Values clarification is a type of therapy in which the therapist tries to help the patient become aware of their own morals and values. In values clarification therapy, there is typically an activating event in which the patient must make a moral choice based on his or her own value system.
Values clarification is preferred in therapy so that the client can come to his or her own conclusions without being guided completely by the therapist. While therapist guidance is important, especially in some cases, there is the danger that the therapist may knowingly or unknowingly promote their own values and moral codes when it comes to a patient's moral dilemma. In values clarification, a solution must be found based solely on the client's own feelings about values and ethics. In this situation, the likelihood of the therapist breaking ethical principles of psychology is lessened.
According to sociologist Morris Massey, value systems are discovered by a person during three stages in their lifetime. The first stage is the imprint period, from birth to 7 years. The second stage is the modeling period, from 8 to 13 years, and the last period is the socialization period, from 13 to 21 years. Personal values developed during these time periods have staying power into adulthood, although a person may need assistance from a therapist in trying to utilize morals in decision making.