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  • Writer's pictureAlayna Dorfman

Setting Goals for Therapy: A Step-By-Step Guide

Updated: Jan 8


two st petersburg therapists talking in a counseling office in st petersburg fl, goal setting activities, holistic therapy

Therapy can be a powerful tool for personal growth and healing. But without clear goals, you may feel directionless in your sessions. Setting goals is essential to ensure that you get the most out of your therapy journey and achieve meaningful progress towards your desired outcomes. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to set goals for your therapy sessions.


Starting Therapy: Overcoming Nervousness and Getting Started

Starting therapy is a big step, and it's normal to feel nervous about what to expect. It takes courage and a willingness to prioritize your mental well-being, and that's something about which to be proud.


The first thing to remember is that therapists are trained professionals who are there to support you. They understand that starting therapy can feel overwhelming, and they will help guide you through the process with kindness and empathy. It's okay to ask questions, share your concerns, and express any doubts or fears you may have.


Here are some practical tips to help you be better prepared and navigate your therapy journey:


  • Clarify your goals. Before starting therapy, take some time to reflect on what you hope to achieve. Having a clear idea of what you want to work on can help you communicate your needs and preferences to your therapist.

  • Choose a therapist who fits your needs. Finding a therapist who aligns with your goals, values, and personality is important for building a strong therapeutic relationship. Consider factors such as their expertise, location, fees, availability, and communication style.

  • Attend sessions with an open mind. Therapy can be challenging at times, and it may require you to confront difficult thoughts and emotions. Keep an open mind, and trust the process. Remember that therapy is a safe and confidential space where you can explore your feelings and experiences without fear of judgment or criticism.

  • Give yourself time. Building trust and making progress in therapy takes time and effort. It's okay to take things slowly and at your own pace. Be patient with yourself and celebrate small victories along the way.

  • Practice self-care. Starting therapy can be emotionally draining, so it's essential to prioritize self-care and allow yourself time to rest, recharge, and practice good habits outside of sessions.

Starting therapy is an important investment in your mental health and well-being. By taking the time to prepare and seek support, you are taking a positive step towards creating a better future for yourself.


Steps to Setting Effective Therapy Goals

Starting therapy can be overwhelming, and setting clear and meaningful goals can sometimes be a challenge. However, by following these practical steps, you can create achievable goals that will guide your therapy journey and help you achieve the progress you desire:


  • Identify your primary concern. Start by identifying what brings you to therapy. Is it a specific problem, like anxiety or depression, or a general feeling of dissatisfaction with your life?

  • Clarify what you hope to achieve. Once you have identified your primary concern, think about what you hope to achieve through therapy. Do you want to feel more confident? Improve your relationships? Learn coping mechanisms for stress?

  • Be specific. Your goals should be specific, concrete, and measurable. Rather than saying, “I want to feel happier,” try setting a goal like, “I want to improve my self-esteem by learning to identify and challenge negative self-talk.”

  • Make them achievable. Your goals should be achievable within a reasonable timeframe. Rather than setting unrealistic expectations, break your goals down into smaller, manageable steps. This will help you stay motivated and see progress along the way.

  • Ensure they're relevant. Your goals should be relevant to your primary concern and what you hope to achieve through therapy. Avoid setting goals that don't relate to your overall objectives.

  • Set a deadline. Your goals should be time-bound, meaning they come with a deadline. This can help you stay on track and measure your progress along the way.

  • Collaborate with your therapist. Finally, share your goals with your therapist and work together to refine and adjust them as needed. Remember, therapy is a collaborative process, and your therapist is there to support you along the way.

By following these steps, you can set effective therapy goals that will guide your journey towards healing and personal growth. Remember to be patient and stay committed to your goals – progress takes time, but with effort and dedication, you can achieve meaningful change.


Assessing Your Needs and Priorities

Starting therapy again can feel overwhelming, especially if you're uncertain about your needs and priorities. It's helpful to take some time to reflect on your concerns and what you hope to achieve through therapy.


Here’s a few questions to consider before your counseling session:


  1. What are your biggest challenges and stressors in daily life?

  2. What are your main goals for therapy?

  3. What do you want to gain from your therapy sessions?


Answering these questions can provide clarity and help you communicate your needs to your therapist. They can also assist you in setting goals that align with your priorities and values.


Also, if you have started therapy before, it's important to evaluate what worked and what didn't in your previous sessions. Reflecting on past experiences can help you avoid common pitfalls and create a more effective therapy plan moving forward.


Remember, therapy is a personalized and collaborative experience. Don't hesitate to share your thoughts and concerns with your therapist. By working together, you can develop a tailored approach to therapy that meets your needs and facilitates your healing.


Tracking Your Progress and Adjusting Goals

When starting therapy, it's essential to set goals to help guide your progress. However, it's equally important to track your progress and adjust your goals accordingly. Keeping track of your progress can provide you with a sense of accomplishment and help you recognize any obstacles you may be facing.

One way to track your progress is to journal your experiences and reflect on what you've learned through therapy. Additionally, you can ask your therapist to provide you with feedback on your progress.


As you track your progress, it's essential to remain honest with yourself about how you're doing. If you're not making progress towards your goals, it may be time to adjust them. For example, suppose you set a goal to work on anxiety reduction and find that your progress has been slow. In that case, it may be beneficial to adjust the goal to focus on building coping skills instead.


Remember that therapy is a collaborative process between you and your therapist. It's okay to communicate with your therapist if you're finding it challenging to make progress towards your goals. They can help you adjust your goals as needed and provide you with additional support if needed.


Overcoming Challenges and Staying Motivated

Starting therapy can feel daunting, but staying motivated throughout the process is key to achieving your goals. It's perfectly normal to feel anxious or overwhelmed, especially during the early stages of therapy. Remember that you are not alone, and your therapist is there to support you through any challenges that arise.


Here are some strategies to help you stay motivated during your therapy journey:


  • Focus on your why. Take some time to reflect on why you decided to start therapy in the first place. Remind yourself of the benefits of therapy and how it can help you achieve your goals. Keeping your why in mind can be a powerful motivator when things get tough.

  • Celebrate small victories. Celebrating small wins along the way can help you stay motivated and build momentum towards achieving your larger goals. Recognize and acknowledge even the smallest steps forward and use them as a source of inspiration.

  • Stay committed. Consistency is key when it comes to therapy. Attend sessions regularly, complete homework assignments, and follow through on your commitments. Remember that your progress reflects your effort and dedication.

  • Try new things. Exploring different therapeutic techniques can help keep your therapy experience fresh and engaging. Talk to your therapist about trying new approaches or exercises that align with your interests and goals.

  • Practice self-care. Taking care of yourself outside of therapy is just as important as attending sessions. Prioritize self-care activities that promote relaxation and reduce stress, such as yoga, meditation, or spending time outdoors.

It's natural to experience doubts or setbacks during therapy, but don't let them discourage you. Remember that progress is not always linear, and setbacks are an opportunity for learning and growth. With persistence and a positive mindset, you can overcome challenges and stay motivated towards achieving your goals.


a local therapist in st petersburg fl making notes as he actively listens to a client, goal setting activities, holistic therapy near me

Are you interested in trying out therapy? Schedule a complimentary 15min consultation with one of our local St. Petersburg, Fl therapists.


Read about three of our clinicians who can help you feel comfortable and safe during your first counseling session at BYBS:


headshot of nicole malene a holistic therapist in st petersburg fl at be your best self and thrive counseling, goal setting activities, holistic therapy near me

Areas of Expertise: anxiety, depression, stress reduction/burnout, life transitions, chronic pain, spiritual health and wellness, and relationship issues. 


“My approach to therapy is holistic, highly somatic and draws on eastern philosophies centered around awareness practices, breathing techniques, and acceptance and compassion training to help regulate both the body and mind and guide one’s energy towards a fuller and healthier expression of who they are. I believe that when one dedicates themselves to self-study and a more compassionate way of living, they can discover unhelpful habits and patterns of thought that perpetuate stress, trauma and discontent in daily life. When we learn how to be more mindful, we can find what it means to stay grounded, move energy that is stuck in the body, and ride the waves of this crazy thing called life.” 


headshot of hall birdsong a trauma therapist in st petersburg fl at be your best self and thrive counseling, goal setting activities, holistic therapy near me

Areas of expertise: trauma, mindfulness/meditation, anxiety, depression, codependency, life transitions, young adults, LGBTQIA, existential issues, men’s issues, stress managements, and work-life balance.


“My therapeutic approach is holistic, recognizing the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit in the healing process. As a trauma-informed therapist, I am dedicated to supporting individuals in navigating the effects of trauma while creating a safe space for exploration, healing, and growth. Anxiety can manifest in various ways, impacting daily life and overall well-being. I assist clients in understanding symptoms of anxiety and offer personalized treatment plans tailored to their unique needs, combining evidence-based therapies and holistic practices to foster resilience and alleviate distress.”


headshot of rochelle young an anxiety therapist in st petersburg fl at be your best self and thrive counseling, goal setting activities, holistic therapy near me

Areas of Expertise: stress management, anxiety, depression, trauma, grief/loss, family issues, life transitions, communication, women’s issues, family issues. 


“As a natural strategist and information gatherer, I focus on learning about you! This includes your past, present, and future. Therefore, my approach to therapy is person-centered and holistic. I have found that many of the things that hinder us from moving forward are our own coping mechanisms, something that may have once served us well in the past but is no longer working for us now. I will teach you techniques to manage ruminating thoughts or other anxieties you may be struggling with by exploring the root of these thoughts and practicing strategies together in a safe and comfortable space. My experience in teaching taught me that we are curious creatures, and that education can hold a lot of power in healing! Understanding what is happening in your brain and body can help you increase self-resilience and patience. I can help you develop a deeper understanding of your own thoughts and behaviors as well as how to use meditative techniques such as grounding, guided imagery, and deep breathing to release your stress and overwhelm and feel more grounded and calmer.”


If you would like to schedule a free 15-minute consultation with Nicole Malene, Hall Birdsong, or Rochelle Young get started here.


Learn more about how Therapy at BYBS could help you.


Frequently Asked Questions About Goal Setting

  1. What should I expect when starting therapy?

When starting therapy, it's normal to feel a mix of emotions, including nervousness and excitement. You can expect to have an initial consultation with your therapist to discuss your concerns, goals, and treatment plan. Therapy sessions may involve talking about your feelings, thoughts, and experiences, and your therapist will provide guidance and support throughout the process.


2. How do I overcome nervousness about starting therapy?

It's common to feel nervous about starting therapy, but there are strategies you can use to overcome these feelings. Start by reminding yourself that seeking therapy is a positive step towards growth and healing. Take some time to research therapists and find one that feels like a good fit for you. It can also be helpful to talk to a trusted friend or family member about your nerves and seek their support. Remember, your therapist is there to create a safe and supportive environment for you.


3. What should I know before starting therapy?

Before starting therapy, it's important to understand that it is a process that takes time and commitment. Therapy requires open communication, active participation, and a willingness to explore your thoughts and emotions. It's also important to have realistic expectations and understand that therapy is not a quick fix but a journey towards personal growth and self-discovery.


4. How can I collaborate with my therapist in setting goals?

Collaborating with your therapist is vital in setting goals that align with your needs and aspirations. Be open and honest about your concerns, fears, and desired outcomes. Engage in open communication, ask questions, and provide feedback during your therapy sessions. Your therapist will work with you to create goals that are tailored to your unique circumstances and support your healing and growth.


5. How do I track my progress and adjust goals during therapy?

Tracking your progress is essential in therapy. Regularly reflect on your achievements, changes, and challenges. Keep a journal to record insights and milestones reached. Discuss your progress with your therapist during sessions, and together, determine if adjustments to your goals are needed. Therapy is a collaborative process, and adapting goals as you evolve is part of the therapeutic journey.


6. How can I celebrate milestones and practice self-care during therapy?

Celebrating milestones is an important component of therapy. Recognize and acknowledge the progress you have made, no matter how small. Celebrate your achievements by rewarding yourself or engaging in activities that bring you joy. Additionally, practicing self-care is vital for your overall well-being during therapy. Make time for activities that recharge you, engage in healthy coping strategies, and prioritize self-care practices such as exercise, sleep, and mindfulness.


Thank you for reading, and we hope you found this guide helpful. Here's to taking the first step towards positive change and a fulfilling therapeutic journey!


headshot of alayna dorfman a social media contributer at be your best self and thrive counseling in st petersburg fl, goal setting activities, holistic therapy near me

Alayna Dorfman


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