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The Importance of Values in Therapy

The Importance of Values in Therapy

Values are often looked upon as being very complex. However, values can be best described as what is important to us. In NLP six key areas have been identified. Values relating to career, relationships, family, health and fitness, personal growth and spirituality. Clare Graves identifies three parts of a values level: environmental conditions, values content and the container (our nervous system).Values are more often than not unconscious, and these govern the way we behave. Values also provide motivation to the way we act as well as acting as criteria for judgement of our actions. Values help people to determine good and bad as well as right and wrong.

According to the American sociologist Morris Massey, there are three key phases of development: Imprinting (0-7), Modelling (8-13) and Socialisation (14-21). The first of these, the imprinting phase generally refers to the ages of birth to 7 years of age. Many of the difficulties clients experience in later life can be traced back to this phase. This is also the phase of our lives where our values begin to take root.  These values come from parents, significant others, environment, religion, school and significant experiences.

During the modelling phase children begin to model behaviour which will closely be in alignment with the values which were formed in the previous phase of development. Additionally at this stage children will attempt to find people (significant others) whose values fit their own.  When I (Shaun) was at this phase, I tried to model John Wayne, because his values were most closely akin to that of my grandfather, who was a significant creator of my early values system.

Finally in the socialisation phase of development the young adult deciphers their social values as well as how they fit into the greater world around them. At this stage and beyond clients are in a position to begin to challenge their values and attempt to find ways to integrate the learnings of life into their value systems.

Very often when working with clients, coaches will need to be able to help clients to determine what is really important and what is only superficially important. In order to ascertain the client’s values, the coach asks “what is important about x?” in order to get between say 5 and 8 statements. For example a coach when working with a person regarding their career can elicit the following values:

  • Money
  • Satisfaction
  • Stability
  • Prestige
  • Vacations
  • Socialisation

Once these things are determined it is essential to determine the order of importance of these values. More often than not, the order in which they are given is not the true order of importance. Generally, the client will report what they think they should say first and then what is really important last. Based on this, the list may very well look like this:

  • Socialisation
  • Vacations
  • Satisfaction
  • Stability
  • Money
  • Prestige

This information is obviously relevant in that knowing what is REALLY important as opposed to SUPERFICIALLY  important  and will really impact on your interventions and make the work you do that much more powerful.

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