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Helping Clients Follow Through on Recovery Goals

Once clients see the connection between group work and the achievement of their own goals, they have the motivation they need to move toward recovery.

By Lindy Fox

Practitioners and group facilitators need to be very actively involved in helping members both set goals and monitor their progress toward achieving those goals. Encourage members to explore leisure or recreational goals. Find out what being happy means to everyone, and push people to dream a bit. "Dream job," "Dream house," "What could you do if you won the lottery?"When members start dreaming, it may lead to ideas about goals.

Excerpted Material
 IDDT - Recovery Life Skills Program

IDDT: Recovery Life Skills Program:
A Group Approach to Relapse Prevention and Healthy Living

Author: Melinda B. Fox, MA, LADC
Item: 2075
Publisher: Hazelden
Published Year: 2015

Online Price: $149.00 Each


Getting family, friends, and other support people involved in working on a recovery goal is a wonderful way for a group member to use skills they are learning in the group, as well as get help and support with their goal. There is such richness when a group member includes his or her support system as a part of the process.

Measurable goals

In the beginning, you should help members set goals that are both behavioral and measureable. A goal of "being happy" is a great goal, but it is not measureable. It can mean different things to different people so it will be difficult to know when it is accomplished, and the group member may never feel the satisfaction of a job well done.

So you might ask "What does being happy mean to you? How will I know, how will you know, when you're happy?" Your client may say he will have a job or have his own home or a girlfriend or many other things, and those are the real goals. Being specific is very important. The short-term goals clients choose are also important. If the short-term goals are not realistic, they will not be helpful stepping stones to accomplishing that long-term goal.

Once all the goals are set, and participants in your programs have several short-term steps to accomplish the long-term goal, it is important that they, and you as the facilitator, begin tracking the short-term steps. These long- and short-term goals should also be enjoyable and rewarding for them to work on. This practice is not about slogging through projects that feel impossible to accomplish. Your clients should see themselves, and you should see them, grow in strength and confidence as they set, practice, and accomplish these goals, with your help and with the help of their fellow group members.

The goals can often be very down-to-earth and basic, but important. For example, a group member who tends to be shy and afraid of making new friends but feels alone might set a long-term recovery goal of surrounding himself or herself with a healthy group of friends that can be supportive in his or her recovery. This person's short-term goal might be to approach and engage with someone the person admires and would like to make a friend. The group member might then practice a role-play in the group, and this way practice approaching that person and asking if they are free for coffee.

In many ways, setting and accomplishing these goals, within the context of support and feedback from the group, is the core purpose of active treatment and recovery groups. As clinician or group facilitator, you will be actively involved in helping members set workable and achievable goals, goals that they want to reach.

The importance of short-term goals

Help members understand that these small steps-their short-term goals-will eventually lead to them accomplishing their long-term goals.

You might illustrate the difference between long-term and short-term goals by saying something like the following:

Think of the short-term goals you set as stepping stones to the larger recovery goal you will choose. For instance, let's say Mike has a long-term goal of learning how to fly-fish. One of his short-term goals might be to buy a fishing pole. Another short term goal might be to get a fishing license. Another might be to talk with some friends who fly-fish, and yet another might be to take some fly-fishing lessons. These are all small steps that will eventually lead Mike to his long-term goal of learning how to fly-fish.

Tracking goals

It is important for group members to track their goals from session to session. In my group work with clients, group members write a few sentences about what work they have done on their recovery goal since the last session. If they haven't done any work, they need to explain why. Then they should write down what they plan to do in the time before the next session.

Check in with group members on a regular basis about their progress with their goals. If they are not making any progress, use motivational interviewing techniques to determine what's happening. It may be that this is not really a goal the group member is invested in, or it could be an important goal but the short-term goals are not broken down into small enough steps and the group member is frustrated and stuck. 

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