Therapy can help you see tremendous growth as a person, but it’s critical that you clearly define what you want to work towards. Setting therapy goals will give you a sense of direction. Having goals in place also makes tracking progress easier for you and your therapist. Studies show that realistic goals can be highly motivating, even for people living with depression or other mental health conditions. Read on to learn how to set goals and get the most out of your therapy sessions.
What Are Therapy Goals?
In therapy, a goal is an outcome that you’d like to achieve. Don’t worry if you don’t have a clear goal in mind going in. Your therapist can help you identify specific goals and create a treatment plan, so you achieve the outcomes you’re looking for.
Setting attainable short-term and long-term goals will help you imagine a better future for yourself. It’s unfortunate, but motivation is something many people struggle with in life. Setting goals is beneficial because it can give you the strength to challenge yourself and course correct when you need to. Ultimately, goal setting can be instrumental in improving your life.
7 Goals You Can Achieve in Therapy
Treatment goals are personal, and what to work on in therapy can differ for everyone. If you’re stuck or unsure where to start, the following therapy goals examples might be helpful. Keep reading and see if you identify things you’d like to work on.
1. Building healthy habits
It can be tough to break a habit, even if you know something’s unhealthy. With the help of your therapist, you can work to change your thoughts and behaviors, replacing them with more positive ones that better your life.
Habits are often unconscious behaviors. It’s the cues in our environment that usually trigger them, according to research. Your therapist can help you become more aware of destructive or harmful behavior patterns so you can create more positive routines (and stick with them).
2. Learning to communicate more effectively
Effectively communicating your wants and needs is a common struggle for many people. This can lead to feeling frustrated, depressed, or dissatisfied. Finding better ways to communicate will allow you to express your feelings authentically. Improving communication is something that can help in all aspects of life. From professional to personal to social interactions, enhanced communication skills can be hugely rewarding.
3. Practicing self-compassion
Some people have endless compassion for others but struggle to be kind to themselves. If you’re too hard on yourself, you may want to make self-care a therapy goal. Your therapist can help you learn to avoid negative self-talk and put yourself first. This is often a first step towards becoming confident in your life decisions and relationships while achieving greater internal peace.
4. Starting and maintaining relationships
Studies show that having strong social support can make you happier and more resilient to stress. One way to do this is by broadening your social circle. In a therapy session, you can focus on establishing and improving interpersonal relationships. One of the many benefits of therapy is that you can learn how to communicate in a relationship. Whether you join a club, take a class, reconnect with people you haven’t seen in a while, or branch out into new social circles, positive relationships can enrich your life.
5. Finding new coping strategies
There’s no way to avoid types of stress and anxiety altogether, but you can change how you react to and manage the difficult times you face. For example, you might want to focus on the following in therapy:
- Practicing relaxation strategies
- Setting boundaries with parents, friends, family, and at work
- Learning when to ask for help
- Learning how to release anger in healthy ways
- Learning how to deal with trauma
New coping techniques can make it easier for you to deal with the ups and downs of life. You can also work to avoid unhealthy mechanisms you’ve been using, like impulsive spending or isolating yourself from others, for example.
6. Improving sleep quality
Sleep and mental health are heavily correlated. Not only can a lack of sleep put you at risk for serious health problems, but it can also take a toll on your mental health. Practicing good sleep hygiene will allow you to get the rest you need each night to be as physically and mentally healthy as possible. Some therapy goals examples surrounding sleep habits might include:
- Making (and sticking to) a sleep schedule
- Building a bedtime routine
- Avoiding electronics before bed
- Creating a peaceful, inviting sleep environment in your room
7. Accepting and understanding your emotions
Our emotions affect many aspects of our lives, from our decisions to how we perceive and react to events.
Learning to identify and accept your feelings can help you deal with challenging emotions in healthier ways. You can work with your therapist to improve your emotional vocabulary, so you’ll know how to share your feelings with others in an effective manner.
“These questions at the beginning of therapy are intended to set goals before or during the first session. What would you like to accomplish with therapy? What would you like to get from therapy? What would you like to work on or discover? All of these are great questions, and your goals can change as therapy progresses.”– Talkspace therapist Dr. Karmen Smith LCSW DD
Tips for Goal Setting in Therapy
The following tips are great ways to ensure you’re setting the right goals and getting the most out of therapy.
When you talk with your therapist about setting goals for therapy, it’s essential to be truthful about what you want and where you currently are in life.
“Being honest and authentic with yourself is the best way to set goals during counseling. Wanting improved relationships and better ways of communicating can begin as a general goal, but as you begin to know yourself better, the goal can shift. You can learn how to control feelings of anger and shame, which hinders your ability to connect with others.”– Talkspace therapist Dr. Karmen Smith LCSW DD
Resist the temptation to withhold information, and don’t be afraid to speak up about any concerns or fears you might have. If you communicate openly from the start, your therapist will be able to do more to help you set and achieve your personal goals.
Keep it simple
Goals can give you a sense of direction, but they shouldn’t be vague or overly complex. They must be specific and easy to identify and work towards. Otherwise, achieving them will be challenging. Focus on setting clear, attainable objectives that you can track and measure. Try breaking things down into several smaller milestones if you’re working towards something big.
Create a plan of action
Once you’ve set your goals, you should start thinking about what you’ll need to do to achieve them. Many people give up before they make any real progress. If you have a plan in place, you’ll be able to take steps that bring you closer to achieving your goals, which can serve as motivation.
Track your progress
Progress often happens gradually, and this can make it hard to see how much is actually being accomplished.
One way to ensure you’re seeing growth is by setting daily quotas or goals and then checking in at the end of each day. Writing about your progress by journaling for mental health is an effective tactic. Keeping track of your progress can help you stay motivated, especially when things get tough.
Don’t be afraid to make changes
You don’t have to stick with the same therapy goals forever. It’s normal to shift or adjust plans over time. Therapy can give you more insight into what you want out of life, and as you progress, you may discover new goals you want to work on. Don’t be scared to change or add to your goals. You’ll constantly be changing throughout your life. Embrace this, instead of fearing it.
Achieve Your Therapy Goals with Talkspace
Therapy can help you make positive transformations in your life, but change takes real effort. When you set goals in treatment, you can actively work towards the differences you want to see in your life. Goals can be highly motivating, especially when a therapist is there to hold you accountable and help you recognize your growth.
If you’re ready to work towards a better life, Talkspace can be a valuable source of support. Talkspace is an online therapy platform that makes it easy to connect with mental health professionals. Finding a therapist on Talkspace can be the first step towards accomplishing your goals and changing your life for the better, forever. The benefits of online therapy await you.
Learn how to start therapy with Talkspace today.
- Gardner B, Lally P, Wardle J. Making health habitual: The psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice. British Journal of General Practice. 2012;62(605):664-666. doi:10.3399/bjgp12x659466. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0166259. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- Gardner B, Lally P, Wardle J. Making health habitual: The psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice. British Journal of General Practice. 2012;62(605):664-666. doi:10.3399/bjgp12x659466. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3505409/. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- Ozbay F, Johnson DC, Dimoulas E, Morgan, III, CA. Social Support and Resilience to Stress. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2007;4(5):35-40. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921311/. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- Medic G, Wille M, Hemels M. Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nature and Science of Sleep. 2017;Volume 9:151-161. doi:10.2147/nss.s134864.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5449130/. Accessed November 15, 2022.
Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.
Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.
Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.