All About Agency, What it is and How it Affects Your Ability to Overcome Mental Health Problems

Mountaineer with strong sense of agency on tip of mountain

What is Agency?

Agency, within a psychological context, is defined as:

“The sense of agency (SA), or sense of control, is the subjective awareness of initiating, executing, and controlling one’s own volitional actions in the world.”


In other words, it is a person’s belief in how much ‘power’ or ‘influence’ they are able to exert over ‘life’ factors in order to determine their own desired outcomes.

Agency is often equated to a concept known as the ‘Locus of Control’ (Rotter, 1966).

Rotter argued that some people have an ‘internal’ sense of control over their life outcomes or, in an opposite sense, an ‘external’ sense of control in which they consider that external factors determine their life outcomes.

Consequently, the more internal your locus of control is, the more agency you tend to have.

Agency and Resilience

Agency and Resilience

There is a strong correlation between a person’s sense of agency and how resilient they are to adversity.

People with a high degree of agency, who recognise that it is down to themselves to solve the problems they encounter in life, tend to cope better when it comes to problem solving.

This is because people with a low sense of agency are more likely to adopt avoidance type behaviours when it comes to facing problems.

When we avoid problems we deny ourselves the opportunity of collecting evidence about our ability to cope – we avoid coping instead.

Although avoidance can seem like an effective strategy, it also reduces our sense of agency, resilience and self-belief.

Free Initial Consultations to dicuss agency Banner

Arrange your FREE initial consultation here.

If you’d like to find out more about agency or recovering from any of your mental health problems then why not arrange a free initial consultation with us.

During this consultation we will discuss your particular issues and the different types of mental health counselling we offer (including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – CBT) without you having to commit to any counselling going forward.

The consultation lasts around 50 minutes and is a great opportunity to meet with either Paul or Joan and decide if you would like to proceed with any support.


Applied Psychology Solutions

If you’d like to learn how to improve your sense of Agency but dislike the idea of having “therapy”, then why not learn how to change the way you make sense of your experiences and the World around you with the CORE Programme.

If you believe that your problems are the result of what has happened to you and not because there is something wrong with you, then this is the solution you’ve been looking for.