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Values-Based Behavioral Therapy

Each person holds core values that contribute to a system of beliefs, ideas and attitudes, affecting decision-making or responses to certain situations. Values can reflect the behavioral standards and needs that support individual purpose and vision—what a person holds to be right or good.

Factors that influence our values:

Parents and family are the main basis for children developing an internal reference for what is good or bad, important or desirable. 

Individual life experiences, including education, personal challenges and successes, can transform or adjust values.

Religion, politics, culture and community are touchstones for reflecting a person’s belief system, self-identification and sense of right and wrong.

Values-based behavioral therapy (also called values clarification therapy) aims to increase awareness and understanding of values that affect lifestyle decisions and actions. People enter therapy with a range of psychological and physical health issues—such as anxietydepression, high blood pressure and poor health—that stem from an inability to resolve moral dilemmas as a result of undefined values. 

Through a process of value clarification, individuals can untangle moral dilemmas and learn useful techniques for self-improvement, increased wellbeing and better relationships with others. A therapist guides individuals in a safe environment to learn more about themselves, develop their own set of values and understand their motivations and characteristics. Treatment may consist of the following:

Once in treatment, the client culls 10-15 important values from a longer list, which is then whittled down to the top five values affecting personal life decisions. These become the client’s “core values.” 

If a clients find it difficult to identify core values, the therapist can use other exercises, such as worksheets and brainstorming activities. 

Together the therapist and client discuss what lies behind the core values to determine whether they are conflicting or self-defeating, as well as how they apply in daily life.

As a last step, the therapist guides the client in how to translate the core values into intended behavior change. For example:

The client identifies a value of financial security. The therapist helps the client break this down into specific goals, such as maintaining a financial plan, carrying no debt and having adequate savings. 

This becomes a plan with realistic and attainable actions, such as work full-time for five years, devise a financial budget and open a savings account. 

Treatment aims to reduce emotional distress and increase positive behaviors through reinforcement. Those who have explored their personal values in therapy are often better able to identify what helps them make more self-directed choices and function more effectively in life.

Learn more about Behavior Therapies offered at CFI…



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