Developing Value-Orientations in Family Therapy Trainees: A Three-Year Investigation


  • Claude-Hélène Mayer
  • Rudolf M. Oosthuizen


Family therapy has advanced as an important therapeutic approach in Europe and, in Germany, future family therapists enter a three-year-training programme every year. Family therapist trainees (FTTs) have hardly been studied in terms of their value-orientations (VOs) and how they see the world. This study aims at researching the value-orientation developments in FTTs during the three-year training period and based on the Schwartz value model. A longitudinal study was carried out over a three-year period. The sample consisted of 65 FTTs. VOs were investigated using open questions in self-developed questionnaires. The findings show that FTTs focus mainly on VOs in the Schwartz value domain of "benevolence", followed by "self-direction" and "universalism". This shows that the well-being of others is in the centre of interest in FTTs. However, VOs which indicate a freedom to make decisions and be self-directed are also extremely important. The least-mentioned value domains include "power" and "stimulation", showing that FTTs are neither focused on status, wealth or richness, nor on excitement or a varied life. With regard to the Schwartz value dimensions, the dimension of "self-transcendence" was the most frequently mentioned, followed by "conservation", "openness to change" and "self-enhancement". Self-transcendence includes the value domains of benevolence and universalism and shows that the preservation and enhancement of welfare of other individuals are highly important, as well as VOs such as understanding, appreciation, tolerance and protection of human beings and the environment. So-called collectivist VOs seem to be more important to German FTTs than individualistic VOs: they focus on the needs of the social group and their VOs show that the systemic view is inherent in their social VOs. Findings further show that FTTs develop their professional identity while consciously strengthening their VOs. This study contradicts previous research which claims that FTs are, to a large extent, unconscious in respect of their VOs. The study shows that FTTs are aware of their VOs and this supports them in facilitating client-centred approaches and develop themselves as FT professionals. Recommendations for future research and practice are provided.