2020 was a year of extreme unpredictability for all. Now in the new year, setting goals is a useful and commonly used method to achieve the things in life that you can control.
Change and growth are common desires for clients like you who seek mental health support. When thinking about your life and your desire for change, there are many helpful avenues towards insight and progress. As this momentum begins, it is important to know that beyond the happenstance of luck, your strength and will-power are the key factors that will move you through the obstacles and opportunities of life. Working to set intentional plans in place can help to instill a new set of strengths for your future.
Movement from a perspective of letting life happen, can aid in ownership and control over current and future life events. Setting goals is a great way to begin this cultivation of change. Making space for you to try out activities meant to reduce the stress-inducing instability that can come from a lack of deliberate plans. Intentionality also allowing space for observation, planning, implementation and evaluation are all necessary components to goal setting during counseling.
In counseling, setting goals and intentions is a positive strategy used to help clients gain confidence as well as the development of a positive frame of thought. Setting intentions is the act of stating your desired outcome. Like a goal, intentions allow both clients and counselors to understand your focus and destination as set points throughout the therapeutic relationship.
Some supplies that can be used to begin your journey towards intention and goal setting are:
- A journal or paper
- A pen
- A quiet space
- A desire for change
These simple yet effective tools can help to initiate a solution-focused strategy. Developing goals also requires an important prerequisite which is, a focus on self. Goals that are contingent on self over the influence of others have a much higher chance for achievement. This means, working with your counselor to help you understand your role in the change process is critical. Viewing your clinician as an accountability partner rather than the main source of discipline is a key factor in the mental health process.
Your counselor is your partner in the journey towards healing; helping to ensure that you reach the goals set out to achieve. This is a great example of self-discipline which can help clients who may struggle with symptoms related to depression, trauma, anxiety, PTSD and other mental and emotional challenges.
Once a client and clinician work together to observe your needs and intentions for therapy, planning and goal setting can be initiated. This is an important piece of the counseling puzzle because this is your space to dream. Dreaming of a better future is not only for clients who struggle with difficult diagnoses, but also applicable to everyday opportunities for learning and growth. Remaining disciplined while maintaining realistic expectations can provide additional sources of healing.
Realistic goals can be co-created with your counselor by ensuring that they meet S.M.A.R.T standards. Plans for your future that meet these S.M.A.R.T standards must be
Goals that meet these standards are more likely to provide you with a greater sense of time, realistic expectations of self, and opportunities for change. For example, a SMART goal in counseling may look like, “I will meditate for 5 minutes every morning, for a minimum of 2 weeks prior to getting back onto social media”. This goal specifies a desire to begin meditation. It also includes an attainable amount of 5 minutes per day related to social media and provides a realistic checkpoint of two weeks.
Goal setting is not a to-do list. Beyond a list of reminders for daily activities, goal setting in counseling should be viewed as a contract with self that enhances your opportunities for growth, advancement and self-actualization. Contracting for change as described by Kottler (2000) is the process of remaining accountable to one’s self throughout the counseling relationship.
Goals are not intended to be anxiety inducing. They are intended to help you remain on a course of expansion. Understanding your control over your behavior, thoughts and emotions can also aid in your journey. Working simultaneously to adjust your beliefs about yourself can aid in attaining the goals that you are set out to achieve.
Having a vision for yourself, whether an emotional change, career change or even a change in relationship status, is a great strategy that keeps you focused on growth. This does not mitigate the work needed throughout the counseling process but should be viewed as a tool to enhance your work. Your vision for self should not feel like a stagnant dream. This is a contract with yourself, enabling you to experience joy set forth by realistic and S.M.A.R.T goals.
If you are ready to work with a clinician to begin the development of your vision for change, Thriveworks in The Woodlands is a local, regional, and national partner, ready to work alongside you. Call 281-667-9790 and one of our scheduling specialists will assist you. We look forward to helping you begin your journey!
Written by Krystal Grimes, MS, LPC-Associate.