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By George Maxwell

Updated on 08/08/2015

Now that we understand a little more about our depression, and how to use formulation to break down our problem into more manageable chunks, we want to spend some time reflecting upon how our life would be different if we were to reduce our problems or get rid of them entirely. On this section and the following, we’re going to spend some time thinking about our values, and secondly our treatment goals.

Our values serve as a compass for our lives

Our values serve as a compass for our lives


What do we mean by values? In our context, Values are sets of principles or guidelines with which we choose to live our lives by. Honesty, Truth and Freedom are all examples of values. As you can see, they are not necessarily objective or observable in nature, however they may serve as a set of principles with which someone can derive and generate meaning within their lives. Values have the power to motivate. When we understand our own values, then we understand more about what we need to do to get the meaning back into our lives.


The values assessment

Context is everything in designing effective goals and as such we want to centre our goal setting around your current life situation and the things that are important to you. Whilst Cognitive Behavioural Therapy presents us with a toolkit for dealing with our problems, it is unable to make assumptions about what it is that you as an individual thrive upon. We are all different, and as part of our personality make-up we each hold an abundance of varied values and beliefs about what we would like our inner and outer world to be like. As such, this first exercise in goal-setting is called a Values Assessment, and enables you to explore the values and attitudes which are intrinsically special to you. In the values assessment below, there are six different categories which broadly represent the different life dimensions of the average individual. Using the cue questions attached to each category to help you, have a go at writing down your values for each dimension.

You can download a printable version of this document here.

Values Assessment

Spend some time thinking about each of the life categories listed below. Reflect upon what is valuable or important for you in each of the areas and write it down in the space provided. Remember, there is no right or wrong to this and we all each hold our own values. Use the cue questions to help.

Father – What type of Dad do you want to be? What qualities do you value in your relationship with your child? What do you value most about being a father? How would you like to be viewed by your children?

Partner – What type of partner do you want to be? What qualities do you value in your relationship with your partner? How would you like to be viewed by your partner?

Family – What type of son, brother, uncle or cousin do you want to be? What qualities do you value in your relationships with your family? How would you like to be viewed by your family?

Social – What type of friend do you want to be? What qualities do you value in your relationships with your friends? How would you like to be viewed by your friends?

Career/work – What is important to you in your career? What values would you experience in your ideal job? If you are currently not working, what would attract you to a particular type of work?

Hobbies/Interests – What do you value doing in your spare time? What do you seek to get from it? If you don’t have any particular interests currently, what did you value about interests you have enjoyed in the past?

Spirituality/Meaning/Religion – What is important to you when you think about the big questions? What do you value in your philosophy of life?

How did it go? In addition to defining some concrete values, many clients report that this exercise in particular can have a real motivating effect, allowing them to genuinely access and reflect upon the things which drive them in life. So, if you’ve skipped ahead to this section without completing the Values assessment, then please take a couple of steps back and have a go at it – the benefits are significant. What does it feel like to have spent some time exploring the things that you value the most? The things that define you? As I said earlier, there are no right answers to the values assessment so hopefully you have been able to be honest with yourself. Your partner, or anyone else for that matter, doesn’t need to see your values assessment if you don’t want them too. This is your stuff.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values,
your values become your destiny.”
Mahatma Gandhi


Now that we understand a little bit more about the things that make us tick, we need to consider how we are going to integrate our values more into our lives. How to actually behave in a way that gets us more of the good stuff. This is where we need to convert our values into goals – click here to learn about exactly how to do this.

George Maxwell is an Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and director of Access CBT UK.
He specialises in the treatment of Male depression in the post-natal period but also has extensive skills in working with PTSD, Anxiety disorders, OCD and Panic. If you would like to arrange individual therapy with him (either face to face or via the modern miracle of Skype!), or would like to receive information and updates relating to New Dad Depression then feel free to contact him at