On this page we discuss criticisms from therapists who are against having transparent values, including the very common reply "I don't impose values on clients", and why this is misleading and, in the vast majority of cases, a fallacy frequently motivated by money and not to sincerely help the client. In fact, we assert that therapists who hide their values are actually more imposing on clients than the opposite, except in unique and specific cases. We explain this below.
A True And Real Life Example - Could This Be You?
Imagine a man who's life is collapsing, his wife no longer loves him due to years of her being emotional neglected and she intends to leave him, in fact she is already in the process of it. He truly loves her deep down- where did he go so wrong? How can he fix this? (Sadly, he has no clue how his years of ignoring her emotional needs has caused her love to die.) He manages to convince her to see a counselor for help. She is reluctant but figures she will go, she at least owes him that. But after this, she is gone for good. Can you see how important it is that this man find the right counselor? He gets one shot...just one shot at finding a counselor who can peel off the layers that, over the years, have become hardened scaled armor, and bring hope for this dying marriage. What if the counselor he chose viewed marriage as merely a "piece of paper" with divorce as an easy out? What if he selected a therapist with a personal bias (or even worse, secret held radical beliefs) that may actually make things worse? Or a therapist who is simply motivated by profit, taking a client's money and rebooking them as much as possible? Or what if he brought his wife to a therapist who was so morally neutral, that anything and everything was "right" simply if the client felt it was right? Believe it, there are a lot of licensed therapists out there like that! Can you see how important the values of the counselor are to a situation like this? He could open a phone book and randomly select any therapist, but how wise is it to take your future, and stake it on the roll of dice? There are a lot of licensed therapists out there, and not all of them have the same beliefs about marriage. In fact, we ourselves have received emails from therapists who have flat out stated their opposition to the idea of saving marriages. This man desperately needs a counselor who is well grounded, and believes in marriage.
Values based counselling means that the counselor is always pointing to a better way, meeting the client where he or she is at, and guiding that person towards a higher place: a place of deeper truth, a place of greater meaning. Non-values oriented counseling will simply seek to return the client to a functional level, or simply at a place that is "best for them." Well in the example above what was "best for the wife" was divorce. Yet she may not realize, or even see, that there could be door for her that leads her to a joyful life with her husband. While we believe that all people have the capacity within them to change, that does not mean they can always see all the choices before them. Sometimes people are so heavily oppressed by their situation that they genuinely cannot see a way out, or are unable to discern the best possible path. This is where the values of the counselor are critical to effective therapy.
Values are the whispers of our conscience that show us those things in our lives that need to change, they help us understand not only the problems in our lives, but why they were problems. Without values, we are unable to identify destructive behaviors and patterns of thoughts that cause pain and brokenness. Values allow us to learn from the past, let things go, and illuminate a new path towards a brighter future. And while we may never actually reach the ideal, it is instead the journey towards it that holds the joy of living; that we live a life always walking forward, towards a better place, one that is full of hope, experiencing true freedom and purpose every step of the way.
"I Don't Impose Values On Clients!"
This is probably the #1 concern we hear from professionals who feel hesitant about a transparent values approach regarding counseling and therapy. This section is written for therapists, but if you are a client this discussion may give you more insight into the world "behind" therapy.
There is a view in mainstream psychology that states therapists must keep their values hidden to clients. This may have been true at one time, but with the vast use of the internet, it is a flawed premise based on a faulty assumption that clients are not pro-active in their mental health care. This worked 50 years ago when clients had little activity in choosing a professional, but in the age of internet dominated therapy selection where clients now read biographies and websites of therapist's,, this approach is often wrong at best, and at worst, harmful. We will demonstrate why this philosophy of therapy is flawed with pro-active clients (it also should be stated that all clients who use the internet to find a therapist, are by definition, being pro-active in their mental health care). For clients who do not have much choice in selecting a therapist, then yes, values should remain hidden as best they can. But when clients are making a pro-active choice in finding a therapist (as most do today), then suddenly, hiding values can be a hinderence to successful therapy and can do a dis-service to the client.
First lets define the difference between "hidden values" and "transparent values" therapy.
- All therapists are human beings, and as human beings, all therapists also have a personal value system.
- Therapists, the vast majority of them, do not compromise their own personal values in therapy.
If you are a therapist, both points are going to be true. Counselors, regardless of their personal values, are neither expected to, nor do they by by practice, compromise themselves in therapy. But does (a) having personal values, and (b) not compromising values equate to (c) imposing values? It does not. So lets assume two hypothetical therapists, Therapist A who believes strongly against imposing values in Therapy, and keeps his/her values hidden from the client, and Therapist B with transparent values. What is the difference between these two therapists? Well, both of them have a set of personal values. The only difference is that Therapist B has made his/her values transparent to the client up front, before therapy even begins. Transparency is the only difference, nearly the exact opposite of imposing.
Hidden Values Are More Imposing
Because all clients who use the internet to find a therapist are being pro-active in their health care, we make the case that a therapist who tries to keep his or her values hidden is far closer to imposing on a client, than a therapist who has those values transparent. With transparent values, the client knows the values up front, and then can make the choice to see....or not to see....a therapist before spending any money, and before investing any energy. With a "hidden values" therapist, the client has already spent money, and has already invested time, energy, and emotions into therapy. The values of the therapist then "leak" into therapy over time, and the client discovers, over time, that the therapist's values are polar opposite, and the client may feel defeated and give up counseling or go back to the search for a new therapist.
Which scenario is better for a client:
A) Client reads the transparent values and approach of a therapist by reading their internet biography and visiting the therapist's website. Perhaps the client even finds the therapist's social media pages, and learn a little bit about who the therapist is as an individual. The values of the therapist are clearly against the values of the client. The client avoids making contact with that therapist, and finds another.
B) Client contacts a therapist whose values are "hidden." There is no obvious conflict of values, client makes an appointment. Client invests money, time and energy into therapy, and only later learns, over the course of therapy, that the therapist has strong beliefs in direct opposition to their personal beliefs.
In Scenario A, the client was empowered. The client had information about the therapist, and avoided spending money and energy on ineffective therapy. In Scenario B, the client only discovered, over the course of paid therapy, that he/she could not have the kind of beneficial relationship with the therapist because of a deep chasm in personal a value system. Scenario B is far more imposing on a client, than scenario A.
Case in point, a psychologist in Portland (name withheld) made a disturbing accusation to us in writing that anyone who did not share the views of a particular political party in the United States was the equivalent of a hatemonger, and a fanatic. Now, this person was certainly free to have such an extreme activist political opinion. In his view, from what he communicated to us, a therapist who did not vote with his preferred political party was probably not even qualified to be a therapist. He really did have an outright hate against the "other guys". We found this kind of partisanry strange, considering Theravive actually began in Canada, a country with several political parties, and we, Theravive, are completely non-political.
Now let's imagine this therapist has a client who embraces and is active with the other political party. Because this therapist was so activist and intense in his disdain of opposing political views, we postulate this would be a negatively charged atmosphere for the client, and that the client should have knowledge up front that the therapist has expressive hostility towards his views. Our position is that a client is simply better off when he or she knows the values of their therapist right out the gate. Having this kind of thing "leak" out in therapy after money, time, and energy is committed does not benefit the client at all. It may make the therapist money, but it is not good for the client. And to think that this wouldn't leak out at all is simply misguided. Values of therapists do come out in therapy, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, it is simply the nature of human relationships. And a therapist-client relationship is still an interpersonal relationship.
Myth: A Counselor Exposing Their Values Will Exclude A Client
Completely false. Courts have ruled that therapists are allowed to have and be let known, their own beliefs and values. What a therapist should not do, however, is refuse service to a client based on their values. We at Theravive believe that therapists should never turn away a client based on beliefs or values. If a Buddhist counselor, for example, lets an atheist client know up front that she is a practicing Buddhist, and the atheist client still wants therapy, then this is a great situation. The client was informed, the client was empowered, and the client still accepted. By all means the Buddhist therapist should welcome the atheist client fully and begin therapy to the best of their ability while showing the utmost respect and sensitivity to the client's values and beliefs.. We must not equate having transparent values with exclusion. A therapist who provides therapy to a client should always respect the values of the client, none of this is debated. All we are saying is that the old days of "hide your values" is no longer necessarily preeminent due to clients today being proactive and wanting to know biographies of therapists before starting therapy. The internet has given clients much more power over their mental health care. They now read profiles, and learn about you before starting therapy. Let clients know, up front, who you are, and where you come from. Let them know, up front, the foundation of your values and beliefs, and your approach. And when they still reach out to you anyway, accept them as clients unconditionally, and respect their values and beliefs unilaterally.
How Should Values Be Revealed? In Therapy Sessions?
We are not saying that a therapist should "spill" themselves in a session. This is not appropriate at all. Because therapists today have social media accounts, biographies and websites, and because today's client will often find a therapist online, this is where that kind of information belongs. Talk about your approach, your values, your beliefs in counseling on your biography or website. This is healthy. This empowers clients with better choices on better matches with therapists. And better matches with therapists mean better therapy outcomes.. That is all we are saying. And this is why Theravive exists. We want to acknolwedge and embrace the changing landscape of client-therapist interactions by recognizing the integral connection the internet now has to mental health care selection.
All of the counsellors listed in our directory have committed to upholding our core values
Your experience with a Theravive counselor should be one that is beneficial to you. You are always welcome to contact us with any question or comment regarding your experience with one of our therapists.
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