Invaluable Values Featured

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"Our values are important because they help us to grow and develop. They help us to create the future we want to experience. Every individual and every organisation is involved in making hundreds of decisions every day. The decisions we make are a reflection of our values and beliefs, and they are always directed towards a specific purpose. That purpose is the satisfaction of our individual or collective (organisational) needs."Barrett Values Centre

People tend to knock on the clinic door when they are looking for change.

Perhaps they are hoping to change how they feel, or the kinds of thoughts they are having. Often, they are wanting to change their behaviour in some way, perhaps to get along better with someone in their life, or in order to live a healthier lifestyle.

More often than not, they have found themselves at one of Life's crossroads and they're unsure how to problem-solve their way through it.

Sometimes, they are lacking to motivation to do what is required to bring about the changes they are seeking.

Other times, they don't even realise that something needs to change.

In all of those situations, actively re-evaluating a person's values - what they deem to be important in their life - can help them re-focus, problem-solve and self-motivate towards a change for the better.

Values play an important role in several therapeutic models of care, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

Different therapists will use values in different ways. There are endless resources available to facilitate values based work, and in fact, resources aren't even necessary.

I personally like to use visual resources with my clients and mostly lean on a set of values cards from the University of New Mexico which you can download from this link or print them from this article.

Typically, I will provide the cards at the end of the initial assessment for a client to take home and sort for homework. This is especially the case when the goals for therapy are not clear, or when I feel a client will benefit from additional motivation for change. We've discussed the Stages of Change Model and the importance of motivation in a previous article.

Step One:

Cut the pages into cards. The way the cards come back to the following session actually provides a lot of information about a client. My perfectionistic clients can't bare to not have the cards cut perfectly, for example.

Step Two:

Now, this is just one of many ways to use these cards. You can find instructions for them on the Internet for ideas about how you might like to use them. The way I prefer, is to ask the client to take the three heading cards on the front page: Very Important to Me; Important to Me; and, Not Important to Me and lay those out on the dining table (or wherever!). Then take the remaining values cards and sort them under the headings. It's important to go with your gut feeling and not think about this too much. It's also important to remember that "Very Important" does not equate to "I'm doing well at this."

Step Three:

The focus is now on the "Very Important to Me" group as this pile of values describes your ideal life, incorporating everything that is non-negotiably important to you. We take that group of cards and we ask ourselves, "How satisfied am I at this moment in my life, with how well I am living this particular value?" If the answer is, "I'm satisified", then the card goes into the 'working well' pile. If the answer is "No, I'm not satisfied with this", it goes in the 'work in progress' pile.

Step Four:

For each of the values in the 'work in progress' pile, we discuss every obstacle and barrier currently impeding the living of each of those values. Those barriers could be mood related, related to thoughts and beliefs, they could be practical, or restricted by time or opportunities. One thing is for sure however, and that is that there will be common themes that come through as those obstacles are identified. The more often a barrier like fear, for example, or avoidance, appears, the more of a priority it is to be worked through. A choice has now been created between giving into a barrier or making a choice in line with one's values. In therapy, specific goals are set in line with the values that are being worked towards. With choice comes a greater sense of control over one's life, and a positive cycle of living in line with our values is created.

Step Five:

Because it's easy for us to become complacent and avoid hard work, I recommend my clients take their 'work in progress' cards and create something visual with them, even if it means sticking them all together onto a larger sheet of paper. I suggest they put that piece of paper somewhere that is visible to them every day, as a reminder of the direction in which they are wanting to make their choices that day, and every day. Even if they don't read the words, the cards still guide us like a beacon, when we reach a crossroad in our day.

In therapy, we are then always able to refer back to the client's values when motivation is lacking, or when poorer choices have been made in their day-to-day lives. Goals are always set and reset around the person's indiviudal values, and the beautiful thing is, that there is no right or wrong way to reflect on your own personal values set.

I hope this has been helpful and if you'd like to share your own experiences with using your values in your own life, or in your own clinics, we'd love to hear them.


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Jodie Fleming

Jodie Fleming, a clinical & health psychologist, is an avid, curious and open observer of human behaviour. She's passionate about all things psychological, writing, running, swimming, travelling, stand-up paddle boarding, anything that involves other people, and her dog Mortimer plus around a million other things and people.

After spending much of her career normalising common human experiences to her clients, most of whom feel isolated in their experiences, Jodie decided to cast the net of her messages even further in order to connect people, human-to-human, and The Psychology of It was born.

She hopes to increase a sense of connectedness between us, as opposed to focussing on the differences that our comparative brains seems so readily programmed to do.

The Psychology of It aims to de-stigmatise mental illness and promote better mental health care.

"I'm excited to say that The Psychology of It is my muse - the place where I am able to bring all of the pieces together - where I can write for you about everyday life, demystifying the psychological science behind it and provide you with some handy tools to make your life the most meaningful life you can live."


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