Goal setting is one of my favorite things to do in my practice. You help the client visualize the future and the treatment plan serves as your roadmap to where the client wants to be when they no longer need the support of therapy.
Beyond the specific components needed in your Treatment Plans (grab my guide to the 12 essential elements in a treatment plan HERE) I wanted to give you the 4 questions I always ask to generate the specific information I use to develop the overarching long term goals and short term objectives in my treatment plans.
Ready? Let’s dive in to the four questions I always ask when setting goals:
What is the end point on the map?
Help the child and family paint a specific picture of what life will be like when they know they don't need the support of therapy. Get a dialogue going about the specific activities they would or wouldn’t be doing, how they would be feeling, what they would be thinking or saying. What activities would they be doing or not doing? What kind of student would they be?
Where are you now?
Get information about the symptoms and the problem areas now. What are the specific behaviors or symptoms? What settings do they show up in? Are there any triggers? What is the frequency, duration, and intensity?
What is the connection?
How are the goals directly connected to the symptoms and the diagnosis? Are there any significant symptoms areas that your goals do not cover?
Is the end point attainable?
Is what the client (or parent) wants actually achievable? If the goal is to never have an anger outburst again that would definitely set the parent (and child) up for failure. If the goal is to get all A’s for two semesters that could be tricky - especially if there are learning challenges or a generally difficult subject. (Hello high schoolers who take 6 AP classes in one semester!) What if the goal shifted to turning in 95% of assignments on time or creating and following through with a study schedule for tests?
Bonus tip - I always love to write my goals with the positive expected behavior in mind. “Abstain from outbursts 90% of the time he transitions from video games” might switch to “Calm and regulated body and voice 90% of the time he transitions from video games”.
Looking for more inspiration in goal setting? Grab my FREE Download with my collaborative goal setting activity for older children and adolescents!
What are your favorite tips for goal setting with clients? Share the love (and the tips!) below!
Want more support for your Play Therapy intake sessions and treatment planning? Check out this training HERE!
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I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC, RPT-S, and EMDR Consultant. I help other therapists grow in their passions as play therapists, trauma therapists,and child and adolescent therapists.