There’s so much space between feeling like you want to do something and actually doing it. Individual therapy functions to help you bridge that divide with as much or as little support as you’d like.
Today, let’s talk about how we do that and what honest goal setting has to do with getting the greatest therapy of your life.
Why is it important to be honest about your feelings in therapy?
The way you behave is deeply connected to the feelings you have. When you come to individual therapy, no one can force you to share those feelings honestly. We know that it’s painful to be vulnerable with someone, even when you know they’re here to support you, and no one will force you into those spaces before you’re ready.
Emotional honesty that allows a window into your deepest truth will allow you to access the emotions that fuel you. Then, when you’re ready to start setting goals, they’re accurate ones that move you closer to meeting those needs. The emotions that motivate your actions, or protective avoidance, can hold the secret to understanding your unmet needs. Your honesty comes with power once you move through the fear of sharing it. When you’re honest with yourself and your therapist, you open the doors to truly exploring the feelings that lurk beneath the surface.
“Beneath every behavior, there is a feeling. And beneath each feeling is a need. And when we meet that need rather than focus on the behavior, we begin to deal with the cause, not the symptom.”
— Ashleigh Warner
Being honest about your feelings in therapy is important because the more you open up, the more effectively you can begin to unravel the things that aren’t working to create space for the things that will. This space opens up opportunities to set new goals and make progress toward achieving them.
How does goal setting help give meaning to your life?
Goal setting guides the management of things that don’t feel right so that you can move your life forward toward a path of possibility. In some areas of life, those goals look like finishing a degree or running a marathon. In therapy, they look like understanding the emotions and needs that drive your behaviors so you can grow from them.
Setting goals in therapy is a lot like sharing symptoms with your medical doctor when you’re physically feeling sick. It gives shape to your work in individual therapy so you are constantly aware of what you’re moving toward. This shape helps to keep you from spinning your wheels or losing time to things that aren’t working for you.
One of the best things about goal setting in therapy and life is that having goals means you have the freedom to change them. In every aspect of your life, this will benefit you. So many people get trapped in the space of knowing something isn’t going well but not knowing what it is or how to change it.
Your goals will help you create organization for your emotions so that if they do need some fine-tuning, you can more quickly identify what you’d like to change and do so. The meaning of your life can be moved from a dream state to an active part of your world when you set goals to work toward achieving it.
Will therapy make me feel worse?
Honestly, therapy might make things feel a lot harder… at first. When you stop running from the things you’re avoiding, turning to face them may feel like a mistake. It will hurt to look into the painful truth of your emotions or see the hopes you had falling unfulfilled.
Therapy might make you feel worse in the short term. You may feel frustrated, guilty, overwhelmed, or angry as you begin to confront the things you struggled to let in while protecting yourself. This isn’t comfortable, but it is valuable. That discomfort doesn’t happen for no reason.
Once it passes, you will find yourself left with eyes and heart open. Space will then exist for the progress you long for, and you’ll be free to work toward honest goals that help you achieve the things you desire. All the energy you once used to avoid looking too closely at the hurt you can now put toward achieving your goals.
What are examples of goals for therapy?
Much like other areas of your life, the goals you set in individual therapy can be as big or as small as you’d like. There are a few primary types of goals, and within them, there is a whole spectrum of intensities your specific goals may fall on. It’s a bit like picking your style of play and the difficulty setting in a video game.
Let’s take a quick look at those goal types and what they may include.
These kinds of therapy goals help you manage a feeling or symptom that you’d like to change. Coping goals may look like establishing a grounding technique for anxiety, wearing earplugs to reduce overstimulation or other modifications that help you manage discomfort and the way it negatively impacts your daily life.
These goals help you hone the skills and knowledge that empower you to blaze your own path in life. Whether mastery goals seek to gain knowledge or become an expert at the coping skills you’ve learned, they will help you feel like the master of your life in whatever way you decide.
These therapy goals work to help you stop something. Elimination goals create a route to unlearning the tools you’ve used or the ideas that do not help you achieve all that you are capable of. Elimination goals may be things like stopping binge cycles, unlearning self-harm behaviors, or breaking patterns of abuse.
At Awakened Path, we’re here to help you at every step toward your truest and most fulfilling self. You can show up with goals in mind or no idea where that path forward begins, and we will receive you with open arms. There is no wrong way to show up to therapy when you’re ready to bring your wholehearted honesty into setting goals to change your life.
Are you ready?