Goal Setting Process in Counseling

Introduction to Goal Setting in Counseling

According to APA. Goal Setting is – “a process that establishes specific, time-based behavior targets that are measurable, achievable, and realistic.

Counseling goals emphasize increasing client’s personal responsibility for creating and making their lives better. In fact,  the goal of counseling is to help the clients to make choices that enable them to feel, think and act effectively.

Counseling process helps the clients to acquire the capacity to experience and express feelings and think rationally. Moreover, along with affective and cognitive aspects, counseling also influences the behavioral aspect as clients take effective actions to achieve their goals.

Goals of Counseling

Counselors may have different goals with different clients. Some of them are:

  • Assisting them to heal past emotional deprivations
  • Manage current problems
  • Handle transitions
  • Help to make decisions
  • Manage crises
  • Develop specific life skills

Developmental Goals

These are goals wherein the clients are assisted in meeting or advancing their anticipated growth and potential development.

Development in following aspects is expected –

  • Social
  • Emotional
  • Personal
  • Cognitive
  • Physical Wellness

Preventive Goals

Prevention is a goal in which the counselor helps the client avoid some undesired outcomes.

A school-based preventive counseling program, for example, may focus on educating and providing guidance to adolescents about various issues. For instance, bullying and school violence, substance abuse, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, eating disorders and suicide, too.

The goal being reducing their vulnerability to these and similar problems that often occur in this particular age group.

Enhancement Goals

If the client possesses special skills and abilities, enhancement means they can be identified and/or further developed through assistance of a counselor.

Remedial Goals

Remediation involves assisting a client to overcome and/or treat an undesirable development.

It is an intervention aimed at assisting a person to achieve a normal or increased level of functioning. Especially, when performance is below expectations in a particular area.

Exploratory Goals

Exploration represents goals appropriate to the examining of options, testing of skills, and trying of different and new activities, environments, relationships and so on.

Reinforcement Goals

Reinforcement is used when clients need help in recognizing that what they are doing, thinking or feeling is right and okay.

It is the procedure that results in the frequency or probability of a response being increased in such a way.

Cognitive Goals

Cognition involves acquiring the basic foundations of learning and cognitive skills.

Emotional and behavioral problems in an individual are somewhere the result of maladaptive or faulty ways of thinking. Furthermore, distorted attitudes toward oneself and others.

The objective of the therapy is to identify these faulty cognitions and replace them with more adaptive ones, a process known as cognitive restructuring.

The counselor takes the role of an active guide who attempts to make the client aware of these distorted thinking patterns. Moreover, helps the client correct and revise his or her perceptions and attitudes. Which he/she does by citing evidence to the contrary or by eliciting it from the client.

Physiological Goals

Physiology involves acquiring the basic understandings and habits for good health.

Psychological Goals

Psychology helps in developing good social interaction skills, learning emotional control, developing a positive self concept, and so on.

Hackney and Cormier (1996), talk about 3 goals that are important for the counseling process.

  1. Goals serve as a motivational function in the counseling process.
  2. The goals can also have educational function in counseling, in that they can help clients acquire and learn new responses and behaviors
  3. In addition, goals can meet an evaluative function in the counseling whereby the clients goals help the counselor to choose and evaluate various counseling strategies appropriate to the client’s goals.


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