Helping a client set goals

by Andrea

Hi everyone
I just want some direction for this.

I saw my first client for her 13 sessions and the areas she chose to work on are personal development, family/social and vocation.

For family/social I find it difficult to set the goals and then the milestones, as all they want is to be better mother, dedicate more time to the kids but also have time for themselves without feeling guilty.

In Personal development we set goals for time management so that she can have time for herself, and spoil herself a bit and increase her confidence which she is lacking.

For family, I set goals to spend quality time with her children like 2 hours a day, and leaving her time to enjoy by herself, while her kids are happy spending time by themselves. She did not want to improve her social life, as she says she is a loner and she is happy like that.

Now how do I set milestones for this goal? I would say both goals are related. I am not sure how to make them more specific and measurable as she was not very specific in what she wants.

For her third area, vocation, we set goals for her to get a part time job, near her house, at a certain income. But she is only wanting to do this when she finishes nursing her baby which will be in 6 to 8 months time. So I am not sure what milestones can I set up for her now. I think I should leave this goal aside and concentrate on the other two, as she wants to see an improvement in the next 3 weeks.

Also she was very emotional during the session, and I think she carries a lot from the past (which we all do), and she did mention she wanted to do the coaching sessioms as I told her we are different from therapists because we do not dwell on the past.

So my big concerns are the milestones and goals which are very subjective. I set an action step to start readng an organization book, although she said she did not have much time. But I am just thinking of session two and not sure how to go about it.
Should I revisit her goals in session 3? I set an action step for her vocation area to revisit her goal, as she was happy just to have an admin job. She is not very ambitious in this area.

Thank you for any assistance you can give me.


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Apr 01, 2008
Thank you
by: Anonymous

HI Anthony

Thank you for your input. I think I shoudl spend some time with the client making the milestones more specific. I am doing the 13 sessions with her for my certification, but I think she really wants to change these areas in her life.

Apr 01, 2008
Helping a Client Set Goals
by: Anthony Maino

Hi Andrea.

The goal setting is key to the whole process. Get these wrong at the beginning and the whole thing will not work!

You haven't said if this is an actual client or someone that is just helping you out for the sake of certification, but either way you need to watch out for the following:

Does the client really want to change and, if so, how can you better lead her towards the formulation of goals that are not subjective? If the goals are subjective, it is almost impossible to chunk them into milestones as it makes it easier for her to change when the going gets tough. You need to make her understand that if she wants to see change in 3 weeks, she has to decide exactly what change she wants to see. Being a better mother violates SMERTIE so you wont be able to coach her!

My advice would be to explain to her that even if it means sacrificing a week or 2 at the beginning she needs to set aside time by herself (and with you again if necessary) to really re-look at the goals and get them to be exactly what she wants; that way she will derive much more value at the end. Do this before session 2!

Check the chapter on coaching vs counselling and decide for yourself if she is suitable for coaching according to you (regardless of what she says).

Lastly I would agree with you to put the vocation goal off. 2 is already a lot and you want to see gains in the short term. Starting in 8 months will not give you or her anything.

I hope this helps you.


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