One Way to Clarify your Own Values

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

Bret DiNovi, M.A., BCBA

Brett DiNovi & Associates

It is no secret that Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a hot topic in behavior analysis.  Workshops and “boot camps” specifically targeting behavior analysts are more prevalent than ever.  And in my experience the quantity of talks on ACT at our professional conferences (e.g., ABAI), and the sizes of audiences they attract, are growing by leaps and bounds each year.

If you have an interest in ACT, but maybe never had the chance to learn about it in your training program, a recent video by Brett DiNovi & Associates (BDA) is a good starting point.  Kate Rice, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who works with the company, describes her recent experiences in ACT and as a certified yoga instructor.

As do many who discover ACT, Kate noted the profound effects it has had on her life, and focuses her points on the values component of ACT.  From an ACT perspective, values are ways of being in your life that can never be fulfilled.  In other words, values are actions rather than outcomes.

For example, valuing “being a good parent” is an ongoing action that never stops.  There will never be a day where you can say “I have not achieved good parent status and I can stop parenting.”  Similarly, if you value “learning”, you can learn in any life situation in and out of formal educational settings.  Each experience you have at work, with friends or family, or with life’s struggles, can serve your larger value of “learning” and at no point can you say you are done learning.

Values clarification techniques are a way to utilize ACT to help give you direction in life, and to track new reinforcers that might lead you along your value directions.  Such techniques can take a variety of forms.  The form isn’t as important here as the outcome.  In her video, Kate offers a quick exercise that works for her to help clarify her own valued directions.

As a precaution, she noted her initial difficulty with values clarification as she would find herself listing goals instead.  Remember, however, that goals are something you can achieve, whereas values are ways of being.  For example, “good grades” are a goal, while “learning” might be a value.  Goals are an outcome while values are actions.

She first recommends to make a list of words that speak to you.  This should be done without too much thought, in a free writing type of style.  After you have a sizable list, she recommends to circle the words that are most meaningful to you in some way.  Next, try grouping the words you have circled into 3-5 clusters that each have a certain theme. Finally, you can find a word for each group that fits the theme, such as “sense of connection”, or “wellness” and unpack these values to link them to concrete behavior that serves the large direction.

To hear more about values clarification, be sure to check out the full video and subscribe to Brett DiNovi & Associate’s YouTube channel.  Also be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world,  bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiaries, bSciEntrepreneurial, bSciWebDesign, bSciWriting, and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at [email protected]

Brett DinoviBrett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA has the unique and distinguished experience of studying the principles of applied behavior analysis under the rigorous scrutiny of both Dr. Julie S. Vargas (formerly Skinner) and Dr. E.A. Vargas at West Virginia University’s internationally recognized program. For the past 26 years, Brett has used behavior analytic principles to create large scale change across school districts, Fortune 500 companies using principles of Organizational Behavior Management (OBM), and across individual learners. Brett has been a OBM consultant in Morgantown WV, an instructor at West Virginia University, a guest lecturer at numerous universities, a speaker on multiple Comcast Newsmakers TV programs, an expert witness in due process hearings, has publications in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, and has been in in executive leadership positions across schools and residential programs nationwide. In addition to an award from South Jersey Biz Magazine for “Best Places to Work,” an award for “Best of Families” in Suburban Magazine, and the distinguished “Top Ranked U.S. Executives” award, Brett’s proudest accomplishment is being a role model and father for his daughter and two stepchildren (one of which has autism). Brett can be reached at [email protected]

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