Living a values-based life is different from a goals-oriented one. A values-based life encompasses more than trying to “feel good” or get to a final destination. When you direct your life toward what really matters to you, you will feel an increased sense of meaning and vitality, whatever situation you find yourself in. Values-based living has greater depth and staying power than goals and resolutions. Join Debbie and Dr. Jenna LeJeune, author of Values in Therapy: Clinician’s Guide to Helping Clients Explore Values, Increase Psychological Flexibility, and Live a More Meaningful Lifefor an encouraging discussion about what “living well” really means and how to increase values-based living in yourself and in your clients.

 Listen and Learn:

  • What do “values” really mean, and how are they different in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

  • How to disentangle values from morals and goals 

  • Tips for how to explore what “living well” means to you

  • Why pain deserves appreciation 

  • What to do when you feel like your values conflict with each other

About Dr. Jenna LeJeune

Dr. Jenna LeJeune is a clinical psychologist, author, and co-founder and president of Portland Psychotherapy, an evidenced-based psychotherapy clinic in Portland, Oregon. Dr. LeJeune specializes in using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to help individuals reorient toward what matters to build a more meaningful and well-lived life. She is a peer-reviewed trainer in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and serves as a mental health expert co-host of the podcast Beyond Well with Sheila Hamilton. A Clinician’s Guide to Helping Clients Explore Values, Increase Psychological Flexibility, and Live a More Meaningful Life is Dr. LeJeune’s first book.



Meet Our New Co-Host, Dr. Jill Stoddard! In this episode, we also make an exciting announcement about a new Co-Host joining us in January 2020. To learn more about Jill, please visit our About Page. You can listen to Yael’s Interview With Jill about her first book, The Big Book of ACT Metaphors, or pre-order Jill’s new book, Be Mighty: A Woman’s Guide to Liberation from Anxiety, Worry, and Stress Using Mindfulness and Acceptance!

Sponsor: Praxis Continuing Education

ACT BootCamp® with Steven C. Hayes, PhD, Robyn Walser, PhD, and Kelly Wilson, PhD, cofounders of ACT

Portland, OR | February 20–23, 2020; up to 32 CE/CME credits available

Sign up with a friend to save 20% off the professional registration price!


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Transcript of Episode:

Jenna LeJeune:    

The thing I’m interested in is not what is the meaning of life. I’m interested in helping people explore what is a meaningful life.

For you. And those are very different questions, right? One is about finding some truth that exists out there. There is a meaning of life. And the other is, um, uh, looking inward and a choosing process. What for me would create a meaningful life? What would I choose that to be? And then by definition, you living out your values is the meaningful life.

Debbie Sorensen: That was Dr Jenna LeJeune on Psychologists Off the Clock.

Diana Hill: We are three clinical psychologists committed to cutting edge,  integrative, and evidence based strategies for living well.

On this podcast. We bring you ideas from psychology that can help you flourish in your work, [00:01:00] parenting, relationships, and health.

I am Dr. Diana Hill practicing in seaside, Santa Barbara, California.

I’m Dr Debbie Sorensen practicing in mile-high, Denver, Colorado.

And from coast to coast. I’m Dr. Yael Schonbrun a Boston-based clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Brown university.

We hope this podcast offers you ideas for how to live a full and meaningful life. Thank you for  

Debbie sometimes. Have you felt that your practice has gotten a little bit stale?

Debbie Sorensen: Oh yeah, for sure. How about you?

Diana Hill: Absolutely. There’s been periods of time where I’ve maybe lost touch with that vitality and excitement around learning and growing as a psychologist and therapist, and I think one of the best ways to revitalize our practices is by going to a workshop and specifically an act workshop.

Debbie Sorensen: Oh, for sure. Getting that practice and inspiration from a workshop is really does kind of recharge the clinical work that we do.

Diana Hill: Our [00:02:00] sponsor Praxis a continuing education offers incredible workshops in act, and one in particular is the bootcamp, which is a real immersion into guided practice and recognizing all the components of psychological flexibility, and you do it in a way where not only do you learn the foundation.

Things like relational frame theory and cognition, but you get to practice these skills with, with therapists and get feedback from masters in ACT.

Debbie Sorensen: Absolutely.

And this one that they’re doing in  Portland, Oregon next in February, February 20.

20th through 23rd has some true masters at the helm. Steve Hayes, Robin Walser, and Kelly Wilson. They’re all amazing. You really can’t beat them as a team for learning ACT and, revitalizing your practice.

Diana Hill: It’s a way to build community. It’s a way to build your, build your skillset, and then you return home.

Feeling excited and rejuvenated in your work. So check out act bootcamp at Praxis [00:03:00] there a website is Praxis, you can also find them.

You just scroll down on, on this podcast, you’ll see them at the bottom and you can click on that, check out the bootcamp, but also check on on all their other resources available to you.

Debbie Sorensen: Yes. And if you were enrolled by January 9th you get $50 off. So act, act fast.


Debbie Sorensen:  We have big news, everyone. We are so excited to announce a change coming this January. Our podcast has been growing and we are growing right along with it. Dr Jill Stoddard is joining us as a cohost. Um, Jill, like the three of us is an act therapist. She’s the director of the center for stress and anxiety management in Southern California.

Diana Hill: And she really brings a strong background in the treatment of anxiety and stress. She trained under the renowned, Dr. David Barlow, and she’s a act trainer, recognized act trainer and the author of an upcoming book, B mighty, which is going to be coming out in January, and we’ll be interviewing her about her new book. And I would highly recommend you check it out and you can even preorder it now.

Debbie Sorensen: Yeah. And she’s also, she’s been on our podcast before, so you can check that out too, to get, get a sense of what she’s like. She was on episode number 77 which is about acceptance and commitment therapy. She talked about her previous book, the big book of [00:05:00] act metaphors. Welcome, Jill. We are so excited that you’re joining us.

Jill Stoddard: Thanks you guys. I’m super excited. I could not be more thrilled to be joining the team.

Debbie Sorensen: For us. Bringing Jill on the podcast lines up really well with our values, with the values of this podcast. She’s a great fit for us. And in this episode we’re talking all about values. We’ve been hearing that word values a lot, and talking to hearing people talk about meaning and values, and in this episode, Dr. Jenna LeJeune is offering us the nuances of exploring values in an acceptance and commitment therapy framework.

Diana Hill: I’ve been hearing about living a meaningful life or a purpose driven life all over the place, everywhere from psychology, but also just in a lot of pop culture. And I think some of the questions that we have around that is how does that really translate into your day to day actions? And then how does that translate in act? Because act takes. A [00:06:00] specific stance around values. And Dr LaJeune in this episode answers a lot of the questions that we have around what does it look like to explore values in therapy, but also what does it look like to do it in your life? And since this episode. I’ve been thinking a lot more about values in my life and checking in throughout the day, asking and grappling the question, is this the quality of action that I want to bring to this situation?

Debbie Sorensen: Yeah, I’m glad you found it helpful. Diana. I have too and I really want to shout this one from the rooftops because I love her work and I just, I, it had a personal impact on me and I’m hoping that our listeners will enjoy it and share it with the, with other people.

Diana Hill: Perfect episode for the holidays. And we’re spending a lot of time with family and with friends to be thinking about our values. Yeah.

Debbie Sorensen: Yeah. Always a good time. Holidays may be especially so, well, let me tell you a little bit about Dr. Jenna LeJeune. She’s a practicing clinical psychologist in Portland, Oregon. She’s cofounder and the [00:07:00] president of the Portland psychotherapy clinic. She’s also on a podcast as one of the mental health experts, and the podcast is called Beyond Well with Sheila Hamilton. She’s also a peer reviewed act trainer in acceptance and commitment therapy. Like Jill. And we talked to her in this interview about her brand new book, which is called Values in Therapy: A Clinician’s Guide to Helping Clients Explore Values, Increased Psychological Flexibility, and Live a More Meaningful Life, which she coauthored with Dr Jason Louma.

I love your book. Jenna, it’s just so wonderful. It has a very personal tone to it. You share a lot of wonderful examples. Um, so I thought as a starting place. Maybe you could speak a bit about your own personal process of doing values work, exploring your own values and why you think this is an important. Important enough to write a book about.

Jenna LeJeune: Sure. Yeah. Uh, well, thank you for the kind words. Um, yeah, I do think it’s, um, [00:08:00] probably a pretty unusual book, uh, for professionals in that it is really quite personal.

It was actually very difficult for me to write it that way. I had to like keep coming back to being more vulnerable and personal in it, and that was really a values based choice for me as I was writing it. Um. But as far as like my own process around values. I think it’s, I think what I would like to communicate first is I, I don’t have this all figured out.

It’s, it’s not like I’m walking around the world always in this state of, Oh, my life is completely meaningful and I’m always doing whatever is most in line with my values. I just I don’t think it works that way if it does work that way. I haven’t figured it out yet. I think it’s more like this process where, because I’ve been thinking about and working on these things for so long, I’m more frequently able to notice [00:09:00] when I’m valuing things that aren’t what I would choose to value.

But I’m constantly just sort of checking that with myself. So I guess I don’t want to give the impression that I have this all figured out. But think, you know, values were actually what drew me to act. Um, I was actually a pretty act resistant in the beginning. Um, and it was the values part of it that really drew me in.

And I think because I’m both in my own personal life and in my work with clients, I have just spent so much effort trying to get rid of pain. I would get to these places where it felt like this losing battle. Like no matter what I would do either for myself or my clients, more pain just kept showing up.

Um, you know, the Buddhist got that one right? Like, life is suffering, like, and it just kind of keeps [00:10:00] coming. And, um, I really. Wanted to start orienting my life and my work around something that was about more than just alleviating the pain and values for me, or an answer for that. So that was sort of my interest in, in values to begin with.

Debbie Sorensen: Well, I love pointing out that it’s a process. It’s not like you have it all figured out, or I have it all figured out, or we live every second of our day in a certain very meaningful way, but that if you can sort of. Use that as a general guide. There’s so much Richmond richness there.

Jenna LeJeune: Yeah, absolutely.

And I do think that that’s one of the, um, the stumbling blocks for both, uh, therapists and other human beings is that when they’re talking about values that are often thinking about, like, I just have to figure out what my values are. It’s like this values clarification. And once I figure that out, then like.

You know, I’ll just be able to go forward and have no [00:11:00] problems. And I think values clarification is a very, very small part of the process. I think it’s valuing that act of continuing to reorient and reorient around, um, living out your values that that’s where the real work lies.

Debbie Sorensen: Right.

Putting it into practice.

Right? Yeah. Right. So you mentioned that when, when people go to therapy, often the focus in the beginning especially is feeling better. I mean, most people come into the office saying, I want to feel less emotional pain or less anxiety or less depressed, and I want to feel better and happier, but really focusing on values gives a whole different tone to things.

Can you talk a little bit about why you think it’s important, not just to focus on the. Decreasing discomfort part in therapy, but also towards something bigger.

Jenna LeJeune: Oh, sure. Yeah. Um, and I really want to validate that. Of course, people want to get rid of their pain. Like [00:12:00] when I have gone into my own therapy at various points in my life, it’s almost always out of that place of, Oh, I don’t like this thing that I’m feeling or struggling with and I need to do something to try and get rid of it.

Like, that’s just a really normal human. Um. Kind of response. Uh, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What I think is problematic is when we lose the forest for the trees, it’s that when we spend so much of our life just focused on what we don’t want or trying to attain a feeling, you know, happiness in my understanding of it is a feeling and feelings come and go.

And I happen to really love the feeling of happiness. I feel fortunate that I feel that feeling a lot. Um, but it kind of comes and it goes. And I think orienting therapy and our lives, cause I think therapy is sort of a microcosm of our lives in general. I [00:13:00] think orienting ourselves around, um.

What really matters. Even beyond the pain or even with the pain gives honor to the pain that is going to keep coming. Now certainly it is important to also be able to have tools for like how do you cope when the pain is present. Um, but when our whole life is oriented around, I need to feel happy.

We stop. Noticing, Oh, like living well isn’t the same thing as feeling good. And if I had to choose between what was more important to me, I would rather live well then spend all of my life focused on feeling good. So that’s what I try and do in my own life. And that’s what, uh, my therapy work is about with clients as well.

Debbie Sorensen: Yeah. I love that there’s a distinction between sort of happiness as a feeling and something that has a greater depth to it. [00:14:00] More meaning,

Jenna LeJeune: yeah, absolutely. More consistency to it as well. Like meaning, um, for many people, for most people tends to have more of a staying power and it is not nearly as dependent on our external context, whereas happiness is largely dependent on.

Our external context for what’s going on outside of us, and so that’s another reason why I think attending to meaning versus just happiness is really quite important.

Debbie Sorensen: You’re right. Happiness is so elusive. It comes and goes right. You can’t really latch onto it and keep it forever.

Jenna LeJeune: Right. Exactly.

Debbie Sorensen: Good. That’d be lovely. But

it would be lovely work like that. Values.

This is a word. People who listen to this podcast have probably heard us use that word values so many times over the three years that we’ve been doing this. But I don’t know that we’ve ever really defined it. And in your book.

You go through what [00:15:00] values are and also what they aren’t. So I was wondering if you could just orient our listeners, like what are we talking about here? What are and aren’t values?

Jenna LeJeune: Sure. Yeah, absolutely. And again, please remember, like, I don’t have the truth on this. This is just what I mean when I speak about values and my understanding of values from an act perspective.

So, um, this isn’t. The truth about what values are with a capital T. but when I use the word values, I’m talking about qualities of action. So, um, these are not things, they’re not domains in our life. It’s not. When I use the word value, I’m not talking about something like I value family or I value work.

Those I think of as valued domains. It’s part areas of my life where I live out. My values, values are how I am living. When I am living a meaningful life. So one way I’ll often [00:16:00] talk about it with my clients is it’s sort of this weird combination of adverb and verb. It’s describing how you are living as you’re living out your life.

If you’re doing it in a meaningful way. So that’s one thing about values. And then the other, I mean, values is sort of an unfortunate word that we chose that word to describe this phenomenon we’re talking about because it means so much in our culture, but values, uh, from this perspective are distinct from morals and morals are.

Kind of rules about right and wrong, should and shouldn’t. And generally morals are the result of our learning history about how others have responded to us when we’d done something or haven’t done something. You know, I stole the candy bar and I got in trouble, and so I have a moral around, I shouldn’t steal.

And I think [00:17:00] morals are great. You know, our society runs much better because of morals. We don’t live in anarchy. That’s really wonderful, but it’s not the same as values which are freely chosen. They are not experienced as coming from some external should or shouldn’t, or rule. There’s simply my free choice of what would make for a well lived life for me.

What would be meaningful. And so those are Some of the ways I will talk about, um, values with my clients. And I also talk about them as their w are sort of things you’re wanting to move towards versus things you want to move away from. So, um, you know, valuing being. A loving partner, for example.

That’s kind of lovingly interacting with my partner. That’s more what I’m talking about with values versus I really don’t want to fight with my [00:18:00] partner, or I really want to stop being so bitchy with my partner that that has a more constricted feeling and that’s not what we’re looking for with values.

So those are some of the ways I’ll talk about it.

Debbie Sorensen: Yeah. Or even saying, focusing sometimes on, well, if my partner would blah blah blah, right? They have to come from within


Jenna LeJeune: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Debbie Sorensen: I’ve heard that before. Someone’s goal for therapy was for his wife to nag him less, and I was


I can’t really help you with that.


let’s take a look at what you’re bringing in.

Jenna LeJeune: Exactly. Dak. Yeah. Yeah. And, and from a values place, you know, the question would be, how would you, if you were free to choose, how would you ideally most want to respond to your wife even when she is nagging. And How can we help you be more of that person that you would be proud of even in those really tough moments when it makes it really hard to be that whatever loving [00:19:00] partner, patient, partner, whatever it is.

Yeah. Yeah.

Debbie Sorensen: That’s a hard question sometimes for people.

Jenna LeJeune: It certainly is, because we very often think that our behavior is really tied to other people’s behavior. Well, I would want to be this way. If so-and-so did something or if I, you know, I would want to be generous if I had more money. For example.

You know, if our context changes, and again, if we’re talking about values as being experienced as freely chosen, then it can’t be that they are dependent upon a certain context. It can’t be that they’re dependent on somebody else’s behavior or something changing in our life. And then we get to live a life of meaning.

Debbie Sorensen: Yeah,

yeah, absolutely. And they’re also not the same thing as goals. Can you talk a bit about distinction, but the distinction between values and goals?

Jenna LeJeune: Yeah, absolutely. So this is often one [00:20:00] that, uh. Human beings, including human beings that are clients, will kind of get values and goals mixed up with.

And goals are things that can be accomplished. So, um, uh, let’s say I want to get married, well. That’s a goal. I would choose to be a loving person in my relationships. That’s a value that describes how you want to be in your marriage, if you were married or in your relationships. And one of the difficulties that I see, um, in our culture, at least and my guess is in many cultures, is that we do tend to be very goal oriented.

So we ask our kids or our loved ones, like, what do you want to be when you grow up? What did you do at school today? What did you learn? What do you like? And all of those things are goals and those are really, really great. But. Goals in the [00:21:00] absence of values can make us feel like we’re sort of constantly chasing the next thing, as opposed to being aware of this very consistent path that we’re on.

And so as a behavioral psychologist, I’m. Constantly setting goals with my clients. I think it’s an important thing and our lives and with our clients to set goals, but I set goals after I have a sense of what direction my client wants to go in in their life. So values are the direction you’ll never.

Reach it. Like, you know, I have a value around being a loving partner. My partner is never going to come to me and say, you, you did it, you’re done. Nice job, Jenna. You can, you can move on from that. You accomplish that. Um, there’s always more. There’s always a next step of being loving. Um, and then goals are simply there to help.

Help us notice, are we on track? And, [00:22:00] and so they’re really just kind of markers to help us notice, are we still moving forward in the direction of our values? They’re not kind of. Valuable in and of themselves. So that’s kind of how I, I think about goals and values.

Debbie Sorensen: Yeah. I think that’s a really important distinction because sometimes they can get the difference can get confusing to people or clouded that you can mistake them for each other.

Jenna LeJeune: Absolutely. Absolutely. And again, going back to the freely chosen thing. If, if you thought your value, let’s say was around whatever, having children or getting married, that’s dependent upon a whole lot of external. Factors that you don’t have control over, like that may not be in the cards for you.

And so I really want my life and the lives of the people that I care about, including my clients, to be oriented [00:23:00] around what they have. The ability to control and influence. And that’s what values are.

Debbie Sorensen: Yeah. Dana Lee Bagley came on the podcast.

Jenna LeJeune: Oh yeah.

Debbie Sorensen: Ago and she talked about sort of the distinction between the behavior, what you’re doing, how you’re being related to your values versus the outcome.

Jenna LeJeune: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Debbie Sorensen: More about the doing and less about how it turns out. It might not turn out the way you want.

Jenna LeJeune: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. One example is if the value is, say, you know, lovingly being in this relationship with your spouse, well, you can do that. How does that look at the beginning of your relationship?

In the middle of your relationship, and then you can even lovingly interact with your spouse going through the process of divorce. Now, that may not be the outcome that you wanted for that relationship, but you can still live out your values even in that process. So you’re exactly right. It’s not about the [00:24:00] outcome, it’s about the process of how you are.

Again, how you are behaving,

Debbie Sorensen: right? How you’re showing up.

Jenna LeJeune: Yup. Yeah.

Debbie Sorensen: So I’ve been a big fan of Joseph Campbell my whole life since I discovered a friend in high school expose me to Joseph Campbell back in the day, back in high school. And there’s a quote that’s in your book from Joseph Campbell that I want to read.

“Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be.” And I wanted to, I think this is really related to this idea that values are freely chosen, which you’ve spoken to a couple of times. And I just, I think this is really important to think about, to think about that in terms of us ascribing our own meaning to it.

So why do you say that values are freely

chosen? What do you mean by that?

Jenna LeJeune: Yeah, I do. I do really love that quote. Um, sort of related to that quote, you know, oftentimes. [00:25:00] You know, kind of the big question is in life is like, what’s the meaning of life? Um, and I don’t know, maybe there’s some the answer to that.

Some theologian or philosopher may have an answer that I don’t have. I’m not so interested in that question. And I think Joseph Campbell’s quote sort of speaks to that. The thing I’m interested in is not what is the meaning of life. I’m interested in helping people explore what is a meaningful life.

For you. And those are very different questions, right? One is about finding some truth that exists out there. There is a meaning of life. And the other is, um, uh, looking inward and a choosing process. What for me would create a meaningful life? What would I choose that to be? And then by definition, you living out your values is the meaningful life.

Like that’s kind of how it works. And one thing I would say is that, [00:26:00] um, and in some ways I wish this were, I had made this a little bit clearer in the book. When I say that values are freely chosen. I don’t, I don’t really mean that in some. Truth kind of way like that. It’s actually not even a debate I’m interested in, is it actually true that values are freely chosen?

Is there such a thing as free will, what I’m, what I mean is that they’re experienced as freely chosen, that when we are contacting our values, we experience it as, Oh yeah. If, if I had the whole world. Open to me, if nothing in my history or my current context was dictating what, what would be important to me, this is what I would choose.

That’s, um, that’s what I mean by experienced as freely chosen [00:27:00] and as a therapist who does values, you know, my work is guided in values. That’s. My job is to help my clients create, help create a context where my clients can experience values as being freely chosen. You know, it’s why the cover of the book has this picture of, um, this person kind of looking at this huge open sky with all these stars in it.

Uh, and is it okay if I tell a little personal story?

Debbie Sorensen: Please

do, we love



Jenna LeJeune: Yeah. Yeah. So, um. I w, uh, my, uh, partner and coauthored Jason, Luoma and I were writing this book while we were on sabbatical. I’m, one of the places that we went was the South Island of New Zealand and in the South Island of New Zealand, they have the world’s largest dark sky reserve.

So this is. A place where there aren’t any lights around and you can just see a billion stars. Um, and so I was excited about [00:28:00] seeing it, but I was sort of like, yeah, I know what stars look like. I’ve been camping. Um, you know, kinda got that. Um, and I went out, I can, so remember this evening I went out to the dark sky reserve and it takes a while for your eyes to adjust.

And I opened up my eyes and I looked up. And truly I had this moment of, ah, it was, it was truly this moment of Oh my God, this is what’s been out there the whole time. Like. I thought, I thought I knew what was out there. I thought I knew what the night sky looked like, and if this is what I can see right now, what else is out there?

And it just gave me, I mean, I was tearful. It just gave me this moment of awe. And when I think about. How many of us live our lives, including many clients that I serve. We get stuck in this. I think I know what my life can be about. I think I know what [00:29:00] the options available to me are and I really want to help give them, even these just like glimpses of moments of looking at their life as if it were that dark sky reserve, like pausing and looking and saying.

Oh my God, this is what my life could be about and if this is what I could see now, like maybe there’s even more that I could choose from. And so that’s what I mean by the experience of freely chosen.

Debbie Sorensen: I love that so much. I have to tell a quick story. Myself. Yeah. Remember when the eclipse was through a couple of years ago, while I’m, I’m just outside of the eclipse zone, and so I had to, in Denver, you know, so I had to drive.

My family. We ended up getting up at four in the morning to drive to Nebraska to see the eclipse, and I was against it because I thought, Oh, there’s going to be traffic. We’re going to have to pull the kids out of school. It’s going to take all day. And my husband was like, no, [00:30:00] no. Come on. It’s worth it.

I have that same sense of awe. Yeah. That transcendent just sense of like, I mean, it. To this day, when I think about it, it gives me a little bit of a

chill to just remember that

experience. It was so odd inspiring and I think what I would have missed. Yeah. Had I been so focused


the problems associated with it, and I think that might, that might be a good metaphor for the difference between when we’re in like problem solving mode.

Like, well, I don’t want to have to, you know, hit traffic and be in the car and get up at 4:00 AM. And what you miss, if that’s all you see.

Jenna LeJeune: That’s exactly right. And also your experience of seeing the eclipse and being there is very different than you seeing a picture of the eclipse or seeing it online.

It’s, again, it’s, we have to contact our values experientially. It’s not an intellectual process, which is why when I go back to this kind of idea about values clarification, I really feel like we’re missing the boat [00:31:00] because that’s. Often we make it be this intellectual process and we miss, I mean, just, just think about like for your audience members, uh, or therapists out there, like.

Just imagine what it would be like to have moments in your life where you could sort of have that sense of awe about your life as well, and what your life could be in the service of, and knowing that experientially versus just like, yeah, I know my life could be whatever it is, but blah, blah, blah.

So that for me is really what the heart of values is about. I love that story of the eclipse. Yeah,

Debbie Sorensen: likewise. I love this, that story too, and I love those moments in therapy when you contact a little bit of that vitality with people, because it seems like we’re sort of, we’re on the lookout for it, and it can get too intellectual sometimes if it’s just these questions and answers about, you know, fill out this

questionnaire about….

[00:32:00] But if you just pay attention to those moments when there’s that sense of like, this feels

important, this feels alive.

Absolutely. You’re digging through. The, the sediment to find the fossils that are in there. And when you see a little glimpse of one, there’s like a whole different quality to it.

Jenna LeJeune: Absolutely. Absolutely. And oftentimes there isn’t even like a word that comes up. Like, you know, sometimes my clients will be able to use things that sound like values words. Through the process, but a lot of times they don’t. It’s just sort of this, I can tell when it happens in therapy, it’s like, Oh, there it is.

You just touched it. You just touched it. And how can we have your life have more of these moments where you’re oriented around that thing that you just touched that was so meaningful and awe inspiring to you.

Debbie Sorensen: Absolutely. Yeah. So one misunderstanding that I think happens or, or sort of point of confusion is that sometimes [00:33:00] people, clients, and I hear, but I hear this from therapists, do they feel that their values are conflicting?

I’m doing air quotes for the listeners who can’t see me on the video. Air quotes conflicting. A couple of examples that come to mind, trying to be engaged with both work. That you care about and your family, but feeling like you have to choose. There’s only so much time in the day, or I want to be a caring person in a relationship with somebody, say a parent or something like that.

But this person is very difficult. Maybe they have, you know, they’re sort of toxic for me to be with. So my va… It can have this feel of like I have to pick or that my values are, are. Conflicting with each other. What do you, what are your thoughts about that and how do you talk to people in that feel like they are in that situation?

Jenna LeJeune: Absolutely.

Absolutely. Uh, so I would say this is maybe the most common question that comes up for me from therapists. Um.

Maybe, maybe the people I work with, maybe it’s an anomaly, but my [00:34:00] clients almost never frame it as a values conflict, but therapists frame it as a values conflict all the time to me. Um, so I guess what I would say is twofold with that. Um. One is oftentimes when people are feeling conflicted in their life and they’re framing it as a values conflict, I see it as a conflict, you know, I don’t mean to be minimizing of it, but it’s a bit of a time management conflict. It’s, uh, you have a conflict between doing two behaviors or two value domains. I want to spend time at work and I want to spend time with my family. Well, as we talked about in the beginning, when I’m talking about values, work and family are not values, those are domains. Those are areas where I choose to spend my time. The value is how do I want to be as I’m being at work and as I’m [00:35:00] being at home. And most of the time people find that there’s consistency and values across these domains. And so once you can kind of help the person see. Oh, what I’m talking about is like this very real struggle of you have 24 hours in the day just as I do.

And when I am caring well for my family, I’m not carrying well for my colleague at the same time. But the focus is on am I being a person that’s caring well, that is the value. So that’s one thing I would say about them. And the other is, um. Without getting sort of too philosophical about it.

Um, from an act perspective, uh, what is true is what works. And so. It doesn’t work to me. It doesn’t work for me to say that people’s values could be in conflict, because [00:36:00] then that would mean that they’re not freely chosen. It means if I choose this one thing, I don’t get to choose this other thing, and so.

I just sort of stand from the place of, well, values conflicts can’t occur because values are freely chosen. So how else might I frame this in a way that’s more workable? And I think when therapists get caught up in values, conflicts or thinking about values, conflicts is because we’re thinking about values as words.

So if I want to be. Let me think of an example. Somebody wants to value sort of being assertive in their life and they also value being caring in their life, and it can feel like those two things might be in conflict, but the value isn’t either one of those words. It’s some like way of behaving that incorporates assertiveness and carrying this and all sorts of other things that is beyond just the [00:37:00] two words. So yeah, those words might be in conflict, but the value isn’t in conflict. So what I try and do in those moments is move beyond the words and try and see what’s this rich picture. Sometimes that can be through a metaphor, or I’ll have people use art or poetry to try and kind of come up with this rich picture of what it looks like when they’re behaving in line with their values.

And they’ll sort of see, Oh, it’s not this or that. It’s both. In some ways.

Debbie Sorensen: I never thought about it that way, and I think that’s such a good point. And just thinking about my own life. If I think about the domains of

work and family, I think

there’s some quality that’s hard to put words to that I like.

That’s the way I like to show up when I’m at my best, you know, when I’m at home with my kids and my spouse and when I’m in work. At work, being a therapist and also being a colleague to my coworkers. There’s something similar, and I’m not saying I’m [00:38:00] always that way. I’m not always at my best.

Don’t get me wrong. Just ask my spouse and children, they’ll tell you. Um, but there I can, there’s almost a similar feeling and also a similar way

I’m showing up.

Jenna LeJeune: That’s exactly right. Exactly right. Because you know, for many people. You know, I mean, imagine you’re somebody who doesn’t get the luxury of choosing.

Well, I’d like to spend more time with my family because they have to work three jobs to put food on the table. Well, I don’t want to live in a world and I don’t want to ascribe or to kind of. Sign up for a type of therapy where it says, where it says, well, that person then who has to work for three jobs, she doesn’t get to live out her values in a consistent way.

So when I’m looking for is what is consistent while you are at your three jobs, how can you still be the kind of person that you want to be when you’re with your family? So you’re even like practicing [00:39:00] being that kind of mom while you’re at your job. How cool is that?

Debbie Sorensen: It seems like the values are able to transcend the day to day details of what’s happening into this bigger thing.

Jenna LeJeune: Yeah. Exactly right. Yeah. And then, and then do you sort of see how, most of the time the things that we’re framing as values conflicts sort of disappear? They’re not in conflict anymore because the values transcend those, you know, parts of our life that actually are in conflict.

Like, I want to be at home when I need to be at my job.

Debbie Sorensen: That’s

right. Yeah. So there’s no actual conflict there. Sure. There’s decisions you make every day in terms of how those come into to play. Sometimes not even inside of your control, but there’s still, the conflict sort of fades away.

Jenna LeJeune: Absolutely, yeah.


Debbie Sorensen: So as a therapist, this sometimes happen, and I am sure you’ve seen this too, Jenna, where clients come in who [00:40:00] are just so out of touch with their values. Maybe they’re depressed, they’ve just sort of, you know, stopped engaging in things that care about them, or they have no idea what their values are.

Maybe they’ve. They’ve gotten into some shoulds or expectations and they just can’t identify. I think this can happen for therapists as well. Um, what I’m wondering if we had some listeners who may be feel like they want to do some work here. I’m trying to dig out some of their own values. What, what?

What are some ideas of where people might begin.

Jenna LeJeune: Yeah, absolutely. And I guess I just want to really normalize that experience for people, but of course, most people don’t know what their values are. I mean, how often were you asked as a kid, you know, Debbie, I’d like, let’s sit down and talk about what kind of person do you most enjoy being in this world?

Like how were you at school today? Like we just don’t have those kinds of conversations, so it’s very normal and [00:41:00] understandable that we wouldn’t have a strong sense of our value. Um, and there are things that we can do to help start, be curious about that. And so I guess I would encourage people to start with that.

Start from a posture of curiosity rather than problem-solving. If you approach this as well. That’s so shameful. Isn’t that terrible that I don’t know what my values are. I better figure out what my values are like that, that’s not setting you up for this appetitive, freely chosen, awe inspiring experience we’re looking for, but rather if it’s, wow, I’ve never had the opportunity to think about this or explore this for myself. I’d love to go on that, that journey and exploration. You sort of see you’re setting yourself up there, um, for more of the qualities that we’re looking for. And so one of the things that I’ll encourage people to do, uh, first [00:42:00] is to help them notice what they are valuing right now.

Because of course, we are valuing something with our behaviors right now is just most of us aren’t aware of what it is that we’re valuing by doing what we’re doing. And so, like, for example, in the book, there are some tracking sheets that people can use to help notice. Mmm. Uh, this is from, uh, based on the work of Andrew Gloucester and his colleagues tracking sheets to help people notice what they are valuing, and then just sort of pause and say, wow, okay, so here, one of the things I value when I go on autopilot that I wouldn’t choose to value is, I.

I value looking smart and that sort of an autopilot thing that I got trained up in. And so, you know, if I’m tracking what I’m valuing, and I noticed, Oh, there, I spent so much of my time valuing being looking smart, is that what I would choose? How do I feel about that? If that were the [00:43:00] last day, does that feel like what I would want to have been in the service up and just sort of notice your own reaction.

So that’s one thing. And then the other thing is just start like experiment. Um, think about what are the times in your life when you have felt most proud of yourself or that have felt really worthwhile or meaningful. And you might even look at the difficult times. When did you feel like, okay.

That was well lived, or I really like how I handled that. And then just start seeing what are some of the qualities that you brought to those situations? And then start experimenting with intentionally trying to enact some of those qualities in your daily life and see how it works out. Do you like it?

Do you not like it? What’s the impact on you? What’s the impact on your loved ones? And those are some ways that people can start. Exploring and playing around with this.

I [00:44:00] love that. Also, of

course, you know, I, I, I’m a little biased, but I think seeing a therapist who’s trained in values or who has their work guided in values can also be a really great way to help people, um, begin this exploration process as well.

Cause it’s helpful sometimes to have a guide.

Debbie Sorensen: That’s right. Find yourself a good ACT therapist or someone otherwise working in values. You don’t have to be an act therapist that that acceptance and commitment therapy Yeah. I think back to my own experience and when I first started doing this work and learning about values, you know, 10 or so years ago, and I, it sounded really good in theory, but I think as I watched the process over time unfold and the times when it really feels like it’s, I’m living consistently with my values and not, it’s like you kind of have to experience it to see and over time. It makes so much more sense at a deeper level instead of just intellectually, right.

Jenna LeJeune: Absolutely. Yeah. It is very much. I [00:45:00] have exactly the same experience in my own life. Like I can sort of tell when I’ve gotten off track, unfortunately. Usually it’s like I’m a little far down the track. I can

Debbie Sorensen: guilty, right? Yeah.

Jenna LeJeune: But at some point I can kind of notice. And invariably when I’ve gotten off track, I can kind of pause and say, Oh, like my life is more constricted or in feeling that I’m sort of going through the motions in life, or I’m struggling with myself or others more than I want to be variably.

I have. Lost some touch with my values, but this is, I guess I just want to add one other thing about that, that when we have lost touch with our values, whether that is. Acutely or over a long period of time. What very often shows up is a tremendous [00:46:00] amount of pain. So there is a sense of loss or sadness or regret or shame.

When we notice, Oh, I like this. This way of being, this way of living so important to me and I haven’t been living that life. And so that’s why from my perspective, I really think you can’t do effective values work either in your own life or as a therapist without having some tools in act. We call those psychological flexibility tools. Things like. Acceptance and Defusion, um, without tools to be able to deal with those barriers, because those barriers will inevitably show up and we need to know how to be able to, to deal with them so that we can stay on track with our values. And that’s why, um,  I think you can’t solely work [00:47:00] on values.

If I could only work on values all the time and never do any of the other ACT processes, I probably would because I just really love the values work, but it just doesn’t work. You need the psychological flexibility to deal with the painful stuff and the barriers that show up when you contact your values because pain and values are two sides of the same coin.

Debbie Sorensen: That’s right. Let’s, let’s talk more about that. We recently had Steve Hayes on the podcast and he talked about his new book, elaborate of mine, and he has a slogan in there, we hurt where we care.

Jenna LeJeune: Yeah.

Debbie Sorensen: Why is there this relationship between values and pain? What is it? What do you make of that?

Jenna LeJeune: Yeah. I mean, I think if, if the listeners just even pause and sort of notice in their own lives, it. I mean, where was the place where you were most hurt? Almost certainly in. A relationship or an arena, oftentimes a [00:48:00] relationship that you care deeply about. Like the people who love us the most and the areas that are most important to us are the places where we can get most hurt.

You know, ask any parent, like you’re signing up for a world of getting hurt because you care so much. Right? And so it absolutely is. If you are going to live a life in line with. What is what and who is most important to you, which is a life in line with your values. Then you are going to experience that pain and you need some tools to be able to not avoid that pain because the pain is attached to the value, and to get rid of the pain means you get rid of the value and There.

One thing about pain, um, that I’ve come to sort of more recently in my own life and in my work is I used to treat pain as sort of this necessary evil. Like, well, I [00:49:00] worked really hard to try and get rid of pain and I can’t get rid of it. And so I guess it’s just going to come along for the ride.

And more recently I started to see the value that is in pain. And there’s this really wonderful book by a social psychologist, Brock Bastian called The Other Side of Happiness, and it’s a book for the public, not just for, uh. Nerdy therapists. Um, but his, his point in there is that pain actually helps things feel more meaningful.

And my example in the book is like. Nobody climbs Everest just for the selfie at the top of Everest. People climb Everest and it is meaningful. That journey is meaningful because of the struggle and to get rid of the struggle would actually get rid of some of what was meaningful and important to you.

And so I’m really in my own life. Kind of trying to [00:50:00] work on appreciating the struggle, the pain when it does show up, because it tells me something about what matters.

Debbie Sorensen: That’s beautiful. I mean, just imagine if someone could. Plop you on the top of Everest, to take the selfie, and then you go back down.

It’s like that loses something. And I think that it so many times in life when it’s the really hard stuff, those moments when life is really difficult, those moments of suffering have a certain beauty to them. Um, and yet we go to such lengths often to avoid it. And I think for most of my clients, if I look at the things that they’re most avoiding there, if you dig deep enough, there’s something they care about so deeply.

Jenna LeJeune: Oh, of course. Of course. And it makes sense because we’re sort of sold this story that what you have to do to care about and to get to be able to care about and contact that thing that’s so important to you is figure out a way to get rid of the suffering. And from this perspective, the [00:51:00] idea is.

No, this is about how do you make space for this suffering and keep your eye on and keep connected with who and what actually matters to you. Your values. Right? Right.

Debbie Sorensen: And you write that putting values into action is key, right? It’s not just something that lives in our heads. We got to live it in our lives.

That’s the doing part that matters. And I, I really like this idea that it gives us this sort of. Behavioral consistency that sometimes without values, we’re just randomly responding to different situations that show up. This gives us kind of that sense of this is how I want to, to respond no matter what the situation is.

So it feels consistent. Um, and I want to actually, I have another kind of trekking Himalaya example. that’s in your book that I wanted to, I was wondering if you’d be willing to share with us the, that metaphor you have toward taking action.

Jenna LeJeune: Oh, sure, sure. [00:52:00] Um, so, uh, in the last couple of years, I went on, uh, this, uh, track in the Himalaya, uh, again with my partner.

Um, and if, if people see me and sort of know me like. There’s no possible way you’re going to look at me and say, yeah, she, she is somebody who climbs mountains like I am. I say in the book, like I am way more Samwise than I am Legolas, if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, like I am this sort of reluctant adventure, and yet I went on this track.

Um, for many values based reasons. And I remember the first day that I got out there and I saw these mountains and I just got so overwhelmed and I had this story like I’m not the kind of person that does this. Like. I am not the kind of person who can do this. When I [00:53:00] saw these huge mountains and I wanted nothing more than to just like run back to Katmandu and have a big glass of wine and check into a nice hotel, cause that’s much more my comfort.

Debbie Sorensen: It sounds a little easier and more pleasant and

Jenna LeJeune: there’s nothing wrong with that. But it, my values were pointing me towards doing this trek and. Um, I can’t take credit for this. This was really my fellow trekkers, my teammates, and my guides. Uh, Mingma and Louise Hayes, um, who. Just really helped me take one step in front of the other.

I didn’t have to think about climbing the whole mountain. I just had to think about, there’s a next step in front of me. What’s the next step? And my fellow trekkers, um. Kind of nicknamed me Turtle Power because I was very slow, but I just kept [00:54:00] taking one step after the other, after the other.

And I think sometimes that’s what values can feel like. I mean, the flip side of that, uh, uh, dark sky reserve experience this open, ah, Oh my gosh, experience of life is that can feel unbelievably intimidating and overwhelming for somebody. Right? It can feel like, I can’t even imagine how I would live a life that was like that.

And so that’s where you focus on, Hey, there’s one next step in front of you, and that’s all we’re talking about. We’re talking about the next smallest step, the next Turtle Power step that is available to you that will help you move towards your values. And then once you take that step. You’ll take another step and you could choose to take another step in line with your values, or you could choose to, you know, shift course and, and really treating yourself like my guides in the, in the Himalaya [00:55:00] treated me with just such gentleness and patience and support is how you get through.

Hiking the Himalaya or creating a life that is a life in line with your values, even when it looks insurmountable.

Debbie Sorensen: I love that, and I think there’s so many times in life when life feels really hard and it’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the next

and just

Jenna LeJeune: exactly

Debbie Sorensen: continuing to do that. Yup. Yeah, that’s a big part of the process.

Jenna LeJeune: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s a big part of what we do is therapists, is I see myself a bit as that Sherpa, that guide who can sort of walk alongside. And help my client pace so that she’s not like trying to run up the mountain because that’s not sustainable and just help her find her own rhythm of how do you want to live this life?

Like we’re talking about the whole journey [00:56:00] here. We’re not talking about a goal of getting to this next place. How do you want to be on this journey? And that includes how do you want to be with yourself as you are on the journey.

Debbie Sorensen: That’s beautiful. I love that. So the last question I really want to ask is geared a bit more towards therapists specifically because I know that there are therapists out there who might be listening or.

Be interested maybe in picking up your book. And I think your book’s a great place for people to learn how to do values, work with clients, whether, you know, we’re both more act oriented. Yeah. Whether you are or not, what are a few general pointers that you can offer for specifically for clinicians who want to bring more ACT work in to the therapy they’re doing with their clients?

Jenna LeJeune: Yeah. Um, so, uh. Jason and I were very intentional when we wrote the book that although it is certainly based in ACT and we’re both ACT therapists, that we wanted to write the [00:57:00] book for people who may be act therapists or not act therapist. So I really do want to encourage people, you do not have to be an act therapist, I think to get something out of this approach, um, to values.

Because most therapists, when you like if you were to ask them, even if. They’re short term, kind of what they’re valuing is. While I want to get rid of pain, the idea is because I want my, I want these people that I serve to live a good life, to live well. And so the first thing that I would have therapists do is when you’re working on your treatment plan, when you’re working on your case conceptualization, add a question there for yourself about what would help.

What for my client. What for this client would be a meaningful life beyond all of the suffering and beyond all of the things they want to get rid of or do more of. [00:58:00] What would be. A well lived life for them. What qualities would they want to embody? And if you don’t know, which of course you don’t, because you can’t assume that, you know, start trying to figure out how would I answer those questions, how would I help draw that out with my, with my clients?

Debbie Sorensen: So it goes beyond symptom reduction, I think. Exactly. And we’re trained to have this medical model toward people like what’s the symptom and how am I going to fix it? And this is a very different way. To look at it. And even just throwing that in question in there shifts something.

Jenna LeJeune: Absolutely.

Absolutely. And, and for me, when I’m having my clients fill out intake paperwork, there are questions there about, um, sort of, if we could get rid of this thing that you’re wanting to get rid of. Then what in your life like what would you really most want more of in your life? Or what do you want to embody in your life?

What are the things that people, the ways of [00:59:00] being that are important to you? So even just asking some of those questions with your clients from the get go. And in an informed consent, even in a very first session, I am talking with my clients about, yes, we will work on how you can deal with the pain that you are experiencing.

Absolutely. But if that is all we’re going to do here, and if I don’t keep my eye on what that’s in the service of, like why we’re working on that, I’m missing something. So we’re also going to be working on helping you have the kind of life you would most want to have. In addition to getting rid of whatever or helping you cope with these difficulties, you have.

Debbie Sorensen: Wonderful. And I will definitely refer people to your book who are clinicians who want to bring more of this into their practice because there’s some really wonderful exercises and things that people can be doing that will help.

Jenna LeJeune: Yeah, there are, yeah. There are [01:00:00] a lot of, um, exercises in the book and there are a lot of, there, there’s a whole chapter on for therapists exploring their own values and how they would want their values to guide.

Our work is therapists, and I really see values as, um, sort of the alternative to what we usually think of as self care. And so there’s some stuff in the book about like how you could have values help you be more consistent and sustainable in this really tough job that we have.

Debbie Sorensen: Oh yes. That’s so important.

I’m glad you said that because I think that it can be tough and to bring that quality of values into it can help through

that. Yeah,

the ups and downs, probably more than some of the things we think of with self care. Right.

Jenna LeJeune: Exactly. Exactly.

Debbie Sorensen: Well, Jenna, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

I really appreciate it. Congratulations on your book. We will link to it on our show notes for today so that people can find it easily.

Jenna LeJeune: Great. Thank you for having me [01:01:00] on and for this wonderful podcast. Like what a service you’re doing. It’s just really, it’s an honor to be on.

Debbie Sorensen: Thank you, Jenna.

Take care.

Jenna LeJeune: You too.