Goal setting for anxiety or depression clients

by Sebastian February 14th, 2022

Imagine getting into a taxi and not telling the driver where you intend to go. Without a destination, it does not make sense for the driver to start driving. A competent taxi driver would ask the passenger for the destination.  Possibly, the driver will ask a few questions to make sure that they know the destination. Once the passenger provides their destination, the driver can start driving. It follows that if a driver were to start driving without asking a destination from the passenger, the driver would be driving around aimlessly. In a counselling context, it is essential that as soon as it is possible, the counsellor and the client should talk about what goal(s) the client is seeking to achieve from counselling. For clients seeking depression or anxiety counselling, goal setting is essential as the client is stabilized. The goal should be expressed by the client.   A sound goal should be specific and not general. Ideally, it should be positively stated. For example, a client seeking counselling for depression might say that they want to feel better. “How would you know that you are feeling better?”  is a good follow-up question to ask as “feeling better” is subjective, and the counsellor needs to know what it means to the client. It is vital for the counsellor to ask the client to describe the behavioural signs that would indicate that they are feeling better.   When the client begins to experience the desired behaviours, then the client is on course to achieve their goals. An achievable goal needs to be realistic and timely. In our example here of feeling better, the client might say that signs of “feeling better” would include they are once again enjoying meeting people, experiencing pleasure pursuing their hobbies, sleeping better and etc. Setting goal(s) is one of the first activities that I introduce to the client.  I believe the goals will guide the counselling process.  They provide proper direction for the client and the counsellor.



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