Contextualism is the viewpoint that implies, among other things, that a solution or a decision or plan varies in success -- workability -- depending upon the context in which it operates. The primary issue is NOT whether something is true or false, correct or incorrect, but whether it is workable or unworkable. On the surface this sounds like pure pragmatism, but it is not. While it is useful to be able to be pragmatic at times, pragmatism itself does not help us keep our bearing in an environment that is often confusing and unpredictable. Rather, research shows that values, providing direction, meaning, and fulfillment, are needed by humans. Values are like a compass helping us make decisions and behaving in ways that have a consistency and a reassurance and meaning to us. They are how we want to be and what truly matter to us.
Therefore, the context in which to evaluate the workability of our thoughts, decisions, beliefs, etc is that of our personal values -- whatever they are to each of us. If a specific behavior or decision is consistent with staying on the path defined by our values, then it is probably workable. If not then it will become unworkable as we lose our direction and gradually feel more unanchored, anxious, depressed, or worse. Within this model, psychological problems are NOT the sign of “something broken.” Instead they mean something is STUCK. The ultimate goal, in my mind, of therapy is to determine what is unworkable in a person’s behavior and thinking and help that person learn to be more psychologically flexible. Another way of saying this is to be able to face each moment with full awareness and openness to experience, and to take action guided by individual values, even when it is hard or painful.