The Royal College of Psychiatrists has established a Working Group on Choice in Mental Health and held a conference to include service users in formulating a challenging view of the choice agenda for mental health. This is set out here to stimulate wider interest. Choice-based practice develops in a climate of trust and information, and goes beyond simple variety or individual consumerism. For some service users, limited initial areas of choice can be of great importance, but a true culture of choice requires the widespread participation of service users and carers in service improvement. It is important that psychiatrists champion the empowerment of their patients through choice, in policy and training, and in clinical practice.