The time when I heard the word “therapy” I was scared. I had been taught that therapy is given to those who are considered mentally unstable and I am anything but that. Instead of reassuring me, this information only made me feel alone and alienated. Then I researched and truly understood what therapy stood for and helped. When I first told my family that I need therapy, I wasn’t discouraged but wasn’t encouraged either. The topic of my asking for help became an indifferent one.
Now, I stood fast and courageous in the face of indifference and when I finally went to therapy and began my healing, I realized that there was so much more below the surface that I hadn’t even scratched with my meager research. What am I talking about? Well, therapy goals!
I never uncovered this in my research that I’d need goals for therapy! Or that therapy goals would become a part of my recovery. However, my therapist (a patient and kind woman) explained to me what therapy goals were and how important they were to my healing.
And now, when I talk to my therapist, I keep my therapy goals in mind. Mental health therapy can be confusing if you don’t know where to begin, so I get the need to have goals and their importance.
These counseling or therapy goals I’m talking about provide you with a roadmap for your healing journey and motivate you to keep moving and never quit. So, before you begin your therapy journey, let’s take a moment to understand the importance of setting therapy goals in counseling and what goals you can set in therapy.
Why Are Therapy Goals Important?
When we talk about mental health, various treatments and approaches are talked about and while each can be beneficial, they can become too overwhelming sometimes. In these cases, setting a goal for therapy can help you plan what you want out of your therapy and what you can do to make the journey easier and smoother.
When you first begin therapy, your therapist needs to understand who they are working with to effectively draw a plan to begin treatment. To do that, they might ask you questions such as;
“What do you want from therapy?”
“Where do you want to go from here?”
“What is it you’re looking for in these treatments?”
Sometimes, you may have an answer for your therapist, but other times, you may find yourself floundering in the face of these questions. And it’s OK. Once you begin therapy, you’ll begin to understand who you are and this knowledge will automatically help you set your therapy goals for your therapy sessions as well as your future self.
Moreover, therapy goals help your therapist plan the sessions accordingly. Goal setting in counseling can help you focus on your therapy and build a steady therapeutic relationship.
These goals you set in counseling act as motivations too. They keep you moving forward when you think you’re lagging.
The thing with therapy goals is that they are never the same during therapy. With time (and healing), you may find that the goals for therapy you set in the earlier sessions have now changed. It’s OK, though. Therapy goals are meant to change as you move forward in your recovery. As always, talk with your therapist about your changes and work with them in tandem to incorporate your new goals into your existing therapy treatment.
Therapy Goals to Set
If you’re wondering what therapy goals to set in your therapy and counseling, then here are some examples that you can use;
1.“I want to understand my emotions”
There are no classes when it comes to learning about emotions, what they are, where they come from, and how they show up, so when emotions are truly involved, we get scared. More often than not, we process emotions by either numbing them or dealing with them in the unhealthiest ways possible.
When you begin therapy, you can set a goal to work on understanding your emotions. You can talk to your therapist about how you want to understand where your emotions come from and how you can deal with them in healthy ways.
2.“I want to learn healthy coping mechanisms”
When we don’t know what to do with our difficult feelings and emotions, the fear and processing of such emotions and feelings involve unhealthy coping mechanisms. Some people find that dealing with difficult emotions becomes easier if they drink about them or shut them out. But these are unhealthy ways, right? So, here’s another goal you can set in therapy; “I want to learn healthy coping mechanisms”
You can discuss your concerns with your therapist and work with them to find healthier ways to cope with difficult emotions, thoughts, and feelings. When you know the right way (for you) to cope, you feel more in control of your life.
3.“I want to make positive and healthy changes to my routine”
Another therapy goal that you can set can include working on your lifestyle changes. You can seek therapy to make positive and healthy changes to your daily routine. More often than not, a simple routine change (for the better) can help make a positive change in your life, physical health, and mental health.
You can ask your therapist to help you sleep better, how to socially interact, how to make time for hobbies, how to reduce dependency on substances, and more.
4.“I want to improve my communication skills”
Most people often struggle with their words or more like – communicating without allowing room for misinterpretation. Let’s be honest, we’re not very good at expressing our needs, wants, and desires to ourselves, let alone our loved ones. There are many people (like me) who think that sharing their needs with others will make them a burden on others.
That’s not true, and this therapy goal can help with that. You can seek help from a therapist to work on your communication skills and learn how to communicate your needs, boundaries, and feelings with others without hurting yourself or your loved ones.
5.“I want to address my fear, anger, anxiety, and stress”
Stress, fear, anxiety, and anger are all emotions that stem from somewhere, but most of the time, we’re unaware of their origins. Emotions don’t show up without a reason, so here’s another therapy goal to set for yourself in therapy. Ask your therapist to help you address the cause of your distressing emotions.
A therapist will help you listen to your emotions and use them to understand where these emotions are coming from. More often than not, the cause of these distressing emotions is a toxic environment, being overworked, unmet emotional needs, and being overwhelmed.
6.“I want to learn to take care of myself better”
There is no written rule that says that you can only seek therapy for mental health disorders. You can seek therapy to learn how to take care of yourself better. With a therapist, you can take steps to work on prioritizing yourself, caring for yourself, and loving yourself. There are times when I feel guilty after self-care and this goal is something that keeps me focused on the fact that I don’t have to feel guilty for prioritizing myself.
You can do this too! Setting this therapy goal can help you practice self-compassion, self-care, learn to speak up for yourself, and how to take breaks when you need them.
7.“I want to work on my self-esteem”
I struggle a lot with my self-esteem and it often reflects in my thoughts, actions, and behaviors. Setting this as a therapy goal can help you (as it does me) work on improving your self-esteem and confidence. Your therapist can help you focus on doing things that make you happy and feel positive about yourself.
Therapists can also help you identify the causes of your poor self-esteem and work through them by teaching you helpful ways of thinking, responding to your emotions, and making decisions that make you feel better about yourself.
8.“I want to learn self-control on emotions”
Emotions are strong and intense at times and sometimes they can be the ones in control of our thoughts rather than us being in control of our thoughts. Self-control is one way that can help you with regulating your emotions. Allow this therapy goal to help you control and manage your emotions.
You can seek your therapist’s help in helping you learn ways to regulate your emotions and practice self-control so that your emotions do not control your thoughts anymore.
9.“I want to fix my relationships”
Having poor mental health can not only cause issues with your well-being but can also affect your relationships with your loved ones. You may want to isolate socially or may experience emotional outbursts of anger or frustration that can make you snap at your loved ones, affecting the relationship you have with them.
Setting therapy goals to fix your relationships can help. A therapist can help you work on your relationships – personal, professional, and social. This work can make you feel happier and get closer to your friends and family while creating a social support network.
10.“I want to learn how to love my life”
In the end, all we want to do is learn how to live a life free of all emotional and mental burdens. That’s one of the most coveted goals of therapy and one you can set for yourself as well. Setting this therapy goal can help you learn what happiness, success, and love mean to you and how you can achieve it in your life, making you feel worthy of it all.
Therapy is a safe and non-judgmental space where you can lay out all your struggles and weaknesses and identify the things that make you happier and stronger. This therapy goal can help you identify what changes you need to make in your life to love it and come out happier, stronger, and more content.
How to Set Therapy Goals?
To set your therapy goals, here are some simple and practical tips to help you out;
Be honest with yourself and your goals. When you’re talking to your therapist, don’t withhold information that can interfere with your goal setting.
Keep your goals simple and S.M.A.R.T. SMART therapy goals stand for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Make sure you don’t stray from this golden rule of goal setting.
Create a plan of action with your therapist that you can easily follow and track. When you have a plan of action in place, it becomes easier to follow your goals.
Don’t be afraid to make changes when needed. Remember, therapy goals can change with time so instead of being wary and scared of the change, embrace it. If you discover new goals you’d like to work on, great! Talk to your therapist and incorporate them into your therapy.
The most important thing to keep in mind when setting goals for therapy is to talk to your therapist. Don’t keep your therapist out of the loop or avoid discussing your goals with them. It’s important to maintain a healthy therapeutic relationship between you and your therapist and this includes talking to them about your therapy goals.
It’s not easy to say yes to therapy and it can be even more challenging and scary when you don’t know what to expect from therapy. Setting goals can help you feel less scared and intimidated by the therapy process. Out of everything else, therapy goals are one of the most important aspects of therapy that you shouldn’t miss or skip.
I hope this blog helped you understand the importance of goal setting in therapy and how you can set therapy goals for your mental health.
Let me know what you think about therapy goals and their importance in therapy in the comments below.