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ACT for PTSD: Values Clarification Exercises

By Sonja Batten, Ph.D.

This video is part of our upcoming online course about ACT for PTSD.

Highlights

  • Introduce the concept of values to guide behavioral choices early in therapy.
  • Revisit that topic later in therapy once the client is ready to begin working on more focused committed actions.
  • To identify targets for action, put into words what the client’s values are in a variety of areas.
  • Identify how important each one is to the client and how consistent their recent actions have been with their values.

 

Transcript

In this video, we’re going to revisit the topic of values clarification. We’re going to go through a values clarification exercise.

Values clarification is an ongoing part of treatment. And a thorough values assessment can be useful early in treatment to aid in identifying appropriate committed actions with the client and to help build motivation for change. We can talk about values, but ultimately they’re expressed and lived in actions, not words.

References

Moran, D. J., Bach, P. A., & Batten, S. V. (2018). Committed action in practice: A clinician’s guide to assessing, planning, and supporting change in your client. New Harbinger Publications.

An important goal in ACT is to use values clarification exercises to help clients identify their values and also identify how their behavior is values consistent or how it can become more values consistent.

References

Moran, D. J., Bach, P. A., & Batten, S. V. (2018). Committed action in practice: A clinician’s guide to assessing, planning, and supporting change in your client. New Harbinger Publications.

I suggested that often with trauma survivors, it’s helpful to initially do a brief introduction of values to help the person connect with motivation to stick with the hard work of therapy. So hopefully, you’ve already introduced an initial sweep of information related to values.

References

Moran, D. J., Bach, P. A., & Batten, S. V. (2018). Committed action in practice: A clinician’s guide to assessing, planning, and supporting change in your client. New Harbinger Publications.

Now is the time to go deeper into that topic with your clients in order to really flesh out their values and set new behavioral commitments.

References

Moran, D. J., Bach, P. A., & Batten, S. V. (2018). Committed action in practice: A clinician’s guide to assessing, planning, and supporting change in your client. New Harbinger Publications.

So here is a brief values clarification exercise that you can have preprinted on a piece of paper. You can do this either as in-session work or as a take-home exercise to bring back the next week.

References

Moran, D. J., Bach, P. A., & Batten, S. V. (2018). Committed action in practice: A clinician’s guide to assessing, planning, and supporting change in your client. New Harbinger Publications.

The instructions would read something like this:
First, choose 4 of the following domains and write out your values in each of the 4 areas, focusing on how you choose to be in each of those areas rather than on how you expect things to turn out or what you are looking for in other people.

References

Moran, D. J., Bach, P. A., & Batten, S. V. (2018). Committed action in practice: A clinician’s guide to assessing, planning, and supporting change in your client. New Harbinger Publications.

And here are some domains that could fall under that: family relationships, romantic relationships, friendships, work or career, school or lifelong learning, physical health, mental health, spirituality or religion, community, environment, financial wellness, recreation, or any other area of personal importance that the person would like to add.

And note that in this exercise, I’m suggesting 4 domains to make it more likely that the person can actually complete the exercise. But if somebody wanted to do a thorough values clarification, they could actually do this with all of those categories that were important to them.

References

Moran, D. J., Bach, P. A., & Batten, S. V. (2018). Committed action in practice: A clinician’s guide to assessing, planning, and supporting change in your client. New Harbinger Publications.

First, they would write out and usually, it’s 2 sentences or 3 sentence fragments. Here’s an example. So for family relationships, it might be something like “To be the kind of parent who listens to my children and spends unstructured time with them” and “To be the type of child who makes sure to do actions so that my elderly parents feel like I care about them.” So, that might be an example.

References

Moran, D. J., Bach, P. A., & Batten, S. V. (2018). Committed action in practice: A clinician’s guide to assessing, planning, and supporting change in your client. New Harbinger Publications.

So first, you’re focusing on the overarching direction that you want to head in. And then you can always develop smaller goals beneath each of those.

For this values clarification exercise, once they’ve written out the specific valued direction, then you’re going to ask them to do some ratings for each of those areas.

References

Moran, D. J., Bach, P. A., & Batten, S. V. (2018). Committed action in practice: A clinician’s guide to assessing, planning, and supporting change in your client. New Harbinger Publications.

So then the instructions might read:
For each of the 4 dimensions identified in the first part of the exercise, please rate. First, how possible is it that something meaningful could happen for you in that domain on a scale of 1 to 10? How important to you is each domain on a scale of 1 to 10? And how consistent is your level of action with your values in each domain on a scale from 1 to 10? And then write a few notes about what you observed as you completed those ratings.

References

Moran, D. J., Bach, P. A., & Batten, S. V. (2018). Committed action in practice: A clinician’s guide to assessing, planning, and supporting change in your client. New Harbinger Publications.

So the idea is to get the person to reflect on the potential for each of those areas, trying to get a sense of—All of the areas may be equally important and it can be interesting as an awareness exercise to try to rate them so that you see if there are differences between the different values, and then getting a sense of which ones is there perhaps more of a struggle with. So there’s more of a discrepancy between what their value is and how they’ve been living their life.

References

Moran, D. J., Bach, P. A., & Batten, S. V. (2018). Committed action in practice: A clinician’s guide to assessing, planning, and supporting change in your client. New Harbinger Publications.

So, some key points. It can be very useful to initially introduce the concept of values to guide and dignify behavioral choices early in therapy with trauma survivors. It’s also very important to revisit that topic later in therapy once the client is ready to begin working on more focused committed actions.

In order to begin to identify targets for action, it can be useful to put into words what the client’s values are in a variety of areas as well as to identify how important each one is to the client and how consistent their recent actions have been with their values in each domain.

More ACT for PTSD presentations