If an individual expresses that they:
feel overwhelmed or stuck following the disaster
experience difficulties planning ahead or not knowing where to start
are having difficulties with engaging in their day-to-day activities at home, school or work
It is important to note that goal-setting may not be helpful or appropriate for individuals who are in an acute state of distress or dysregulation, as these individuals will not likely be able to effectively engage with the activity. In these circumstances, stress reduction or relaxation techniques such as slow breathing and grounding exercises may be more beneficial.
Goal-setting is a key skill often used in CBT. It is an intervention that has been described as well suited to general practice settings and can be undertaken in 15 – 30 minute consultations.
Goal-setting in CBT follows the SMART principles. The SMART principle for goal-setting involves breaking down a person’s goal into specific, manageable and realistic steps. Using the SMART principles, goals should be:
When undertaking goal-setting with clients, practitioners are encouraged to cultivate a sense of collaboration and hope, and be guided by the individual’s responses and ideas.
Assess whether an individual may benefit from goal-setting strategies?
Provide psychoeducation on problems that arise after disaster/trauma, and how goal-setting may help?
Instruct individuals how to use the goal-setting worksheet attached at the bottom of this page?
Collaboratively implement goal-setting with use of the goal-setting worksheet attached at the bottom of this page?
The first step is to identify the goal. It is essential that the goal is a clear and specific as possible. Encourage clients to define what they want to achieve, and to be as detailed as possible. The reasoning behind this is that a specific goal has a much greater chance of being achieved as compared to a vague or general goal.
It is helpful to distinguish between vague and specific goals, and assist clients in making their goal as specific as possible. For example, following disasters, people are often faced with a number of recovery tasks, including cleaning up wreckage in their homes, and liaising with insurance companies, and may find that they are spending less quality time with their family and loved ones. As such, an individual may say that their goal is to, “spend more time with family” – this is an example of a goal that is too vague. Instead, a more specific goal may be: “eat dinner together three nights this week”.
Once a specific goal has been identified, it is important to ensure that progress made towards reaching the goal can be clearly measured. This can involve coming up with concrete or explicit criteria that helps us know how we are measuring progress towards the goal that has been set. You may help clients to develop measurable criteria by asking them the following questions:
The intention of goal setting is to inspire and motivate people to work towards the things they want to achieve. As such, if goals are too large, the goal may be unattainable, and seem almost impossible to achieve. When working with clients, explore whether the goal they have chosen is actually achievable, and you can do this by asking questions such as:
Encourage clients to reflect on whether the identified goal is realistic, given their skills, time frame, and financial, physical, social resources. Trouble-shooting may be required here, if clients recognise that their goal may not be realistic with regards to their current circumstances. In such instances, it can be helpful to go back to the specific goal identified, and rework it to make it more measurable, achievable and realistic.
Time is an important consideration when setting SMART goals. Discuss with clients whether they are able to achieve their goal within a reasonable time frame. Setting defined and achievable time-frames can help maintain motivation and avoid procrastination.
After the set time-frame, encourage clients to review if they have achieved their goal. If the goal has not been achieved or has been partially achieved, encourage clients to reflect on each SMART principle, and identify if any part of the goal may need to be amended, so it is more attainable.