Constructivist Theory

Chartrand et al., 1995; Cochran, 1997; Collin & Young, 1986; Peavy, 1992; Savickas, 1993 & 1997; Young et al. 1996; Wendy Patton & Mary McMahon 2006

Constructivism is more of a category containing quite a few theories and theorists, but I thought I would make a page on constructivism anyway because it’s a group of theories, or a concept, quite a few people struggle with.

The general tenet of constructivism is that there is no objective truth, there are only subjective points of view or perspectives and we all build our own life around how we perceive the world around us.

Translated to career guidance or career counselling, the task of the career professional is to assist the client in finding themes in their life and to help the client extend the thread of these to the next step they take in their life.

Constructivism as an area of career guidance theory.

The difference with social learning theory and structuralism is that the individual is in control, whereas in social learning theory, an individual is directly influenced or ‘coloured’ through the social learning they engage in, while in structuralism, social structure is like a set of constraints within which an individual lives their life. According to constructivist theory, there is no social construct ‘out there’ and an individual uses the learning, observations, experiences in their life to construct their story, their narrative; they are the authors of their life, no one else.

As you will realise, this is as far removed from Differentialism as it’s possible to get without falling off a cliff.

The role of the practitioner

Stories, or meaning are created by the individual (both the client and the professional) and by the client in their interaction with the professional. Narrative, or meaning is created together or co-constructed. The professional is more counsellor than ‘match-maker’; they are the co-author of the client’s story.

The career counsellors help clients:

  • Authorise their careers by narrating a coherent, continuous, and credible story
  • Invest career with meaning by identifying themes and tensions in the story line, and
  • Learn the skills needed to perform the next episode in the story (Savickas, 1993, p. 213)


Feel free to click on the thumbnails below to explore and find out more about some examples of constructivist theories:

Marcr - Career theory: Narrative Career Counselling - Savickas (eg 1997), Cochran (eg 1997) & Peavy (eg 2000) - Overview Marcr - Career theory: Career Construction Theory & Life Design – Narrative approach - Mark Savickas 2005 - Psychodynamic Theories - Mark Savickas 1989 Marcr - Career theory: 3 Step Storyboarding Model - Bill Law 2008
Narrative Career Counselling Career Construction Theory & Life Design 3 Step Storyboarding Model
Marcr - Career theory: Contextual Action Theory (CAT) - Lev Vygotsky, L. Valach & Young, R. A. 2002 Marcr - Career theory: Career Writing Method - Reinekke Lengelle & Frans Meijers 2017 Marcr - Career theory: Value-based Career Decision Making - D Brown 1995, 1996& 2002; Brown & Crace 1995
Contextual Action Theory (CAT) Career Writing Method Value-based Career Decision Making
Continuous Participation Model Culture Infused Career Counselling Systems Theory Framework of Career Development



  • Savickas, M. (1993). Career counseling in the postmodern era. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 7(3), 205-215.