How to Set Realistic Goals for Your Clients and Yourself
By Shannon Heers
January is here, and many of us are looking forward to the next year ahead. If you are a private practice therapist and/or a business owner, you might also be looking to create concrete goals for yourself and your practice in the next year. If this sounds like something you are interested in doing, read on!
Setting goals in private practice is important because it keeps you on track to help make important business decisions. It’s easy to get distracted by the next “new technique” or treatment trend. Instead, goal-setting can support you in honing into what would be helpful for you and your clients, not just what others are doing.
Setting Your Private Practice Goals
Goal-setting for yourself as a private practice therapist is kind of like creating treatment plans for your clients. What are the things you want to accomplish and how can you get there? Is there a specific training or modality that really interests you that you want to pursue? Or perhaps you are seeking ongoing clinical consultation for the practical application of what you have learned?
Decide first what you want to focus on for the next year. And remember, don’t spread yourself too thin! Try to come up with 3 or less goals for the year for yourself. Prioritize those goals that will give you the biggest return on investment of your time, energy and money. And the goals that you are most interested in. If you’re passionate about something, it’s more likely that you will reach that goal rather than if you feel lukewarm about it.
One way to help narrow down your goal setting is to do a brainstorming session. However you like to think, set aside dedicated time with no interruptions (if possible). You can use sticky notes and write down concepts rather than full-blown goals, or a more structured word document that allows for full sentences. You can do voice memos on your phone with ideas, or review your last year’s goals and simply update them. There is no right way to set your goals!
After you have narrowed down your goals, then start thinking about how you can accomplish them. What are the steps necessary to reach those goals? Here is a quick example, based on a treatment plan template:
- GOAL: Improved the clinical outcomes for clients with trauma history
- Objective/outcome: Learn and implement 1 new trauma treatment modality
- Research different trauma treatment modalities to determine which one(s) I like most
- Look up trainings on this treatment modality
- Sign-up for training
- Engage clinical consultant for trauma-specific case consultation
Of course, you don’t need to be that specific if you don’t want to. But this format does give a nice, easy step-by-step guide that can assist you in reaching your goals.
Helping Your Clients with Goal Setting
Ok, now that you are clear what you need to do to create your private practice and clinical goals for the next year, what about your clients?
I know that in January, many clients return to therapy after taking a break over the holidays (or, perhaps you took a break, too – yay!). Many clients want to process their holidays, family drama, relationship challenges, and more. Some clients may have strong emotions about the upcoming year, or of setting goals for the year.
How to work with your clients on goal setting? First, remember that your clients will guide their own treatment. If they want to talk about goal setting, great. If they don’t, that is great too. This is not something that you need to bring up to them. But if your client wants to discuss goals for the next year, make sure you don’t shy away from that, either. Help them explore what is meaningful to them, why, and how their personal goals may fit in with their therapy treatment goals.
Make sure that you support balancing motivation with reality. If you have a client who has goals that seem too lofty and unrealistic, this can be a great topic for your therapy sessions. Otherwise called “The Art of Realistic Goal Setting”. Lean on your treatment modality to work with your client about goal setting. Person-centered therapy may have a different approach than the more structured CBT therapy.
And you’re off! The future can hold so many fun, new things. And generate excitement and motivation. But it can also create fear. All of these emotions are ripe to be explored in your clinical sessions with clients as well as your own self-reflective work.
Here at Firelight Supervision, our experienced clinical supervisors fully support private practice therapists with professional development and clinical consultation. If you are looking to become a better therapist in the next year, take a look at our Clinical Consultation Community for licensed clinicians to see how we can support you!
How we can help
For more information about our triadic supervision openings, contact us for a FREE 20-minute phone consultation. Firelight Supervision offers LMHCA triadic supervision from our Washington state-approved clinical supervisors. Get started today!
If you are located in Colorado or Washington, we provide clinical supervision for mental health counselors. Our trained and experienced clinical supervisors can provide you with individual supervision or group supervision, based on your clinical areas of interest.
Shannon Heers is a psychotherapist, approved clinical supervisor, guest blogger, and the owner of a group psychotherapy practice in the Denver area. Shannon helps adults in professional careers manage anxiety, depression, work-life balance, and grief and loss. Follow Firelight Supervision on Instagram and Facebook.