Re-Introducing Values Clarification

In the 1960s, about the same time Albert Ellis developed his original cognitive-behavioural therapy approach, William Glasser was developing his reality therapy.

Glasser reality therapy focused on a cognitive behavioural approach that evolved into a Choice Theory.

Meanwhile, an educator named Louis Raths also developed a new affective-cognitive-behavioural counselling approach that called “values clarification.”

Raths noticed that young people who seemed apathetic, flighty, over-conforming, or over-dissenting in their behaviour could become more purposeful, consistent, and zestful in their lives.

He said they would achieve this if asked to reflect upon their goals, purposes, and behaviours.

He and his students Sidney Simon and Merrill Harmin refined and developed many ways that teachers and counsellors could ask students valued questions.

The questions were to encourage them to reflect on what they prized and cherished, make choices about their lives, and act on their goals and beliefs.

Research and developments on cognitive-behavioural therapies continued over the decades, and there were new discoveries.

In the 1970s and 80s the focus of the values clarification movement stayed on teaching, values education, and character education to the youth.

Although many of the methods and strategies of values clarification—such as voting, ranking, continuum’s, inventories, unfinished sentences, became staples in the repertoire of counsellors and therapists.

Using values clarification as a distinctive counselling approach was abandoned to one or two generations of new helping professionals.

In the 1980s and 90s, newer counselling and therapy approaches emerged on the scene, many of them using concepts and methods of values clarification.

Solution-focused therapy relies on questions to help clients identify preferred goals, view their situation from an alternative perspective, consider alternative solutions, and test coping strategies and solutions.

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Motivational interviewing, which has proven  effective in alcohol and substance abuse counselling, uses clarifying questions and strategies to build on the client’s intrinsic motivation to change.

Appreciative inquiry relies on clarifying questions to help the client identify and capitalise on their strengths, vitalities, aspirations, possibilities, and core values as they set and achieve life and career goals.

Acceptance and commitment therapy includes values clarification as a major component in their research-tested integration of western and eastern “behaviour technologies.” Positive psychology recognises that living according to one’s values is an essential element of life satisfaction.

Values clarification will always be in use or integrated with almost any other counselling or therapeutic modality. Better that helping professionals use it to its greatest 


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