Will my therapist insist on setting a goal in therapy?

As a therapist I have had this question asked a number of time over the years, so it maybe worth talking about.

It can be important to have goals, if you need help to make changes, or you want to set up focus points, that you can use to help you keep on your path of choice, it is  generally beneficial to set goals in therapy.

But in my opinion a therapist should never force someone to set goals, sometimes people need to meander in therapy, to spend time reflecting and expressing their thoughts and feelings, it can be important to just be in the therapeutic space, and not just setting goals because they feel pressured to do so.

When you set goals you are committed to making progress towards achieving something, but sometimes people do not want to change anything, until they have made sense of what is going on in their own head, some times people are not able to even contemplate what goal is even needed at that moment in time.

There is nothing wrong in enquiring if the client wants to set some goals, that can be very helpful, and it may even give the client some focus, as long as it is a free choice for them to make, and not an order to comply with the wishes of the therapist.

Counselling session

Setting a goal in therapy is always a negotiation, the client wishes to set up a task and the therapist is there to try and challenge any unrealistic expectations, and help clarify what the client wants, and understand if the task is achievable. This is to stop the client setting themselves up to fail.  

If you do not want to set goals in therapy, just say so, you do not have to, some therapists insist that not setting goals is bad therapy, I say that a therapist who insists on setting goals, is actively pushing someone into making a choice, they may not be ready or able to make, (and in my opinion is bad therapy).

Applying this kind of pressure is all about the therapists needs, not the clients, maybe it’s a need to feel they have influence, or wanting to be seen as important, or something else within themselves, that they are then channelling through their clients.

It’s not good to force or pressurise a client, to conform to the therapists will, after all therapist are supposed to help build autonomy and self reliance.

If a therapist is pressurising you to set a goal, just ask Why do you insist I have to set a goal, when I do not want to at this time, are my wishes not important.

Are your needs as a therapist more important than mine?

If you do not like the answer find a new therapist

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