Goal setting

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Goal setting is a useful strategy to help clients with both AOD treatment as well as depression/anxiety symptom management. For example, one goal might be to spend more time partaking in rewarding activities each week.

Goal setting can keep therapy on track and also enables progress to be measured over time. It allows the client to experience feelings of control and success, which may counter common feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. Goal setting also ensures that therapy remains client-focused which increases motivation and helps the therapist ascertain what the client’s central concerns are. However, it is important that the focus is on the process of goal pursuit rather than outcome and expectations of achievement; it is important that happiness is not conditional upon goal achievement or else failure may exacerbate depressive symptoms [1208].

According to Marsh and colleagues [276] goals should be:

  • Geared towards the client’s level of motivation and concern (client’s stage of change – see Chapter B2 of these Guidelines).
  • Negotiated between client and AOD worker.
  • Specific and achievable – it is important that the client begins to gain a sense of mastery by achieving his or her goals.
  • Based on process rather than outcome.
  • Short term – break down overall goals into shorter-term ones in order to increase motivation and feelings of success.
  • Described in positive rather than negative terms – for example, the goal to ‘decrease feelings of apprehension and worry at parties’ is expressed in negative terms. The same goal, expressed in positive terms is ‘I will try to relax and enjoy myself at parties’.
  • Not necessarily limited to AOD use (e.g., improving social adjustment and functioning, reducing criminal behaviour).

A goal setting worksheet is provided in the Worksheets section of these Guidelines.