Written by therapist Pete Marlow

It’s the time of year when people take stock of their lives and try to determine if they are on track with their goals. For many, this can feel deflating and sometimes that is due to their expectations being set unrealistically high or not having a grasp on what their goal actually is. The same goes for people in therapy and it can be a barrier to healing. 

Importance of Creating Therapy Goals

Everyone comes to therapy with a deep yearning for something. This is what so often in first sessions people will state when asked about what brings them to counseling that they “just want to feel happy again.” There is so much need in this statement, but it does not provide you with an effective goal. Creating goals for therapy will provide you with a sense of direction and having this can also increase your confidence. Some of you reading this may be familiar with the term S.M.A.R.T. goals and have studied this concept at some point. It can apply as a great model for creating goals for therapy. 

  • Specific: Understand what you would like to achieve in therapy before setting out on that journey. 
  • Measurable: Making a goal measurable makes it seem more tangible. For instance, saying you would like to practice a mindfulness exercise for 10 minutes every morning. 
  • Attainable: Is the goal some you are theoretically able to accomplish? 
  • Realistic: Are you willing to put in the time and other necessary resources into achieving the goal?
  • Time-Specific: Create time markers for yourself to check-in and observe your progress and if anything needs to be tweaked. 

Signs That You Are Healing

There are plenty of things that can act as guideposts for you on your healing journey. They can let you know that you’re making progress. They are emotional, mental, physical, and behavioral signs. These signs obviously vary based on your reported symptoms. 

  • You begin to notice your emotions and allow yourself to feel them instead of minimizing them. After spending years invalidating your emotional experience, you have become more comfortable with it and embrace it. 
  • Activities you have not engaged in for a while due to them no longer bringing you joy have re-entered your life. 
  • You find yourself spending more time with friends and family and less time isolating yourself. 
  • You begin to express your needs and wants more freely.
  • You gain a greater understanding of your triggers, including where they come from and how they contribute to your cycle. 
  • You start showing more compassion towards yourself, past and present, instead of heaping abuse on yourself. 
  • You are more mindful of your inner experience, including your emotions, what thoughts triggered those emotions, and how you want to behave as a result. 
  • You notice you are spending less time ruminating over your thoughts or behaviors. 
  • You have set healthy boundaries with those in your life leading to healthier relationships.

Practice Patience and Self-Compassion

Therapy is a big undertaking and every person will heal on a different timetable than the next. There are so many factors that contribute to what brought you to counseling and all of them can affect the timing. The most important thing to remember is to have compassion for yourself and not focus on “When will I finish?” This can only lead to self-critique and act as a delay to your healing process. If you continually remind yourself that everyone’s experience is different and that you are doing very hard work and doing it well, then you can avoid this pitfall. 

If you are about to begin therapy or are in the midst of it, remember that it takes time. There is no set timetable for healing. If you break your arm the doctor will put a cast on it and tell you it will take 6-8 weeks to heal, but how you heal mentally is completely different from how your bones heal. If you’re looking to start your journey of healing, don’t put it off for another day! We would love to begin that process with you and walk beside you.

We can help you get started

Other Articles by Pete