

Host: Abu Dhabi Women’s College in the United Arab Emirates from Dates: April 7 – 9, 2009

Theme: Transitions: Evolutions of Client and Practitioner

What: Counselling Arabia Annual Event (7th year)

Audience: Professionals and students in counselling, career development, academic advising and human resources, as well as corporate trainers, social work professionals and special needs practitioners.
Further information: www.counsellingarabia2009.org


DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.
Pattern Identification Exercise (PIE)

Norman Amundson

The pattern identification exercise is based on the assumption that a careful examination of experience will reveal signicant life patterns. These patterns are unique and are embedded within the lived experience of each person. To illustrate, consider how people involve themselves in a sport such as tennis. Several people may indicate an interest in the sport, but it is only when you examine the particular experiences that you see the differences. For one person, playing tennis may be a social activity, one in which they have the opportunity to be with others in a friendly and congenial atmosphere. As they describe positive and negative experiences, they will undoubtedly emphasize some of the good times socializing both on and off the court. For another person, the experience may be very different. The competition might be the signicant factor. And for someone else the physical exercise may be of paramount importance. While drawn together by the common bond of tennis, each person brings to the situation very different needs and perspectives. Understanding these perspectives and needs can facilitate personal insights that have direct application to career choice, job search, and job satisfaction.

In using this method, any number of different types of experience can be analyzed. I have found it helpful to begin with some of the domains that people are less likely to associate with traditional career exploration. Leisure experiences are often a good starting point. People are usually willing to talk quite candidly about their leisure experiences. It is an easy way to initiate a discussion and the conversation flows smoothly. Of course, not all life patterns are contained within one set of leisure experiences. For a more comprehensive analysis it can be helpful to sample experiences from a number of different domains, i.e. working life, education, spiritual experiences, family life, etc.

The steps of inquiry associated with the pattern identification exercise are listed below (Amundson, 1995b):

1. Ask the client to think about a particular activity; this activity can come from a number of different domains. Once the activity has been defined, ask the person to think about a specific time when it was very enjoyable and a time when it was less so.

2. Have the client describe in detail the positive and negative experiences. Some questions can be asked at this point to facilitate a full description of events. Ask about the people involved, feelings, thoughts, challenges, successes and motivations. What are the particular dynamics that differentiate the positive and negative dynamics? Depending on the situation, it may be helpful to extend the questioning to some of the contextual issues. Ask about how their interest developed over time and what they project for the future. As the story is told, it is helpful for the counsellor to write down what is being said, either on a flip chart or a large piece of paper clearly visible to the client. This information will serve as the foundation for the analysis; and, thus, it is important to get down on paper everything that is said. (Generally I am not in favour of note taking during a session, and it can be helpful to discuss this beforehand if it might be an issue.) Whatever is being written down should be in clear view f or the client as well as the counsellor.

3. After a full discussion, have the client consider what types of patterns are suggested by the information that has been generated. Give the client every opportunity to make connections and provide ongoing support and encouragement. Ask how each specific piece of information suggests something about the client, i.e. goals, values, aptitudes, personal style, interests (from the Wheel). During this period, you can provide some input. The statements you make should be tentative and be positively linked with client comments. While this can be an excellent opportunity for reframing, it is important not to lose sight of the contribution made by the client.

4.  Following the identification of themes, you move to application issues. As above, the client speaks first and then you follow with your comments. The question here is how personal information relates to career choice and action planning.

To illustrate the PIE method, consider the case of a young man who was working as a car salesman but was having difficulty making sales. He seemed to like his job but wasn’t having much success with it. The leisure experience that he described involved tennis. He referred to a positive incident where he was playing a good player and was “at the top of his game.” His strokes were crisp, both on the forehand and the backhand. When he described the negative experience, he referred to another time when he was playing very poorly. He was overhitting the ball and having a difficult time keeping the ball in the court. As we looked at this situation, what became apparent was the focus on technical proficiency versus actually winning a point or the game. In many ways this was similar to his experience in sales–he enjoyed meeting people and making the sales pitch but had difficulty actually closing the sale. He was so focused on getting the information out to the customer that he never got to the next step. This case brings up an interesting question, “Is it possible for him to change?” While it is extremely difficult to alter a pattern, it is not impossible. In this case the young man had to practice the final stage of salesmanship. This worked for awhile, but his heart was really in a different place and he ended up going back to school to pursue an Education degree. Even within education, however, it was important to learn how to get a commitment, to “close the sale,” and he continued striving toward that goal.

There are several advantages to using the PIE approach for career exploration. The most obvious advantage is the fact that rather than initiating separate inquiries with respect to interests, values and so on, it is possible to utilize one procedure. The inquiry that is conducted has credibility since it is based on life experiences with interpretation that is client validated. Clients through this approach are engaged in an activity which not only provides insights but also teaches a procedure for ongoing analysis. Positive reports have been obtained from a wide range of clients. Comments often refer to the surprisingly potent nature of the activity. For further study of this procedure, review some of the case examples illustrated on the accompanying DVDs. 

One limitation of the PIE method is its reliance on description and analysis by clients. The effectiveness of the procedure is somewhat dependent on the cognitive abilities of both the client and the counsellor. 


Used by Permission. An Excerpt from Active Engagement: Enhancing the Career Counselling Process, by Norm Amundson. Published by Ergon Communications, http://www.ergon-communications.com.


Amundsen, N. & Thorbjorn, F. Talking Silence, DPU Quarterly Newsletter.


Norm's "PIE method" should not be confused with the same phrase taught for 25 years by Daniel Porot of Geneva Switzerland, who wrote a book entitled "The PIE Method" (1995). In Porot's book,  "PIE" refers to three types of interviews: Practice, Information, and Employment.


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Interview Questions

  1. You wrote in your article on "Talking Silence" (DPU Quarterly newsletter), "When you are not so consumed by goals you can learn to listen to the world around you. In the twenty-first century, I think more people are interested in values and spirituality and life balance."  How do you apply that ability to "listen to the world around you" in your own life? 
  2. As a full professor at a major university, you have a certain amount of security at this stage of your career.  What about a person starting out in their career or in mid-career or in later-life career (who may have reduced  much of their investments in the stock market crash or can't pay their mortgage or have no savings?) Whether or not they have financial challenges, how can the average worker integrate values and spirituality and life balance?
  3. How would you suggest counselors and other helping professionals go about "listening to the world around you?"
  4. You mentioned in your article that values clarification and vision management today look at values as "things to have" or a "tool to control with."  What do you mean by that and how does your way of vision management and reflection on values differ from that description?
  5. In your article, you said, "We can't just say that ["Spiritualty"] can't be discussed in vocational guidance.  You said, "...you have to look at work in the context of the whole life."  What are you hearing these days from clients and counselors that is important to them and that affects their career development?  Can you give us an example of questions you might ask a client related to values, spirituality, or life balance? (any volunteers for an example)
  6. In your exercise, you mention "The Wheel".  What is the Wheel and how can counselors and career advisors use it to help a client in career transition? (click here for visual of wheel)
DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.
User-uploaded Content
DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.