As a therapist, this is why I always use pros + cons lists with my clients

Pros + cons lists are cliche… I know. But, I find myself using them with clients at least a few times a week.

Pros + cons lists work for quite a few reasons, and many of these reasons coincide with the practical skills that clients and I are working on.

We use pros + cons lists to:

  • Explore + weigh potential decisions
  • Brainstorm about different options that might be available when we think we are ‘stuck’
  • Identify top priorities + values that weren’t apparent to us right away
  • And most of all…

To step out of black and white thinking and embrace gray areas.

The number one skill that I work on with clients is nixing black and white thinking and embracing gray areas. As humans, we always want to categorize, label, and see things as black and white, very well defined, so that we can be more comfortable. Blurry lines and uncertainty are stressful to us, so it’s natural that we slip into black and white thinking without even noticing that we’re doing it.

Pros + cons lists embrace gray area thinking by reminding us, and showing us on the page, the black and white things that are true at the same time. It’s hard for us to imagine that something black and white exist at the same time, but they do.

It’s true that this new job would pay me more, and that it would have a better title…

and it’s also still true that I would miss my co-workers and my commute would be longer.

It’s true that moving to another state would mean that I gave up being near my family all the time…

and that it would give me the opportunity

This full-on confrontation of two seemingly opposing things being true at the same time is exactly why I use pros + cons lists with my clients all. the. time.

It sounds cliche. It sounds simple. It sounds too … easy? … to be helpful.

But it’s super helpful. Next time you’re stuck, try it! Look at the opposing points on your pros + cons, and you’ll start to feel comfortable with how seemingly opposing things can be true at the same time.

The way that you end up ranking these pros + cons against each other will end up showing your priorities and values, too. But we’ll cover that in another post!

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