Discovering Values in the Pursuit of Meaning

Defining values is one of the most critical parts to growth, as well as the counseling experience. It seems impossible to find your own meaning and purpose in life if you don’t know what you truly value. As a counselor, I often hear questions, such as “is it wrong for me to do this?” or “what do you think?” or anything else to convey, “I need more direction. Please help me.” I would be lying if I said I did not have an opinion when those questions come up. However, I know the counseling process is not about me conveying my own values and opinions, but instead journeying with someone in order for them to determine those values. Yep! That’s why us therapists often like to answer a question with a question. Sneaky, I know! However, in almost all instances where I reflect the question back to the client, their answer is wiser than what I would have come up with. Because it is their own values and not my opinions!

I enjoy many different counseling activities to help a client discover their unique set of values. One of my favorite activities is a value sort. I often provide a stack of cards with various values, such as friendship, loyalty, love, hard-work, education, etc. I have a client group the cards into two sets: important and not as important. From there, I have the client pick out the top 10, 5, 3, and number 1 value. Interestingly, the values that are deemed not as important seem to provide just as much information about a person than the values that are important.

Another fun values counseling activity is to write down the top 10 most important things in your life. Next to that list, the person then writes down the top 10 things that take up their time. They then look at the columns and determine if the two columns look alike, or can they discover areas in their life they are not spending enough time in, or maybe they are spending too much time participating in other areas.

As a counselor trained in CBT, I often discuss values as core values. These are the values that we have that we may not even realize, but these values dictate our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. They are influenced by our childhood, family, life experiences, etc. For instance, a mother might value having family time with all the family members present. When she starts to process the importance of this, she might realize that she hurt during her own childhood because of her parent’s divorce. Writing down what the client needed and/lacked in the client’s own childhood, gives those childhood needs a voice and can be tremendously helpful in discovering one’s current values while healing old pains.

If you are struggling with getting more out of life, it might be time to give us a call, 713.380.1151. Life stressors can be overwhelming, and we can all struggle finding our new purpose during different life stages.

Written by Amy Rollo, M.A., LSSP, LPC-S

Amy Rollo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and owner of Heights Family Counseling. Amy has been practicing for fifteen years. She has doctoral level training in the areas of child and adolescent counseling, marriage and family therapy, and adult counseling. Amy Rollo provides counseling and evaluation services in the Houston Heights and surrounding areas. Amy’s goal in counseling is to journey with her clients in order to foster positive changes and growth in their lives. Read more about Amy's counseling style by visiting and read more about her services