Mental health therapy goals can appear to be a form of magic. You sit in your therapist’s office and speak, and things begin to improve in your life. You’re less irritated during chats with your partner and less anxious at work. You’ve finally begun to address that terrible habit that’s been holding you back, and you’re feeling more creative.
While therapy is an art, it is also a science with precise steps to improve your chances of success. We’ll look at an often-overlooked aspect of treatment, creating tangible and measurable goals.
It’s feasible to develop goals based on even the haziest or lyrical motivations for therapy, which you can use to track your progress.
Follow these steps to help yourself create a list of personally relevant mental health therapy goals that will help you stay focused and effective in treatment.
1. Begin by establishing overarching motivations, aspirations, and dreams
When your therapist asks, “What brought you to therapy?” During your first appointment, be honest. A heartfelt, cute and straightforward statement like “I just want to be happy,” “I feel stuck,” or “I’m tired of just going through the motions” may come to mind first. These assertions are too general to be useful therapeutic goals, but they’re a start.
What does happiness entail for you? What specific issues are causing you to feel stuck? Answering these questions can help you narrow down your objectives.
One technique to develop with mental health therapy goals is to brainstorm and write down as many reasons as possible for going to therapy. Getting your ideas written down on paper (or on a screen) might help you clarify them, whether you’re writing in paragraphs or developing a mental map. It’s always a good idea to start your writing with a question:
- What are some of the things you’ve grown tired of in your life?
- What aspects of your life that you enjoy and wish you had more of?
- What are some of the things you haven’t done yet but want to?
- Was there a specific issue that prompted you to seek treatment? When and how did it begin?
You may notice that some motives, hopes, or problems stand out more than others when you make lists and review your replies to these or other questions. Investigate these in greater depth. It’s possible that the reason you came to therapy wasn’t the essential change you want to make in your life.
2. Pick a theme to concentrate on
You may arrive at therapy with the impression that your life is in ruin. What do you do first? You’re having a lot of difficulties at work and home.
Your unhealthy habits are harming your health, wealth, and relationships.
It’s perfectly acceptable to walk into your therapist’s office and say, “I’m a complete disaster. Can we solve everything?” Your therapist will be compassionate, eager to assist, and ready to listen as you detail your difficulties. However, if you work with your therapist to identify specific concerns to focus on, you’ll be more effective.
If you’re slipping behind at work and snapping at your partner or children, it could be due to a specific cause, such as stress or guilt, which you can address in counseling. Your therapist is qualified to discover underlying issues and can assist you if you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure of what to do next.
3. It’s not always easy to pinpoint precise therapy goals
It sometimes necessitates a bit more effort. A lot of the time, it’s just a matter of coming up with the correct term. “I want to figure out if I’m depressed” is a more manageable aim than “Something just doesn’t seem right.” Both are good places to start, but it’s easier to spot depression signs than it is to find a needle in the emotional haystack of “Something is wrong.” These examples of mental health therapy goals may help you come up with your own:
- “I want to heal from depression and get my hope and energy back.”
- “I want to stop having the same fight with my partner over and over again.”
- “I want to stop overeating when I’m stressed out and find healthier ways to cope.”
- “I want to be creative like I used to be when I was younger. I want to paint, sing, or write again.”
Keep in mind that these are only a few examples of appropriate therapeutic aims; there are many more.
People seek therapy for a variety of reasons. One of the most common is that they want to be happy but aren’t. Of course, it’s not your responsibility to figure out why you’re unhappy; therapists wouldn’t have as much work if everyone could figure it out on their own. However, you can begin the process by trusting your intuition and stating what you believe the issue is.
You can tell your therapist about suspicions you’ve been scared to discuss with others. Your bond with your therapist and your work together will deepen when you share anxieties like “I think I’m unhappy because I’m in the wrong field of work” or “I’m not sure I want to be with my partner.” It can even assist to be able to declare, “I don’t know what I want.”
4. Make your objectives specific, quantifiable, and SMART
The concept of SMART objectives originated in corporate management, but it is a useful framework for any goal-setting process. The following are examples of SMART objectives:
A goal must be specified to be quantifiable. Concrete goals are those that are both quantifiable and specific. You may visualize specific objectives and mark them off when you’ve achieved them. “I want to get up by 7:00 a.m. every morning,” for example, is a lot more definite than “I want to quit sleeping late.” “I want to quit bingeing on Little Debbie and start going to the gym at least twice a week,” rather than “I want to be healthy” is a more concrete statement.
In every goal-setting process, time is a vital consideration. If you’re not sure how long a significant therapeutic goal should take, split it down into smaller goals. Instead of expressing, “to conquer my social phobia in a year completely,” say, “I want to attend at least two social events in the next month” or “I want to leave the house at least once a day for the next week.” It’s OK if you don’t reach your mental health therapy goals right away; learning what didn’t work and trying again when you fail are all part of the growth process.
5. Make an action plan to keep track of your progress and attain your objectives
You can work with your therapist to develop an action plan once you’ve chosen one or more major goals you want to achieve in treatment. Many therapists are compelled to conduct this as part of their agencies’ treatment planning process. A treatment plan, in general, consists of significant objectives, minor targets that can be used to track your progress toward these objectives, and the strategies you’ll employ to support change.
This week, you can get ready by brainstorming and identifying your mental health therapy goals. You’ll be sure to hit the ground running if you can figure out your goals before you even start therapy!
Don’t break your engagement with good reading. Stay tuned for our latest blog posts on mental health.