For some people, therapy offers an opportunity to overcome some serious mental health problems, while for others, it’s rather another step on their self-improvement path.
Therapy is beneficial for everyone, and it can work miracles — thanks to therapy, you can improve your relationships, overcome bad habits, cope with everyday stress, and better understand yourself.
You can visit a therapist in their office or choose a more flexible approach and opt for video chat therapy. People consider therapy for different reasons so its goals may also vary. The goals of therapy are very important because they not only set the direction for the treatment process but also enable you and your therapist to evaluate its success.
When it comes to mental health, changes may require some effort, and clear goals will enable you to focus on the right things so that therapy will be as effective as possible. However, when clients talk to a therapist, they often simply say that they want to feel better and don’t express any more specific ideas.
While feeling better is a great ultimate goal, it’s not specific. Goal setting is an integral part of therapy so you and your therapist will have to dedicate some time to figuring out long-term and short-term objectives, anyway. Here’s what you should know about mental health therapy goals and some helpful tips on how to set them.
Goals and Objectives in Therapy
If you visited your general practitioner and they asked you how they could help, the chances are that you wouldn’t answer “I don’t know.” Unfortunately, the situation is often different with mental health therapy goals.
Of course, when you’re a client, you shouldn’t (and don’t need to) diagnose yourself. You should, however, be able to point your therapist in the right direction. Just like when talking to your GP, you need to describe your symptoms. The difference is that in this case, you will have to describe your feelings and experiences.
No matter what you do, having clear goals can be very helpful, and therapy is no exception. Here’s a goal-setting approach used in cognitive behavioral therapy which can also be considered a standard approach when it comes to initial goal setting:
- Figure out your general objective;
- Identify a starting point;
- Figure out what steps you should take to achieve the goal;
- Make the first step.
Sometimes, understanding your general objective can be difficult. However, your therapist will help you with it after you describe your symptoms or worries. After you provide your therapist with the key information about your problem, they will also help you identify the starting point — you should understand the current situation and know how close you are to the goal.
After this, your therapist might break down the general goal into smaller steps. This is a great solution when a client has big goals. Dividing these goals into manageable steps will help you not to get overwhelmed and stay focused. You and your therapist may also consider possible obstacles and look for possible solutions.
Therapy Goals Examples
Given that everyone comes to a therapist for different reasons, the goals of therapy are always unique. Here are some examples of the most common therapy goals that might help you figure out what your goals may look like.
- Coping with a loss, stress, or symptoms of various mental health disorders;
- Learning more about psychology — for instance, you can learn more about the fight-or-flight response to manage your anxiety;
- Talking to someone who will listen to you without judgment;
- Improving communication skills;
- Improving self-confidence or developing assertiveness.
Now let’s think of how to set goals in therapy.
How to Set Therapy Goals
1. Identify your general needs and wishes
In some cases, the ultimate goals of therapy might be obvious. For example, you may want to overcome anxiety, fear, or depression. However, many people start therapy because they simply feel unhappy or stuck. If that’s your case, you should try to make your goal more specific.
Ask yourself, what’s your definition of a happy life? What exactly do you need to feel better, and what are your main obstacles? You may also write down as many reasons why you need therapy as you can and then select the most important ones. What you don’t need in your life, and what you’d like to have? What you’ve always wanted but never done?
2. Make sure that your goal is realistic
Your therapy goals should be realistic. Therefore, you should figure out how close you are to your goal at the current moment, think of what you’ve already done to achieve it, and what you can do.
Your goals should also be measurable, which means that you should be able to evaluate your progress. Besides, you shouldn’t forget about timing: think of when you want to achieve your goal or even set a specific timeframe for each step.
3. Consider your experience
If you’ve already made some steps towards your goal, consider your experience. For example, if you have mental health issues, think of how you’ve been coping with the symptoms and whether or not your efforts have been successful.
Even if you have yet taken any action to achieve your goal, you may have considered the available options and thought of what you can or cannot do. Consider your past experience and think of what you’ve learned from it. This way, you’ll be able to predict some possible difficulties.
4. You may not know some of your goals yet
Therapy is a process, and a client may not know everything about their problem when they talk to their therapist for the first time. Should you have some ideas regarding what you want to achieve through therapy? Yes, but you shouldn’t forget that your therapist will help you set the right goals.
During your therapy sessions, you will talk a lot. Your therapist will ask you various questions, and you may discover things that you’ve never noticed before. Your therapist may set new goals, and your old goals may change so you should be ready for it.
No matter whether you want to overcome some problems related to mental health or boost your self-growth and improve the overall quality of your life, therapy is a great solution. To figure out what your therapy goals are, think of what you’d like to change and what stops you from living your best life.
A licensed therapist can help you better understand your needs, frustrations, desires, plans, and challenges — you just have to make the first step. If you don’t have much time for traditional in-person therapy sessions, don’t let it stop you from getting the so-needed support.
Online counseling platforms allow you to talk to licensed counselors and therapists from virtually anywhere. Platforms like Calmerry connect clients with therapists and offer a more flexible approach compared to in-person sessions because you don’t need to commute to your therapist’s office. Learn more about therapy to prepare for your first conversation with a professional.