While many therapies focus on the reduction of disturbing symptoms, others pursue behavior consistent with personally held values. Based on regulatory focus theory (Higgins, 1997), reducing symptoms is a type of prevention goal while pursuing values is a promotion goal. In the current study, 123 undergraduate students elicited a negative, self-focused emotion-laden cognition. They were then randomly assigned to construe their negative thought as either (a) an impediment to valued behaviors, (b) a cause of unpleasant symptoms, or to one of two control conditions: (c) distraction or (d) no intervention. Then, participants in all groups completed a series of repetitive therapeutic tasks that targeted their elicited negative cognitions. Results showed that participants who construed treatment in terms of valued behavior promotion spent more time on a therapeutic task than all other groups. The group in the unpleasant symptom promotion condition did not differ from either control group. The motivational advantage of value promotion was not accounted for by differences in mood. The present findings suggest that clients may be better motivated through value promotion goals, as opposed to symptom prevention goals.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by Israeli Science Foundation Grant 961/10 to Iftah Yovel.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy
- Cognitive behavior therapy
- Motivation in treatment
- Regulatory focus theory