Author: Diana Gordon, Psy.D.
As CBT therapists, we often have clients come to us to get relief from symptoms that are making it difficult for them to achieve their goals. For example, clients might notice that because of their depression or anxiety, they are having a hard time advancing at work, making friends, or being successful in their romantic relationships. Sometimes when these symptoms have been present for a long time, clients are unsure of what needs to change in their lives in order for them to feel better. Or they may know what types of changes they’d like to see in their lives, but may understandably have difficulty mustering the motivation to make behavioral changes that are difficult and uncomfortable.
One technique that we use often with our clients is values clarification. Values clarification is a process by which we work together to identify what values are most important to the client, and we rank them in a hierarchical fashion. In doing so, we identify the 5-10 most important values that a client holds, and we help them set clear goals that allow them to live more in alignment with these values. When one is living in alignment with their most deeply held values, they tend to experience greater happiness, contentment, and clarity when confronting difficult decisions and experiences. Being aware of one’s values can also help people develop motivation to make difficult changes in their lives. When our goals are linked to deeply held values, we can more easily tolerate the discomfort and difficult work that sometimes comes along with achieving our goals.
Often our deeply held values are not things that we can name off the top of our heads. Some of them certainly are, but others might be things that we are afraid to admit out loud to ourselves or to another person. We may hold judgements about what “should” be important to us, and those judgments may influence the values we identify. As CBT therapists, we have several techniques we use to help people identify their deeply held values. Often clients report that some of the values we come up with are ones they would have named on their own, and some of them are ones that they are surprised to see make it to the top of their list.
If you’d like to start thinking about some of your own values, you can check out this free worksheet which lists common values and helps you rank order them. You might also try asking yourself some of the following questions:
If you’re interested in learning more about values clarification and how this intervention might be helpful for you, feel free to contact us for a free phone consultation. In Part 2 of this blog post (coming soon!), we will explore the difference between values and goals, and will discuss how to use your values to set goals to improve your life.
Diana Gordon, Psy.D., Kari Kagan Psy.D., and Katie Leoni, Psy.D.
Drs. Gordon, Kagan, and Leoni practice psychotherapy in downtown San Francisco and Oakland. Their areas of expertise include anxiety, sleep, stress, depression, and addiction. They blog about these topics to provide research-based information about common problems and strategies to help manage them.