Karpman Triangle

How to Avoid the Karpman Triangle Trap in Career Counseling

Karpman Triangle Trap. In my practice, there were two cases when parents asked me to work on the issue of finding a job for their adult children.

First case

The young man is 24 years old, has experience in the bank. He was fired due to the fact that he got into a bad story with microloans, collectors called to work and he was fired at the request of the security service. At first, I tried to look for a job but was unsuccessful. Now he is not looking for a job, he is sitting at home.

His mother turned to me with a request to help. During the conversation, she suggested using manipulations to influence her son: “I will pay you, and you tell him that you are working with him on credit so that he will give you from the first salary.”

Second case

Girl, 25 years old. Work experience in different companies is minimal for several months. There is no desire to work, there is a desire to find a man who will support her. The mother turned to whom her daughter returned after another unsuccessful relationship. Mom refuses to help financially but is ready to pay for the required number of consultations.

What is Karpman’s triangle

Work with clients very often goes on the border of professional career assistance and psychological. The Karpman triangle model is well suited to describe these cases.

It is a psychological and social model of interaction between people in transactional analysis. The model was first described by Stephen Karpman, therefore it bears his name. Usually consists of three roles: victim, stalker, and rescuer.

Based on this interpretation, the roles were distributed as follows:

  • parent (customer of the service) – the persecutor (“I am not satisfied that my son/daughter does not work”),
  • child (client) – victim (“I don’t want to work / I was asked to talk to you”),
  • career counselor – lifeguard (desired role from the point of view of the parent-employer).

How not to fall into the Karpman triangle

At the beginning of the consulting practice, there is a risk of entering this triangle and “doing good to everyone.” To succumb to the temptation that with the tools and knowledge, the consultant can easily solve this situation. But a career counselor is not a Malibu lifeguard who can jump into any stormy body of water and haul a drowning client out.

Here it would be more appropriate to offer additional help from a psychologist or psychotherapist, otherwise, a drowning person will drown an inexperienced rescuer. The result of the wrong interaction will be a disappointment on two sides: the consultant who could not solve the request, and the customer who did not see the desired result for himself.

Since this role model is obviously unprofessional and does not lead to the desired result, in both cases I voiced several conditions to the customers that helped them stay in the professional field and not enter the role of “rescuer”:

1. A career counselor adheres to ethical rules:

  • does not deceive the client, does not use the manipulations and recommendations offered by the customer (“scare”, “push”, “be strict”);
  • does not discuss information that the client considers confidential with the client (such information was announced by the client and was not provided to the client in the report).

2. A career consultant does not guarantee the result expected by the client since the work following the consultation must be carried out by the client. To find a job, tools were offered, homework was sent.

3. A career counselor is not a psychologist or psychotherapist who solves deep relationships in the client’s family. It does not assess the behavior or actions of the customer or client.

4. The career counselor provides a written report on the results of the sessions, indicating the tools and results of the diagnosis.

After discussing with the customer and taking ethical rules as a basis for the work, I held several sessions.

Consultation with a young man

A number of sessions: one.
Request: can’t get a job.
The main experience was in the banking sector, he considered vacancies only from this area. Received rejections for several months.

What has been done: we have compiled a list of directions in which it can develop professionally, excluding the banking business. As a result, we got 7 options (logistics, travel business, etc.). As a homework assignment, I offered to choose two or three options on which he would focus and send me examples of the vacancies that interested him.

Bottom line: I did not receive my homework from him. According to his mother, the young man perked up: for the first time in a long time he got in touch and began to discuss possible options with his parents. Its further history is unknown to me.

Consultation with a girl

A number of sessions: two.
Request: I want to understand where to develop and where to work.

What was done: a list of areas and companies where I would like to work was created (first session). The requirements for the company and the manager have been clarified, and the main motive for finding a job has been identified (second session).

Homework: find vacancies and pass an interview.

Bottom line: at the time of this writing, the client has gone through several interviews at a company that is of interest to her (study group curator). Periodically asks for help in checking the company’s reliability. Now she got a job as an administrator in a salon, but she works for the money. There is a preliminary agreement on the third session, where we will finally form an understanding of development. I also suggested working through the identified personal “painful” stories with a psychologist.

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