Now that you’ve had your intake appointment with your counselor, you will work together to come up with your therapeutic goals. Don’t worry; this isn’t the same as your job goals. Your counselor will not get mad at you if you don’t reach all of them! The objective is to give your counselor and you a guide for your therapeutic relationship. Like any other goal in life, you have to know where you’re headed to get there. Creating therapy goals also helps you evaluate what is working in your sessions together and what is not. Keeping these objectives in mind allows you to be on the same page and understand what you’re working towards.
The next question I’m sure you’re asking is what kind of goals exactly are we talking about? Because everyone is different, each person’s goals will be unique to them and their situation. Here are just a few examples of goals you might establish for counseling:
Improving symptoms: For example, someone experiencing anxiety may want to work on techniques that reduce their acute stress levels, such as mindfulness or breathing exercises, EMDR, somatic awareness, etc. You and your counselor will work together to determine what is helpful and what is not. Therapy is never one size fits all!
Empowerment: Maybe you feel helpless in your life, or things feel out of your control. Therapy can help you evaluate the things you can change, the aspects you cannot change, and how to handle them both to live a more fulfilling life.
Boundary setting: It’s not unusual for people to struggle with certain relationships. This could be professionally, romantically, or with family members. Your therapist can work with you to help determine healthy boundaries for navigating these tricky relationships.
Managing transitions: Change can be challenging, whether it’s expected or unexpected. Whether you’re dealing with the sudden loss of a loved one, feeling purposeless as an empty nester, or adjusting to a big move, therapy can provide valuable resources and guidance for handling life changes.
Getting to know someone takes time. A quality counselor knows this and does not expect you to immediately share your deepest darkest secrets with them. An essential aspect of therapy is building rapport with one another. Your therapist wants to get to know you and understand how you see the world. Your upbringing, culture, and spiritual beliefs (if you have them) help shape who you are and how you see the world. They’re also aware that building trust takes time and that you can’t rush the process. It’s completely normal and expected that until you feel comfortable and safe with your therapist, you will not want to open up and share your thoughts and feelings with them. When building rapport, everyone goes at their own pace, and you aren’t expected to fit a specific timeline. It’s always ok to tell your counselor that you’re not ready to talk about something. It’s crucial that you feel comfortable and heard, and don’t push yourself to talk until you decide it feels right.