The Importance of Goals
Goal setting is important for anyone who is trying to achieve something. It is always easier for people to get somewhere if they know where it is they are trying to go. People can move aimlessly through life if they don’t have any destinations to aim towards.
In addiction treatment it is also important to have goals that the client can work towards. These should always be realistic and relevant and there needs to be a way to assess progress. The type of goals that are set for treatment will depend on the exact needs of the client. The ultimate goal of rehab is usually complete abstinence from substance abuse in the future.
The Benefits of Goal Setting
Some people can view the process of formally setting goals as a purely academic exercise. It is a lot more than this though. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that it is highly effective and means that the individual is more likely to be successful in their endeavors. The benefits of goal setting include:
- The act of setting goals makes people more accountable for their success. It involves taking responsibility for achieving a certain task.
- Formally stating a goal makes it easier to develop a plan of action.
- Having a goal can be motivating because humans naturally want to succeed and avoid failure.
- People will achieve a goal a lot faster when they know what it is they are trying to achieve.
- Stating goals turns vague wishes into achievable aims. It also makes desires and ambitions clearer.
- Working towards a stated goal will mean that the individual is less likely to give up when they hit setbacks.
SMART for Goal Setting
The SMART criteria is a useful for anyone who are trying to set goals for themselves. SMART is a mnemonic where each of the letters stands for something that the goal setter needs to keep in mind and includes:
- Goals need to specific because this makes them easier to achieve. If goals are unclear it will be a lot more difficult to make a plan of action and judge progress.
- It needs to be something that is measurable. A vague goal like improve physical fitness will be harder to measure than a more precise ambition like being able to jog 10 miles within six months.
- There is no point in setting any goal unless it is attainable. Ambitions should not be too low, but aiming to do the impossible is just frustrating. When choosing any goal the individual need to be clear about how it can be achieved.
- If an individual sets themselves a task that they don’t care much about they will find it difficult to sustain effort. Therefore a goal needs to be relevant and something they are motivated to achieve.
- All tasks need to have a deadline or the individual will be able to procrastinate indefinitely. This means that goals need to be timely.
Motivation and Goals
Humans need to be motivated in order to achieve the things they want in life. Intrinsic motivation is where the individual because feels compelled to something because they believe that achieving it will be in some way beneficial. There is also extrinsic motivation where people feel compelled to do things because of social pressures. Motivation is highly influenced by the individual’s self-efficacy. This is their belief in their own ability to achieve something. Self-efficacy can be increased by experiences of success, good role models, or verbal persuasion.
Goals in Addiction Treatment
The National Institute for Drug Abuse advises that each person is unique and so the goals of treatment need to be suited to the individual. It is also often the case that goals need to be altered in relation to the changing needs of the client. For most addicts the ultimate goal of addiction treatment will be complete abstinence in the future.
The Goal of Abstinence Vs Controlled Drinking for Alcoholics
Most rehab facilities in the US start with the assumption that the abstinence should be the final goal of treatment. Critics of this approach argue that this is not a realistic aim in a lot of cases. It is suggested that efforts should be focused on helping those who refuse abstinence to control their alcohol consumption. This is a hotly debated topic and there is a lot of skepticism surrounding any treatment that promises controlled drinking as the final goal. Experts tend to agree that a return to controlled drinking can only be a feasible solution for those with less serious alcohol problems. There is a worry that by offering this type of treatment it will prevent the individual from getting the real help they need.
Setting Goals in Addiction Recovery
Once the individual has entered recovery it is important that they continue to set goals for themselves. Getting sober is only the beginning of the journey and people will need to keep developing their potential in order to find a satisfying life away from substance abuse. In the early months and years the focus will be on developing new coping strategies to replace the old way of doing things. Once sobriety is firmly established the individual will be able to set new goals that can allow them to live their dreams in recovery.