Summary: Module 1 - Setting Therapy Goals

Setting Therapy Goals

This is a summary of the module Setting Therapy Goals for your reference.

Whenever you’re working toward an important goal, it takes time, planning, practice, as well as motivation. It’s true whether you’re saving to buy a house, applying for graduate school, or deciding to make a career change.




This module is a “How To” for setting goals and staying motivated in this program.

You will: 

  • Select top problems related to your emotions.

  • Determine your goals and the steps needed to address the problems. 

  • Discover ways to stay motivated.

  • Analyze costs and benefits of making changes versus staying the same.


The foundation of a house must be built well in order to support it.

Setting goals and maintaining motivation are the foundation of the Unified Protocol (UP) approach.

To create goals:

  1. Identify problems

  2. Set goals

  3. Break the goals into smaller steps


As you work on the first step, you’ll look at the ways in which your emotions (e.g. sadness, anxiety, anger, etc.) cause problems.

Have you stopped doing things you enjoy? Do you manage uncomfortable emotions in ways that lead to more problems (e.g. drinking alcohol)? Do your uncomfortable emotions impact your relationships? 


Step 1: Identify problems

How have your emotions caused problems in your life?


Take a few moments to think about your response. Select your top two problems. Go to the Treatment Goals form in your workbook and record these

As you think about the problems, you may feel increased distress. At the same time, identifying your top problems helps you focus your efforts and gain control of your life. 


Step 2: Set Goals

After you’ve chosen your top problems, you’ll set some goals. They should be specific, clear, manageable, and achievable. Specific goals help you measure your progress.


To help you determine your goals, ask:

  • How do my goals relate to the problems I’ve identified?

  • What would I like to change?

  • What do I hope will be different in a few months?

As part of your homework, you will add 2 goals to each of your top problems on the Treatment Goals form. 


Step 3: Break your goals into smaller steps

Breaking your goals into smaller parts, or steps, makes it easier to reach them. See the Taking the Necessary Steps portion of the Treatment Goals form. There’s space for four steps on the form, but you can add more steps.


As part of your homework, you’ll record the steps for each of your goals in the Treatment Goals form.




Once you establish your goals, how can you stay motivated to continue? It usually works like this:


You may question making changes. It’s normal! You may ask yourself, “Is it worth the time and effort?” 

What motivates you and why is it important? What do you value? Write down some of the factors.


Your motivation changes over time. You may be less motivated depending on what’s going on in your life. Are you stressed at work? Are you tired or unwell? Have your day-to-day responsibilities changed? 


Getting started leads to increased motivation

Has something like this ever happened to you? You are overdue for your yearly check-up. You keep putting it off. You feel anxious and disappointed in yourself. 

You call and make an appointment. Right away, you feel less anxious and proud of yourself. ~~~~~

Write about a time when you were struggling to get started.


Another part of your homework is the Decisional Balance form, in your workbook. You’ll record the pros and cons of changing versus staying the same. The form looks like this: 


Your “cons of change” may be the same as your “pros of staying the same.” This tells you something - you may be “stuck” on those reasons right now.


You’ll likely find the benefits of staying the same are easier and take less effort. You are used to the way things are right now.

However, think of the time and effort it takes to avoid uncomfortable emotions. As far as the costs of staying the same, you’ll continue to struggle with intense emotions and may be limited in activities, relationships, etc.


It helps to have realistic expectations of barriers - i.e. those things that make it challenging to change. 


Your motivation will change during this therapy program. If you can take steps when your motivation is low, it will help you make lasting changes.

Refer back to your Decisional Balance form when you need some extra motivation. One suggestion: take a photo of it and store it on your phone. 


Time to test your knowledge. Which of the following are true?

1. It’s best to break your goals into smaller steps.

2. General goals work well.

3. The motivation to make changes usually stays about the same.

4. People may feel like changing behavior isn’t worth the time and effort.



  1. It is true that it is easier to break down goals into smaller steps.

  2. It is easier to know whether or not you’ve achieved treatment goals that are specific. 

  3. Motivation to change “ebbs and flows” like ocean waves.

  4. It is common for people to feel like changing isn’t worth the time and effort. However, staying the same means you are held back from the life you want to live.


Remember - Make time for your homework! Complete both your Treatment Goals and Decisional Balance forms.