Life Design and Playful Approaches: A Way to Empower Individuals in an Unstable World

By Aude Poriau

In an increasingly unpredictable society, the skills and competencies needed in the workplace are different from those required in the 20th century. This also leads career counselor educators to question their focus in teaching future career counselors. The life design paradigm brings to light innovative and dynamic tools that promote collective intelligence, storytelling techniques and positive psychology. Some of these tools also provide a playful dimension that enhances motivation and creativity in the reflection process. Within individual counseling, the tool provides a secure framework for reflection and questioning in order to facilitate introspection and exploration. The aim is to enable clients to find their own answers in a specific context, taking into account available resources and needs, and to enable them to develop their empowerment.  Career counselor educators can enhance their courses by adding this approach to their curriculum.

As presented by Savickas et al (2009), job transitions are more frequent, and these changes require workers to develop skills and competencies that are different from those previously required in the 20th century. In order to be agile and active in managing one's career, it is first essential to have good self-knowledge (Gati, 2023). Support in choosing a career must therefore consider the individual's different spheres of life. This is essential as individuals tend to give meaning to their experiences within a structured system that seeks to preserve unity and continuity (Nota & Rossier, 2015).

Good self-knowledge allows individuals to answer questions such as:

  • What are my qualities and skillsets? Which ones should I or would I like to strengthen?
  • What are my interests and what gives meaning to my life?
  • What are my career goals and how can I get closer to them?

Istock 1461666210 Credit Meeko Media

Life Design Paradigm: The Counselor's Posture

As presented by Savickas et al. (2009), the life-designing model for career intervention endorses different presuppositions about people and their work lives, including a dynamic rather than linear progression, and opens a wide range of possibilities, depending on the individual and their needs. In this context, the role and posture of counselors is bound to evolve, and it is becoming necessary to broaden the tools used in counseling. As presented by Burnett & Evans (2021) people need tools to invent their own success, over and over, as they change and grow as humans. With these tools, the role of the career counselor is no longer to provide full expertise in existing professions and possible training paths, but rather to offer a framework that enables people to give meaning to their career paths and to identify possible avenues that match their needs and those of the market.

In this context, the counselor becomes a resource person, guiding and facilitating reflection from a position of non-knowledge. This implies the creation of a new type of alliance on the part of the counselor, who must leave behind the posture of expert and refuse to be placed there by the beneficiary. It also requires openness and the ability to adapt to the logic of others, while emphasizing the techniques of reformulation, reminders and summaries, and leaving room for silences.

Developing Narrative and Collective Career Management Tools

Nowadays, career educators have the opportunity to expose their students to many different tools. In addition to the psychometric tests commonly used, narrative and collective tools are being developed to provide a holistic and personalized approach. More and more of these narrative and collective approaches are based on play, as exemplified by « Who you are matters » (Franklin & Stebleton, 2020) and REFLECTORY (Poriau, 2020; 2021). In addition to the storytelling and collective dimensions, these two tools offer a playful approach to dealing with sometimes complex issues in a more light-hearted way. Play is essential not only for social skills, but also for developing adaptability, creativity and the ability to solve problems (Brown & Vaughan, 2009).

During challenging life phases, such as career transitions or feeling meaningless at work, perceiving one's situation with a playful approach is an interesting alternative. Indeed, according to Fredrickson (2001), experiencing positive emotions, for example through play, helps to expand the repertoire of thoughts and behaviors.

In addition to the principles of life design, these tools also promote collective intelligence through exchanges between peers which also enables us to benefit from the contributions, knowledge, and ideas of others. Counselor educators may consider allowing their students to role play using these approaches, experiencing for themselves the impact of these exchanges. Such collaborative processes also reinforce the active posture of players in the exchanges and forces them to translate ideas into words. As Burnett & Evans (2021) showed, helping others had a very strong correlation to longevity and happiness, therefore it's worth incorporating such components into guidance practices.

Using questions based on positive psychology and narrative approaches, the REFLECTORY tool enables players to identify resources, clarify their aspirations, target projects and determine the steps they need to take to get closer to their goals (Poriau, 2021). It allows players to step outside their usual frame of reference and perceive things from another angle, in order to broaden their field of possibilities. Counseling students can practice using this tool in their course and reflect on the process from the perspective of the counselor and the client.

Empowering Individuals

Career counseling educators empower their students by teaching play-based approaches to help clients deepen their self-knowledge. Furthermore, the life design paradigm brings to light dynamic tools that could help career counselors achieve their mission in an increasingly unpredictable society.



Brown, S., & Vaughan, C. (2009). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. Avery.

Burnett, B., & Evans, D. (2021). Designing your new work life: How to thrive and change and find happiness – and a new freedom – at work. Vintage Books.

Franklin, M., & Stebleton, M. J. (2020). Another story to tell: Outcomes of a single session narrative approach, blended with technology. Canadian Journal of Career Development, 19(1), 1–7.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology. The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. The American psychologist, 56(3), 218-226. https://doi.org/10.1037//0003-066x.56.3.218

Gati, I. (2023). The interface between career exploration and decision making: From Parsons to the 21st century’s volatile world of work. In W. B. Walsh, L. Y. Flores, P. J. Hartung, & F. T. L. Leong (Eds.), Career psychology: Models, concepts, and counseling for meaningful employment (pp. 169–191). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/0000339-009

Nota, L., & Rossier, J. (2015). Handbook of life design: From practice to theory and from theory to practice. Hogrefe.

Poriau, A. (2020). Reflectory. https://www.reflectory.ch

Poriau, A. (2021). Le jeu en gestion de carrière et développement personnel : la méthode REFLECTORY©. L’Orientation Scolaire et Professionnelle, 53(4). https://doi.org/10.4000/osp.15059

Savickas, M. L., Nota, L., Rossier, J., Dauwalder, J-P., Duarte, M. E., Guichard, J., Soresi, S., Van Esbroeck, R., & van Vianen, A. E. M. (2009). Life designing: a paradigm for career construction in the 21st century. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 75(3). 239-250. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2009.04.004

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Aude Poriau is a Career Counselor with a Federal Diploma in Adult Training. She has recently specialized in solution-oriented coaching. Regularly called upon to manage projects, she has also trained in Design Thinking. For over 15 years, she has worked in career management. Her professional practice led her in 2019 to develop the REFLECTORY tool, which addresses questions around career management and personal development in a playful setting and with a collective approach. She can be reached at aude.poriau@gmail.com

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