Careers: Therapy just the job for the unemployed: Special counselling techniques attempt to provide the newly redundant with an opportunity to discover their life's work

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WHEN someone is made redundant, the natural reaction is to seek to obtain a similar job as soon as possible. But according to staff at one of the UK's largest consultancies, this can be self-defeating.

Although financial commitments and fears about loss of status may convince them they have to rush back to the work they know, such people can often benefit from taking the time to reassess the sort of jobs they are really suited to - and are therefore more likely to keep. Indeed, Robin Linnecar, a partner at KPMG Career Consultancy Services, regards 'trying to put things into perspective' as an important part of the job.

Consequently, while the firm's offices, like other outplacement agencies, contain jobs noticeboards and libraries of appropriate directories and magazines, and employ experts in interviewing techniques and negotiating skills, they have a few other features besides. In particular, they make great use of 'alternative' counsellors practising such arts as 'visioning' - in which clients use yoga-type techniques to relax and so discover what they want from life - as well as psychologists who can prove especially useful in reducing the stress in client's domestic lives as a result of their newfound state.

Judith Mills, a visioning counsellor, acknowledges that there is some scepticism about such techniques, but argues that the firm would not be using them if they did not work.

She sees a greater role for this approach as more executives and managers find themselves unemployed.

'In the last six months, we've had more damaged people coming through,' she said. 'They are exhausted, with lots of stress; burnt out.'

But these people can also be the most receptive to the KPMG approach. 'One underlying theme that comes out is 'I'm going to have a balanced lifestyle from now on.' '

Sandra Anderson, an occupational psychologist whose husband is unemployed, has recently produced a booklet based on a survey of how partners of people made redundant cope. 'It is vital that the 'other half' is counselled,' she said.

If this raises problems, the client and spouse can be referred to other agencies, such as Relate, the marriage guidance group, or Alcoholics Anonymous, that can provide specialist help. 'We know our limitations,' she said.

While some people have difficulty adjusting to being out of work and attend the offices every working day, most go in for about three days a week. The average stay is two to three months. And while the organisation does not see itself as simply transferring people from one job to another, it does claim to find most clients suitable jobs within that time. The success rate is about 90 per cent where participants are applying for jobs they know they are good at. But sometimes, Ms Mills adds, a fresh view can convince them they have something that can be transferred elsewhere.

This is what happened to one man who had had a career in a specialised area of a planning group. The consultants discovered that he was good at making information technology accessible to his colleagues, and he is now working for a computer training company.

Nor do people have to be unemployed to use the services of the 45 or so consultants in the UK firm.

'The idea is that we deal as much with people within organisations as with those going out,' Mr Linnecar said.

It is a tribute to the easy-going and open-minded style, which the staff claim has been a feature of the firm since John Hall founded it 10 years ago. But there is also a realisation that you have to be practical and pragmatic as well as holistic. 'You've got to have your feet on the ground as well as your head up in the clouds,' Mr Linnecar said.

(Photographs omitted)

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