A Valued Path to Change: Evaluation of a Brief Values Intervention with College Students Seeking Therapy
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Data in recent years suggests that college students may be experiencing increasing levels of psychological difficulties in the form of more diagnosable disorders, increased complexity of problems, and stress related symptoms and that these mental health issues may be implicated in academic problems. Short-term treatments focused primarily on symptoms that may be increasingly used as resources are challenged may not address some core concerns that were more traditionally associated with longer term therapies, such as values, and these areas may be particularly important for the student population. Research in college students has found an increased sense of life meaning to be associated with lower levels of depression and suicidality and suggests that values might be a moderator of the relationship between stress and depression. Coupled with research on intrinsic values and well-being, this research suggests values interventions with college students entering psychotherapy could be one possible source of innovation that might empower many treatment approaches with students. The present study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of a brief values pre-intervention at intake. The study compared a 30-45 minute values pre-intervention at intake (n=33) to a treatment as usual intake control (n=35). Results showed no statistically significant differences between groups at 3 month follow-up on measures of depression, general health, and values, but did show significant correlations between measures of values and decreased depression. The lack of statistically significant differences in outcome in the values group could be related to the lack of an integrated course of treatment structured to support the values approach, a hypothesis that may be corroborated by more recent findings suggesting values approaches alone may lead to poorer outcomes than acceptance approaches alone. There has been controversy for some time within Acceptance and Commitment Therapy research about beginning treatment with values work versus dealing with values later in treatment, and the findings of this study support the importance of continued research into specific factors that may be necessary to make values work successful in psychotherapy.