New Season, New Therapy Goals

by | Relational/Couples Counseling

The change in season is a popular time for therapy goals to shift. Some clients decide to take the summer off, while others realize that without other pressures like school, they are able to re-focus on their goals in therapy. If you’re feeling unclear about your goals in therapy, or are looking to reprioritize for the summer, it is important to consider what your goals could look like. 

Setting goals in therapy is standard practice. Many therapists will collaborate with their clients to create a treatment plan, or a document that outlines what the client will work on, and how they will measure the client’s progress. While treatment plans are helpful to create with your therapist as you begin therapy, it is normal for goals and progress to shift along the way. Sometimes, we don’t know what we need to work on until we start engaging in more self-reflection, trying out interventions, and seeing what challenges arise. Sometimes, life events come up and steer us away from the goals we originally thought we’d be working towards, like a breakup we need to process, or dealing with a new work-related stressor. It is not uncommon to need to re-evaluate your goals as you continue with the therapy process.

However, at times clients and therapists can struggle with identifying desirable goals. Many of my clients say they want to “do something” about their anxiety, or work on their moods and relationships. However, it’s hard to identify exactly what this could look like. If you’re unsure about your goals for therapy, or feel like you need some new ones, consider some of these ideas below: 

Goal: Improve one’s ability to identify and notice body sensations and emotions, and learn how to tolerate uncomfortable emotions and allow them to pass. 

This goal may be helpful for individuals who struggle with “feeling your feelings.” If you grew up within, or had specific circumstances that led to, an environment of being disconnected from your emotions, it may be hard for you to notice and identify bodily signals as emotional cues. Other times, you may not have the language and vocabulary to identify the complexities of various emotions. Some clients may need to start with mind-body work, in order to slow down and learn to recognize what they are feeling. With time, they can then learn to sit with uncomfortable feelings, noticing how they ebb, flow, and subside with various coping skills and time. When we’re not experienced with sitting with our emotions, we can rush through them or become scared of them. Sometimes this means we are avoiding them all together by staying busy, or engaging in numbing behaviors like impulsive shopping or drug and alcohol consumption to avoid feeling them altogether. Learning how to identify, recognize, and tolerate various emotional states can be an important goal to have in therapy. 

Goal: Learn to communicate emotions in the moment with one’s partner or friends, build tolerance for confrontation and learn how to repair conflict directly.

Learning how to be in a relationship with others is hard, even though many of us assume it should come naturally. If you don’t have a healthy model for this, or the space to learn, it can be hard to communicate during conflict and confront others when you have concerns. Many clients say they are uncomfortable with confrontation and often keep their frustrations to themselves. Some may “communicate” in other ways, like slamming doors or going silent. Other times, clients struggle with communicating how they are feeling with their partners or friends, and through this struggle they may shut down, become sarcastic, or even say something hurtful. Therapy can be a helpful resource in learning how to communicate effectively during confrontation and repairing relationships after conflict. 

Goal: Being able to speak truth in your relationships, practice vulnerability, and avoid old patterns of pleasing people. 

Sometimes we have to be honest with ourselves with the role we’re playing in our relationships. While we may be frustrated with how others treat or respond to us, oftentimes we are also playing a part in the relationship dynamics. It is hard to be honest, especially in relationships that have a history of conflict,  lack of acceptance, and defensiveness. Many of my clients who struggled with people pleasing behaviors learned that skill as a necessity for their relationships, usually at a younger age. However in adulthood it is important to see what behaviors are no longer serving us. Learning how to stand up for yourself, set boundaries, and speak more truthfully is important in developing healthy relationships with others in our lives, and with ourselves. 

Working with a therapist to address any of these goals will be helpful. Ask your therapist what you can work on outside of session, and behaviors you can start to notice or implement as you continue to work on these goals. I find that it is always helpful to keep a journal or a log of what points of self reflection, skills you have tried to implement, and areas where you noticed old patterns showing up. It is completely normal and okay for your goals to shift throughout your therapy work. Work with your therapist on identifying new goals that feel right for you this season.

If you are ready to speak your truth in relationships and move away from people-pleasing patterns, Valued Living Therapy can help.

Valued Living Therapy

We are a dynamic, trauma-informed, multi-specialty group practice of mental health professionals offering therapy in the heart of Edina, MN and online throughout Minnesota.

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