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Making life choices in therapy

How to create an empowering narrative

Often when we stand in front of life choices we feel uncertain and ask others what they think is right. I think it’s less about right and wrong and more about the narrative we want to tell ourselves about that choice.

Before we apply the moral judgements it can be helpful to think about what is the story we want to tell ourselves about this decision. I think we want to go for the choice that promotes values such as:
- Autonomy

- Self-empowerment (using our internal resources)

- Self-support (our ability to support ourselves)

The reason why we would prefer these values is based on the simple principle of what’s helpful and what isn’t. As a therapist I learned that everyone has a moral compass, which may or may not be aligned with mine, so I talk about things in terms of what’s helpful and what isn’t. Because we all have a sense of what is beneficial for our mental health and what is damaging. Sometimes we think something is helpful, but it proves to be effective only on the short term so we need to move to more long-term solutions.

It's also possible that my choice of values is based on my theoretical assumptions: I use a Humanistic model for therapy. This model is sometimes criticised for being biased towards positivistic views of humans. The bias is that Humanistic Psychotherapy believes in the so-called 'formative tendency': the ability of humans to improve themselves. I do recognise this as a bias, but most of the time it helps me to really believe in my clients' ability to self-develop. See Levitt (2005) and Tudor & Worrall (2006).

I’m thinking about the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. We want to create an internal narrative where we are coming out as empowered and enriched by the difficulties. In order to do this, some helpful questions are:
What do I want to tell myself about this?
Who do I want to be in this story?
What type of character would I be?

It is also very human to have self-doubt, especially about important life choices. So it’s important to stress that we can only do the best with the resource we have in the here-and-now. If the circumstances change, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. It might be highly likely for things to change and evolve, so we need to remember that in life nothing is forever and we can always change again. We need to allow ourselves to make mistakes and learn from them.
Life is a process and it’s an ever-changing fluid, embracing the change will help us to feel more OK with our choices.


Levitt, B. E. (2005) Embracing non-directivity: reassessing person-centered theory and practice in the 21st century.

Tudor, K. and Worrall, M. (2006) Person-centred therapy: a clinical philosophy. London: Routledge.