Goals are an important component of the counseling process, as they allow the counselor and client to come up with a shared agenda, which provides continuity across sessions. Goals are so important to counseling, that they are mentioned in the Consensus Definition of Counseling:
Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.(Kaplan, Tarvydas, & Gladding, 2014)
ACA Ethics & Goals
The 2014 American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics states that:
Counselors are aware of - and avoid imposing - their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Counselors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants and seek training in areas in which they are at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counselor's values are inconsistent with the client's goals or are discriminatory in nature.ACA, 2014, A.4.b
Counselors screen prospective group counseling/therapy participants. To the extent possible, counselors select members whose needs and goals are compatible with the goals of the group, who will not impede the group process, and whose well-being will not be jeopardized by the group experience.ACA, 2014, A.9.a
Counselors refrain from referring prospective and current clients based solely on the counselor's personally held values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Counselors respect the diversity of clients and seek training in areas in which they are at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counselor's values are inconsistent with the client's goals or are discriminatory in nature.ACA, 2014, A.11.b
Setting Long-Term & Short-Term Goals
Goals often start out broad and abstract (e.g., I want to be happier or I want to feel better about myself). It is important that counselors have the skills to make concrete, specific goals.
- Break broad goals into manageable, meaningful, observable parts
- Goals are phrased in positive terms
- Goals acknowledge that a person's behavior tends to serve a purpose
- Goals help clients identify potential causes/triggers of symptoms
Playback problems? This video is available on YouTube at youtu.be/8cCiqbSJ9fg
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
- Time Limited
SMART goals are:
- Understand the client’s struggle in context- How will
you know when the problem is managed or resolved?
- Emotionally - I will feel hopeful.
- Cognitively - I will take time to be mindful of my thoughts
- Socially - I will make time for meaningful relationships.
- Situationally - I will be more motivated and purposeful at work/school.
- Physically - I will have more energy and be in better physical shape
- Understand the client’s struggle in context- How will you know when the problem is managed or resolved?
- Frequency (number of times)
- Duration (how long)
- Intensity (mild, moderate, intense, excruciating)
- How will you know when the client has achieved their goal(s)? What will success look like?
- What is the role of the counselor and what is the role of the client in working towards achieving a goal?
- What are the counselor and client each responsible for doing? When, where, and how will they carry out their responsibilities?
- How will the client and counselor's behaviors help the client meet their goal
- Has to be a changeable growth area
- Set goals that enable change to happen in small steps across time
- Time Limited
- Identify a specific time frame for the behaviors/actions to take place
- This helps clients to see incremental improvements across time, which is reinforcing
Treatment Planning: Collaboratively Identifying Client Goals
- Treatment plans are developed after a therapeutic relationship has been formed and following a thorough conceptualization of the client's situation.
- Counselors can then intervene with clients through collaboratively formulating treatment goals which are often informed by diagnoses and theories.
- Lastly, counselors identify and select interventions that structurally align with treatment goals and fit best for the client and their particular worldview and struggles.