If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.
I usually end up goal setting with clients very early in the therapy process. This is typically during the first or second session, but sometimes as early as our initial phone call if clients are clear about what they’d like to work on and what they’d like the outcome of our work together to look like. For others, it takes a while to set concrete goals because they aren’t quite sure what changes they are looking for, they just know that they want to feel better overall.
But, goal setting is also interesting because the “finish line” can be continuously moving and changing as well. The thing about therapy being a process and all is totally correct here.
Clients often want to know how long therapy will take to meet their goals. The vague and annoying answer is, “as long as it takes” since every one of us is unique and different, or until you don’t need me, and can do what we’re doing in therapy on your own (in a sense, the “therapist in your head” scenario). But, if you’d like a more concrete answer, the consensus is that most people stay in therapy around six months to a year, some less and some more than that statistic.
So, what purpose do goals really hold within the therapeutic process anyway?
- They do serve as a kind of road map and focus point for client and therapist alike, so we both know where we’re headed.
- If you’ve met all the goals you set originally but feel like there’s more to work on, then yes, we do set new goals together.
- If you’ve set high, unachievable goals, we discuss what it would be like to lower the bar a little bit. Also, is perfectionism possibly coming into play here?
- If you’ve set situational goals and the situation is now resolved and you’re feeling more like yourself again, then it may be time to close out.
- If you’ve set goals and changes that you’d like to see in all aspects of your life, at home, at work, with friends, etc. and you’ve seen this shift occur in your life, then this might be a signal that it’s time to do a closing counseling session as well.
As you can see, goals play a huge role in your therapy sessions. So, don’t be afraid to say what you need to say and set the goals you need to set. However, if you’re having trouble figuring that out, your therapist can also help you process through your goal setting roadblocks. The hope is that these goals help you make the changes you’ve been looking to make in your life starting today.