Setting Effective Goals in Addiction Recovery
Many if not most of the individuals who are addicted to drugs and alcohol are not happy with their lives and experience emotional disorders such as depression. Furthermore, many of those who suffer from drug and alcohol dependency say that they are not doing what they really want to do with their life. Learning and applying effective goal setting strategies from the field of Neuro Linguistic Programming can help to reduce drug and alcohol dependency and improve recovery rates by increasing the possibility of a person getting what they truly want from life and as a result being able to experience authentic happiness. Assisting a person in achieving what he or she really wants in life as well as in recovery is about a three stage process, effective planning, doing and accountability.
The first component of effective goal setting is about the planning stage. The planning stage is about creating a goal or a well-formed outcome, that which a person will go about achieving, first in treatment and then in life. In order to create a well formed outcome there are seven important and necessary criteria that need to be met. If these seven criteria are adhered to the goal or outcome is well formed and the possibility of success is greatly increased. Many people do not achieve the goals that they set for themselves because they are not well formed. For example, it is important for an individual to state his goal positively, that is, as something they want as opposed to what they do not want. To merely want to quit using drugs is not a positive goal as is something that the individual does not want.
The second component is about doing, about determining the specific actions or behaviors that will be necessary for the person to do or perform to achieve the goal that they created in the first part of the process. Part of the conditions for effective goal setting with addicts is that the individual’s chosen goal has to be such that it will require the person to do something everyday to achieve it. The goal cannot be completed in one day or even two. In addition, there has to be a specific time and place that the client must declare to do this part of the exercise. For example, to complete his or her goal of reading 70 pages from the NA text in one week, the client will have to read ten pages each evening from 6 to 7 pm in his bedroom.
The last component of effective goal setting is about accountability. Within this exercise, an individual must choose another person to hold them accountable for their chosen goal. The person that is selected to hold the individual accountable must also be of the same sex. It will be the responsibility of the individual chosen to check with the participant everyday to see if they are doing what he or she has said they would do to achieve their goal. The concept of integrity is very important throughout this exercise, both with the person achieving the goal and with the individual holing him accountable for his efforts. The importance and responsibilities of the person who is assisting is discussed, reinforced and reviewed each session. This part of the exercise will be generalized into the community through a conversation about gaining and communicating with a sponsor.
The well formed outcome exercise will give a person the opportunity to repeatedly practice creating and achieving a particular goal and will greatly assist them in their recovery process. The first part of the training assists a person in getting clear about what they truly want in life, about that which will assist them in being authentically happy. The second part of the exercise is about discovering and becoming clear as to what the individual has to do repeatedly to achieve what they want. And the last component is about gaining assistance in this creative process, assistance that will help to ensure the person’s eventual success. In addition, what makes this process especially powerful is that the individual also has the opportunity to confront and work through that which has been truly stopping them in life and that will attempt to stop them again in completing this exercise.
Harry Henshaw, Ed.D., LMHC
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