Setting and Achieving Treatment Goals with Online Group Therapy

Effective therapy can shorten the distance between where you are now and where you want to be. Increasing your quality of life through group therapy can be a particularly effective solution, as group therapy (both online and in-person) increases the accountability and support around your mental health journey, which improves your chance of success. 

Good online group therapy is backed by science and years of studies, and good therapy will get you most of the way to where you want to be. Getting the rest of the way, however, is up to you. There are specific things you can do to improve your chances of success. The primary one? Setting realistic and measurable goals.

Even if you're not quite clear on your goals yet, following a few simple steps can help you outline the milestones you want to hit as you work through productive therapy sessions. 

STEP 1: Identify your reasons for attending online group therapy, your hopes for the outcome, and your dreams for the future. 

Oftentimes one of the first things your therapist will do in your online group is help every member figure out exactly what brought them there. Was there a single incident, a pattern, or an escalation in symptoms that served as a turning point for you? Is there something you really want (like a relationship or better communication with your boss) that you feel you can’t have without guidance and change? 

Next, ask yourself what a happy, successful relationship looks like to you, or what healthier communication with your boss could look like. What struggles are you having that keep you from your goal? Writing down all the reasons you started therapy can help you keep your goals in mind and progress faster. 

Here are a few questions that can prompt you to find answers that really resonate with you. 

  1. What’s one challenge you’re facing right now that’s exhausting you? 
  2. What’s a symptom (racing heart, isolation, etc.) of your mental health struggles that you experience daily? 
  3. What are some ways your mental health challenges hold you back? 
  4. What specific problem or incident led you to therapy? 

If you’ve been diagnosed with a specific mental health condition, that condition will guide your therapist’s topics and homework throughout online group therapy. But spending some time figuring out your own personal goals can help you feel more satisfied and successful on your journey. 

STEP 2: Choose a general topic to focus on throughout your online group therapy experience. 

Finding a common thread/topic/theme for your online group therapy goal setting can help you tie everything back to one place. For instance, if you’re regularly fighting with your boss at work, you might be able to see this type of behavior in other areas of your life. You might notice that snapping at your boss is a reflection of insecurity and anxiety tied to guilt about an experience you had. 

When you begin to recognize similar bubbling feelings arising outside of your workplace, you might start to see patterns and can unravel the thread back to whatever origin story has impacted your emotional development in this way. Your therapist will help you get there. 

STEP 3: Begin setting very specific goals for your online group therapy journey. 

Without specific goals, we can generalize, miss the details, and become unmotivated over the course of therapy. Setting specific goals gives you something to work for, and celebrate. Maybe you want to understand why you’re anxious in every intimate relationship, or maybe you want to figure out why you’re overwhelmed at work. Maybe you don’t understand why you struggle to make friends, or why certain situations send you into a panic when no real threat is perceived. Once you understand these general desires (such as “I want to figure out why I fight with my boss so much), you can set more specific goals, such as: 

  • I want to stop having the same fight with my boss over and over again. 
  • I want to develop healthier intimate relationships without fear of abandonment. 
  • I want to find ways to ground myself and have peace in situations that usually make me panic. 
  • I want to rediscover hope and energy back so mornings and evenings don’t leave me feeling so depressed. 
  • I want to conquer my bulimia and develop healthier eating habits when stressed. 

There are many, many types of personal goals you could set for therapy, but doing so can help you- and your therapist- take you in a clear direction over the course of your online group sessions. 

STEP 4: Set “S.M.A.R.T.” goals as a final step. 

Now that you’ve determined your general and specific goals for online group therapy, set SMART goals. 

SMART stands for: 

  • Specific 
  • Measurable 
  • Achievable 
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

For instance, maybe avoiding morning depression includes the specific goal of going to bed earlier. Maybe you can measure this goal by tracking the nights you stay up late, or setting an alarm to wind down earlier so you don’t sleep in late as a result of being up all night. You can set a time limit (time-bound) for the progress you want to see, so for instance: “I want to go to bed by 930 in order to get up by 630, and to practice meditation for the first 15 minutes of my day to get my head right. I want to have this habit nailed down on weekdays by 3 months from now.”

Once you have a few SMART goals in mind (or just one!) you can work with your therapist and your online group therapy members to establish the accountability and support you need to achieve your goals.


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