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Book Review: Mark Savickas’ Theories of Psychotherapy Series

by Alyson Nyiri

Savickas, Mark. (2011). Career Counseling.  In Jon Carlson and Matt Englar-Carlson (Eds.), Theories of Psychotherapy Series.  Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

For devotees of Dr. Mark Savickas’ career construction theory, a thorough explanation of and step-by-step process for his theory has finally arrived!  Career practitioners will find this publication invaluable to their current practice with clients, either as a means of deepening their application of career construction theory or as a means of exploring a new way to engage clients in their quest for meaning and direction in their work lives.

In Career Counseling, Savickas opens with a solid overview of the world of work and the history of career interventions beginning with Parson’s model and continuing through to Holland, Super, Osipow, Lofquist and Dawis, to name a few.  He argues that as the world of work in the 21st century has become increasingly “boundaryless”, with jobs becoming more fluid and less structure, individuals face difficulties in finding their place at work.

Existing career theories, argues Savickas, do not adequately account for the uncertain and rapidly changing occupational structure where established paths and traditional scripts are dissolving.  What clients need to do now, with help from career professionals, is manage their career by noticing possibilities in a changing environment rather than making plans in a now unstable environment. Career construction theory entails the construction of self as a life project.  While developing skills and talents remain important, asserts Savickas, having a grounded sense of self provides individuals with a more enduring means of making their lives work.

Chapter 2 reviews the core concepts of self, identity, meaning, mastery, and mattering.  Chapter 3 explains how practitioners use narrative psychology to help clients revise their career stories to increase comprehension, coherence, and continuity.  Chapter 4 describes the framework and elements of the career story interview.  Chapter 5 examines the assessment goals that concentrate on extracting client preoccupations and problems from the early recollections.  Chapter 6 demonstrates how to identify client solutions to the problems they pose in their early recollections.  Chapter 7 discusses how to use career themes to flesh out clients’ occupational plots by indentifying satisfying settings, possible scripts, and future scenarios.  The remaining chapters focus on how to use the assessment results in career counselling; including how to use an identity narrative to create a large story that fosters clarity around choices, and how to turn intention into action.  Savickas offers a case study in the final chapter to illustrate how the entire process works.

Whether you are new to the field of career development or a seasoned veteran, you will find Savickas’ work inspiring, intuitive, and ultimately, useful.  In 1997 Dr. Savickas outlined his career construction theory at NATCON  and for those of us who have been following his work, his latest book will become the must-have text for career practitioners.

Alyson Nyiri BA CDP CHRP is freelance HR Researcher/Writer living in Huron County.  She can be reached at



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