Goal setting in the aftermath of disaster - transcript

Leanne: Belinda is a research assistant with us here at Phoenix Australia and has a particular interest in early interventions following trauma. And today’s conversation relates to the use of goal-setting strategies as we work to support disaster-impacted individuals. So hello Belinda thanks for joining me.

Belinda: Yes thanks for having me Leanne.

Leanne: Pleasure. So Belinda as we think about our work supporting people in the aftermath of disaster why are we talking about the use of goal-setting strategies?

Belinda: Yes so you know when a person experiences a stressful or a traumatic event like a large-scale disaster, they can often experience many different you know emotions and difficulties that are quite common following a disaster. So things like feeling really overwhelmed, difficulties with focusing, attention and concentrating. Just generally, difficulties planning or thinking ahead towards the future and for most people these kind of, these reactions can lead to feelings of hopelessness or you know feeling stuck, a sense of stuckness after a disaster and you know these reactions can also have quite an effect or an impact on a person’s ability to kind of get to their day-to-day activities at home, at school or at work wherever they’re at, and this can also contribute to that feeling of stuckness and kind of maintain or worsen a person’s mental health as time goes on.

So I think in instances such as this you know goal setting can be a really motivating, encouraging and kind of hopeful experience that
promotes a focus on the future and can help foster a sense of achievement for the person.

Leanne: Okay so can you tell us a little bit about goal setting?

Belinda: Yes of course. So goal setting – it’s a useful technique that involves identifying a series of steps that are specific achievable and realistic for a person to undertake to achieve their goal. And if we think about when we try to set goals for ourselves, we can often be really motivated and excited, and we can often set really large goals. But then we can find ourselves a little bit stuck on how we can actually get there and reach our goals. So there can sometimes be a disconnect in how we actually get there. So goal setting can be quite a useful technique that we can use to kind of inspire and motivate the people that we work with towards achieving the things that they want to achieve in a clear kind of realistic and really achievable manner. And it’s a kind of a fail-through manner so to speak.

Leanne: So what are the actual steps involved?

Belinda: So the steps involved – basically it follows this acronym with what we call the SMART principles or the smart technique. And basically this SMART technique has come out of kind of strategies that are often used in CBT- so cognitive behaviour therapy – but it’s also something that can be used as you know setting SMART goals as a standalone targeted intervention and the SMART sort of acronym.

I can just briefly speak to it thank you. It involves kind of Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Timely goals. So in terms of specific goals this is, I’m speaking to you now making a goal as clear and as specific as possible. Measurable so that’s referring to coming up with really concrete or explicit criteria that helps a person know how and when they’re making progress towards their goal. So achievable, so thinking about what tools resources or people are needed to achieve the goal and you know does the person that you’re working with you know do they have access to these right now? Realistic, so you know is it realistic for the person that you’re working with given their skills the timeframe that you’ve got and the person’s financial physical and social
resources. So all these sort of considerations and lastly what is the goal timeline? So this involves setting defined and achievable timeframes and often this can help maintain motivation and you know avoid procrastination or unhelpful behaviours that we can sometimes slip into or fall back into when we want to set goals. And we often set kind of smaller timeframes for smaller goals and larger timeframes for larger goals and I suppose you know goal setting can also be used with you know in combination with problem solving which is something we have touched on in a previous module. So that’s interesting as well.

Leanne: Absolutely so Belinda can you give us a little bit of an example?

Belinda: Yes of course so I suppose if we think about you know following disasters people are often faced with you know a number of recovery tasks such as cleaning up the wreckage in their homes, you know, liaising with insurance companies. We can possibly find that, you know, your spending, if you’re in this space, your spending kind of less quality time with friends, families and loved ones. So no person that you’re working with who’s experiencing this. They might say that their goal is to spend more time with family. And so that’s a great goal and a great place to start at but it’s a little bit vague.

If we’re picking up on the the S of the SMART techniques and getting a bit more specific you know encouraging and guiding the person that you’re working with to a more specific goal such as – possibly eating dinner with my family together three nights a week. That’s just kind of an example of how you can start to use and implement the SMART technique to become really you know clear and concrete on what, what the goal wants to be set.

Leanne: Yes terrific and it sounds like it can become a lifelong skill it’s not just specific to recovery after disaster.

Belinda: Yes exactly yes,

Leanne: Terrific. Okay thanks Belinda that was really clear and helpful. You’ve developed a worksheet for practitioners that they can use with their clients to guide them through the process.

And of course for those of you watching the video that was just a brief summary of relevant points.

For those of you who’d like to explore the topic further feel free to read through the module and follow the links included. Thanks for your time Belinda.

Belinda: Thanks Leanne.

Leanne: Thank you.