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Identifying Strengths and Discovering Values

Posted by Brand Bonsall, MA, ACMHC, Therapist at Entrada on November 27, 2019

Brand 3In my work within Evoke, I like highlighting students strengths to help uncover their values. Then examining those values within the wilderness setting and helping students to understand how those values impact their life in a healthy manner.

Identifying Strengths:

I believe that all people have strengths and that part of our role in therapy is to remind students of those strengths and to discover strengths that they did not know they had. The way that we discover those strengths is often through noticing a change in behavior and then asking the question, “How did you do that?” This is a favorite question of mine as it affirms students that they have made a change in behavior and secondarily helps them to identify exactly what they did to make that change. Once that change in behavior is noticed, we then search for ways that this strength can be utilized to affect other areas of their life. For example, a student has struggled with busting or primitive fire making and then suddenly is able to make fire. With the question “How did you do that,” we help students to identify exactly what strengths were used to do something different. Perhaps this strength was resilience, preparation, or asking for help and coaching. We can then take this strength of resilience and examine how this can be utilized at home. Can you see resilience and preparation are strengths of yours, and can you apply that to home?

Value Discovery:

Values are the framework that defines who you want to be in the world. Values are not goals. Goals can be achieved and values are moment-to-moment choices. Values are about behavior, not what I want to get from others, and sometimes living by my values means I have to do something I don’t want to do.
An example of a value that students often discover in wilderness is the value of connection to others. They realize that their behavior towards others at home caused disconnection. They were chasing moment to moment happiness instead of living according to their values.
In wilderness they learn that their actions affect others and can lead to disconnection with their group members. This realization can then be translated into their home life by looking closer at how they were disconnected from their family. The challenge then becomes implementing values beyond the wilderness in multiple aspects of their life.

By helping students to uncover strengths, define values, and then challenge how their behavior does not meet those values, students can come to a new realization on how to utilize those tools to lead a healthier and more connected life. The wilderness is an ideal setting to attain a richer understanding of values and strengths. It is incredibly rewarding work, and I love seeing students make these realizations that change is both possible and healthy.


This line really grabbed me..."They realize that their behavior towards others at home caused disconnection." I think my son didn't realize and still doesn't realize how his behavior affects those around him. Thank you for such a great post!

Posted by JANINE Mashny

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