Pushed by Symptoms, Pulled by Values: Promotion Goals Increase Motivation in Therapeutic Tasks

Benjamin A. Katz*, Sara Catane, Iftah Yovel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)239-247
Number of pages9
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015.


  • Acceptance and commitment therapy
  • Cognitive behavior therapy
  • Motivation in treatment
  • Regulatory focus theory
  • Values


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