Creating Goals for Therapy

Well, my therapist has informed me that it is that time of year again, time to review my annual therapy goals. 

You may be confused, but it is pretty much standard practice at this point for therapy to employ the use of goals, and you can bet that if you’re beginning a new relationship with a therapist, they’ll want you to come up with some of your own. It is also pretty common for these to be reviewed from time to time and updated or changed as needed.

Personally, I’m not really a goals sort of person. I don’t like adding any extra pressure on myself to preform, when I know that from day to day I do the best I really can. These goals, however, act more as an outline for your therapist so they know what areas you want to improve, and that way they know which areas they need to explore with you.

The first thing to consider when making your therapy goals is what brought you to therapy in the first place?

  • Could it be that you’re struggling with the ups and downs of bipolar disorder?
  • Or maybe you’ve experienced something traumatic that you want to find closure with.
  • Could it be that the relationships in your life aren’t going as well as you’d like them to go?

These are just a couple examples, but people seek out therapy for all kinds of reasons.

Goals for these issues could be as simple as:

  • learn techniques to help combat mood swings
  • find closure around trauma
  • improve relationship with _____.

As you can see, these goals don’t need to be incredibly specific.

Having said that, if there is something specific in your life that has been bothering you, it isn’t a bad idea to make some specific goals as well.

For example, you might make specific goals about particular behaviors that have been disruptive to your life. Here are two examples from my own goal list:

  • work on not feeling guilty for making decisions to care for myself
  • increase communication with Corey

Those were two of last year’s goals, and my therapist is probably right in prompting me to come up with some new ones because I feel like I’ve definitely improved in both of these areas.

Don’t be discouraged if coming up with goals takes time. I have often found that in my therapist’s office she’ll ask me about my goals and I’m kind of put on the spot. This year I asked to think about it and come back in with my next session with some goals (like homework) instead of anxiously grappling around my mind while my therapist sits and stares at me.

Realistically, the easiest way to come up with goals are to consider these two questions:

why am I seeking therapy?

and

if I could change anything about myself or my life to improve it, what would it be?

As long as your goals are thing you are willing to talk about with your therapist and you can make an effort toward working on them, improvement shouldn’t be too far behind.

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2 responses to “Creating Goals for Therapy

  1. It took me a minute to realize that you weren’t being ironic with the “what brought you to therapy in the first place” goals. Those ones kind of go without saying, I’m afraid. I’m with you in the sense that “goals” put undue pressure on myself. However, I can see their value in the journey of therapy as starting and stopping points. This is a timely point for me to start some fresh goals, as my psychiatrist is retiring and I’ll be seeing someone new. Scary, but I have a new perspective now. Thanks.

  2. Thank you for writing this post. I have my first therapy session next week and I have started to feel anxious about it. I will prepare for it as you suggest, by making my list of goals. x

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