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What is the choice point?

There are so many decisions to make as a new parent. And, there are at least twice as many strong opinions about what the “right” decisions are. It can be overwhelming to sort through the noise and know what’s right for you and your family. The “choice point” is a tool from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) that helps you to clearly map out your personal values and actions that will move you towards or away from those values. This is one of my favorite tools to introduce early on in therapy, because it’s a simple way to understand your choices and decisions based on what matters most to you.

Here’s how to use the choice point to make values-based decisions as a new parent.

Understand your choice point.

The choice point as a whole shares its name with a specific part of the tool. If you think of the tool itself like a map, the choice point within that map is like a “you are here” symbol. It’s a place to acknowledge your unique context and dynamics that you bring to the decision-making process.

Choice Point

When working with my clients, I like to describe this section as “stuff that’s out of your control.” Here you can make a note of your situation, thoughts, and feelings.

Let’s say you’re a new mom figuring out your back-to-work plans after maternity leave. Your choice point might look something like this:

  • Situation: adjusting to life with a newborn, expected back at work in 2 months, financial flexibility
  • Thoughts: “I can’t wait to feel like myself again,” “a good mom shouldn’t be so excited to leave their baby,” “something bad might happen to my baby while I’m away”
  • Feelings: excitement, guilt, sadness, anxiety; muscle tension, headaches, pit in stomach

Clarify your personal values.

Clarifying your personal values helps you to pick the direction you’d like to head in. You can do this in a couple of ways. One way is to figure out your values in a general sense (ex: values as a new parent). Or, you can think about the context of the decision you’re trying to make (ex: values about returning to work).


Many new parents will have a long list of personal values for any given area of life. For this exercise, I’d recommend focusing on up to three values at a time.

So, again, you’re that new mom figuring out back-to-work plans. You think about the story of this season you’d love to look back on, what you want to model for your kiddo, and what really matters most to you right now. Let’s say you decide to prioritize your values of autonomy, teamwork, and presence.

Map out your towards and away moves.

All day long, you’re making choices. Some of these choices help you live the life you want, become the sort of person and parent you want to be, and move you towards your personal values. In ACT, we call these choices “towards moves.”

Towards Moves

If you’re a new mom figuring out back-to-work plans and prioritizing your values of autonomy, teamwork, and presence, potential towards moves could include:

  • requesting the workplace flexibility you need (like a part-time schedule, condensed workweek, or flexible work hours)
  • having a weekly check-in with your partner to stay on top of sharing the mental load, household labor, and childcare responsibilities in a way that feels good to both of you
  • establishing clear boundaries in your schedule between work time and family time so that you can be fully present for both
Away Moves

Other choices — what we call “away moves” — move you away from the life you want, the person and parent you want to be, and your personal values.

Away moves in our example could include:

  • criticizing yourself for having goals and desires outside of motherhood
  • avoiding or rejecting support from your partner, family, or friends
  • ignoring your limits and overextending yourself at work or at home

Earlier I described the choice point section as “stuff that’s out of your control.” I like to describe towards and away moves as the “stuff that’s within your control.” When life and parenthood are feeling hard or overwhelming, this is where you can remind yourself of your agency. It’s where you can organize your options based on whether or not they support the life you want.

Notice what hooks you.

Choosing towards moves is much easier when things seem to be going your way. But as a new parent, there will be hard moments. You’ll be triggered. You’ll get stuck. You’ll choose away moves.


In ACT, we call this getting “hooked.” It’s when your choices are driven by your thoughts or feelings instead of by your values. This includes outward choices (like what you physically say and do) and inward choices (like where and how you focus your attention).

Sometimes, your thoughts and feelings will be a really helpful reminder of your values. For example, your excitement about returning to work could be a really strong signal that it’s important to you. You can use this data to help you clarify your ideal back-to-work plans. Your anxiety about something bad happening to your baby can remind you that you really value your baby’s health and safety. You can use this data to guide your choices around childcare and what you communicate to your chosen caregiver about your baby’s needs.

Other times, your thoughts and feelings will be more concerned about avoiding discomfort in the short-term (even if that means moving away from your values in the long-term). In this example, your anxiety about your baby’s safety may lead you to avoid requesting or accepting support from others altogether.

Noticing the difference can help you be more aware of when you’re getting hooked. And when you’re more aware, you empower yourself to respond to those hooks on purpose instead of by default.

Track your strategies to unhook.

Here’s where you can track your go-to skills and strategies to unhook. This can be anything that puts distance between you and your hooks so that they aren’t driving your choices.

Unhooking Skills

For example, maybe you make a point to thank your strong emotions for reminding you of your values and reassure them that you’ve got it handled. This might sound like: “thank you, guilt, for reminding me that I really value presence with my family — I’m going to go to work today, but I have time this evening to focus entirely on my baby.”

Keep in mind — success here isn’t to get rid of the stuff that hooks you. It’s to respond to it in a different, more effective way so that it doesn’t keep you stuck.

There are a gazillion unhooking skills out there. Not every skill will be a fit for every person in every situation. With time, practice, and (potentially) a therapist’s support, you can figure out the strategies that work best for YOU.

The choice point honors what matters most to you.

Something I love about the choice point is that it honors what matters most to YOU. Since towards and away moves are determined by YOUR personal values, you can trust that the decision-making process is personalized to what YOU decide is meaningful. I hope this tool helps you to quiet the noise of everyone else’s strong opinions of what the “right” or “wrong” decisions may be. I hope it reminds you of your agency and choice as a new parent, even when things feel hard.

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