It’s not my intention to give full information or an extensive discussion on every theory. This website is intended to be a starting point and the main difference with other websites is the visual representation of the theory, which I hope will help get to grips with the theory. There are also links it the bottom to get your further research started.

Constructivism iconCareer Construction Theory & Life Design – Narrative approach -Psychodynamic Theory

Mark Savickas 2005


Savickas describes this as follows: “I distinguish the career construction theory of vocational behavior [] in applied psychology from life designing [] as a discourse in the counseling profession. I use the term life design to denote the third major paradigm for career intervention, subsequent to vocational guidance and career education []” (p.5, Savickas, 2015).


More information

Savickas studied under Super, and the developmental approach is very much on show in his thinking. He also bases his theory on ideas related to the narrative approach in that he has developed a 2 stage approach based on narrative instances in the client’s life, such as role models, books and magazines a client has been influenced by and the stories about themselves and their ideas and interests they have developed out of these influences.


Context of the Career Construction Theory & Life Design theory

His approach is one of the psychodynamic approaches to career counselling based on Adlerian psychology.Career theories on marcr: Career Construction Theory and Life Design and the narrative approach by Savickas; Adlerian Therapy.

This may not make sense at the moment, but please read on.

For those who would like to know more about how it all fits together and about psychodynamic theory + have some links to explore, click here.

What is psychodynamic therapy?

Psychodynamics concentrates on how the subconscious ‘energy’ influences the psyche and its role in psychological conflict. This theory is influenced by the theory of thermodynamics.

Psychodynamics concentrates on the role of unconscious maladaptive functioning, developed early on in life, in psychological issues in day to day life. It’s prominent in both the Freudian and Adlerian model.

The model of its therapy differs from:

  • Humanistic models: e.g.: Rogers
  • Behavioural and cognitive models: e.g.: social learning – Krumboltz
  • Biological models

It also differs from, but is similar to, psychoanalytic therapy in that it is a form of in depth ‘talk therapy’ based on psycho-analysis. It’s less focused on the patient therapist relationship, but unlike more subjective approaches and more like positivist approaches, it offers the therapist/counsellor a role as specialist. It’s more focused on the client’s relationship with the world around them.

This is generally not short-term therapy and if translated to a career context, won’t fit those environments where the career professional has only one opportunity to see a client, as is often the case in our present (and past) professional environment.

The focus of psychodynamic theory that is recognisable in Savickas and Roe’s approach is on how repressed, early emotions and psychological functioning influences present decision making and thinking.

In psychotherapy, this approach requires in depth training and an in depth understanding of psychology on top of licencing to be able to apply this theory.

However, there is a lot of variety within this approach and as you can see, Adler’s theory and insights are diametrically opposed to the Freudian approach. You will probably also recognise that the Adlerian approach is more suited for translation to a career guidance/counselling context, especially because of the organisational limitations under which we work.Adlerian versus Freudian psychology comparison for career theories on marcr.



Sources and further reading:

Adler’s approach was grounded in Freud’s psychoanalytical approach, as he was a student of Freud. He was the first of his students to drift away and was in many ways taking an opposing stance. I found this quite interesting and helped me understand how Adlerian psychology would fit in with career counselling. Using Freudian theory and thinking as a career counselling approach would be very interesting indeed. I’m not even sure if that would be possible. Here is a comparison of the two:Career theories: Adlerian and Freudian comparison.


How can this be used?

Following on from this, Savickas’ model is based on 2 phases:Career Construction Theory and Life Design, the narrative approach by Savickas.

For further information on how this theory can be used, please follow this link to the page on the narrative approach where it’s all explained in a bit more practical detail.

I’m sure it’s clear from the model above that this is not an approach that can easily be applied in environments where a career professional has limited time or opportunity to make an impact on a client’s life. This is true for most approaches and models based on psychodynamics or narrative in my experience. They can work really well but having the opportunity to use them appropriately can be a challenge.



Consider the following questions:

  • How could you use this theory and its practice in your day to day work with clients?
  • How do available resources and time affect how and when this theory can be used?
  • How does the age and ability of the client interact with this theory?
  • Is this theory easy to apply? Or would you find you need more training and practice before you can confidently add this to your toolbox?
  • If you can’t apply this theory in full, are there aspects you can apply without affecting its power and potential?
  • Can this theory be used in conjunction with other theories and models? And if so, how and what do you adapt?


Useful Links and references:


  • Life-Design Counseling Manual, M. L.  Savickas, 2015