Taking Actions Consistent with Our Values

creek and mountain

People take actions and make decisions in their lives on a daily basis. These actions may be a simple part of a daily routine and may even feel unimportant; others carry more weight and can have a significant impact on different aspects of life and the future. More often than not, people don’t realize exactly what may drive their actions. Because of this, people may feel directionless and hopeless. Intentionality encompasses the values and personal resources that people possess. Uncovering and understanding these can shed some light into why people make certain choices or take certain actions. Everyone has values, dreams, commitments, and purposes; however, some people have disconnected from these. Disconnection may occur as a result of social constructs or the person’s meanings and interpretations of different events they have experienced throughout their lives. In my experience as a therapist; it has been evident to me that trauma, mental health challenges, and everyday pressures can obscure people’s values and commitments. This can prevent people from living the life they want to live.

Intentionality is a crucial aspect of Narrative therapy; in fact, I believe it should be discussed in all therapies. People have the right to have a clear understanding of what their values are and what is truly important to them in life. This principle resonates with me because it’s empowering. Intentionality can also restore hope about the future. People tend to feel a sense of commitment to themselves once they know what their values are. I appreciate intentionality because it is an ongoing process in people’s lives. I often assist my clients in making connections between their values and the actions they have taken, are taking, and are willing to take in the future. This is a powerful and moving process. I use the “Compass” metaphor in Stillman’s (2010) Narrative Therapy Trauma Manual. I find that Metaphors are very effective when conveying a message, especially in a therapeutic context. People can see their values and commitments as a guiding force that will orient them to where they want to go. This process isn’t effortless by any means, but it’s worth it.

I have brought intentionality into my practice and my personal life in a variety of ways. In my clinical practice, I like to start the therapy process by discussing values and what’s important to my clients. I find that this initial conversation allows client to focus more on their personal resources as opposed to continue feeling fussed with the problem. As a result, the problem takes a back seat during these initial steps of therapy; and this tends to be a refreshing, positive, and unique experience for clients (and for myself too). I have used to “Compass” metaphor to create a handout that I use with my younger clients. The handout helps adolescents stay motivated in the conversation and the selfdiscovery process. The handout has the picture of a compass and asks questions about values and actions consistent with those values. My clients often like to hold on to this handout and refer back to their findings in later sessions. I am happy that I can give my clients something tangible that can remind them of the new discoveries.

Intentionality has helped me expand the awareness about myself as a therapist, partner, and friend. I can present myself in ways that are consistent with what I value the most in life. For example, I have realized how much I value honesty, authenticity, and transparent relationships. This understanding has helped me identify actions that fit with who I truly am. I am more willing to be patient with myself, my friends, and my family. I am also committed to being an honest and authentic person regardless of what others think or what the “judgy voice” in my head may try to make me believe about myself. I feel more in control of my actions and the decisions that I make. I want to share this gift with others, especially my clients. Intentionality has done so much for me and I truly believe it does a lot for the people who consult me. I am very appreciative of this Narrative principle and grateful that I get to implement it in my personal life and my work.


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