Goal Setting

Goal setting between patients and therapists is a complex and important part of any rehabilitation programme. This is the formal process where a rehab professional will work with their patient and potentially their families to come up with some goals.

Goal setting is effective as it directs rehab interventions towards a specific outcome. This process then results in improved recovery and much greater satisfaction for the patient.

Setting goals in this way will help to ensure that the patient and their therapists have common goals in mind in which they can work towards together, ensuring nothing is missed. These essential goals can also be used as a way of evaluating the success of the rehab treatments.

There are no set rules when it comes to goal setting. However, this method is widely used as a guide towards meaningful and achievable outcomes. Goal setting is an evidence-based process that is widely used in rehab facilities all over the world.

What Is Goal Setting?

Goal setting is a psychology oriented process that works on the belief that people can change behaviours and work well towards specific goals. Goal setting is an important part of any rehab programme as it provides the patient with the motivation they need to achieve their recovery.

Meaningful goals can help to maximise the client’s engagement in their recovery programme and can help to motivate them to continue to participate in their rehab treatments so that they can achieve their goals.

Goal setting can also be helpful for therapists at rehab during therapy treatments as it can provide them with a better overview which contributes to their sessions with content that is the best or most meaningful for that particular patient.

The Importance of Goal Setting During Rehab Recovery

Recovery is usually seen as a fresh start. However, recovery takes time and people can’t expect to magically have a completely new life after detoxing from alcohol or drugs. Recovery is a long term thing that addicts need to work on every single day, even after leaving the rehab recovery centre.

Goal setting during rehab recovery can help people figure out their needs and desires and set meaningful and achievable goals to help them learn what they need to do in order to move forward from where they are so that they can get to where they want to be.

The benefits of goal setting during recovery include the following:

  • Stopping clients from dwelling on the past
  • Helping clients focus on the present and future
  • Helping clients develop patience and a good worth ethic
  • Helping the client get a sense of pride when they achieve their goals

Studies have shown that learning the skills of setting effective, achievable goals can help to reduce the use of drugs and alcohol.

When someone begins their sober journey, they may realise that they now have more energy, time, and money to spend on doing new things.

In many cases, clients will want to go on to start learning and developing new skills and trying new things as part of their new sober lifestyle.

When it comes to recovery goal setting, the goals don’t necessarily have to just include plans surrounding sobriety.

These goals can also include things that apply to other areas of life such as getting a job, improving personal relationships, spirituality, or improving the financial aspects of life.

Step-By-Step Recovery Goal Setting

People who take advantage of goal setting during recovery can use a step-by-step goal setting method to increase their chances of succeeding. Before the person sets any specific goals, it’s important to do a little bit of reflecting beforehand.

This reflection should include reviewing things that they like about their current life, things they would like to change about their current life, and new things that they hope to achieve in their life in the future.

They should also think about how they would like to be spending their time when they have recovered from their addiction.

Every person is different and so everyone will have different goals. It’s completely acceptable if one person’s goals are different to another person’s goals.

A very helpful tool for addiction recovery is SMART goals. The acronym ‘SMART’ stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. People can use this formula to set specific goals. By using this formula, clients are more likely to take appropriate actions that can help them get to the place they want to be.

Below is an overview of the SMART method for goals setting:


Smart goals setting involves creating specific goals. These goals need to be specific about what, who, when, and where the goal is related to.


Smart recovery goals that are measurable will include certain answers such as ‘how much’ or ‘how many’. With this, people can create even more specific goals that are measurable so they know exactly how much or how little of something the goal should include. Setting specific and measurable goals can help the client understand whether or not they are reaching their goals.


All recovery goals should be achievable. These goals should never be impossible. If the goals are too difficult, this can lead to frustration and may result in the person becoming discouraged. It’s important to consider if a goal is realistic before setting it.


All goals set during recovery should be focussed on the person’s journey towards getting and remaining sober. These goals should be meaningful and should be put in place to help the person with their recovery journey.

Time Bound

Time bound goals will always have a deadline. This means that people should set goals with a specific time in mind for achieving that goals. For example, people may choose to set a goal to achieve within a month, six months, or a year. Another example of this is when a client wants to build a new habit that can help them with their recovery. This type of goal may include wanting to do a particular activity one a day or once a week.

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John Gillen - Author - Last updated: June 8, 2022

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.

Dr Alexander Lapa - Clinical Reviewer at Ocean Recovery

Dr Alexander Lapa (Psychiatrist) - Clinical Reviewer - Last reviewed: June 8, 2022

MBBS, PG Dip Clin Ed, OA Dip CBT, OA Dip Psychology, SCOPE Certified

Dr Lapa graduated in Medicine in 2000 and since this time has accrued much experience working in the widest range of psychiatric settings with differing illness presentations and backgrounds in inpatient, community and secure settings. This has been aligned to continuation of professional development at postgraduate level in clinical research which has been very closely related to the everyday clinical practice conducted by this practitioner as a NHS and Private Psychiatrist.
He is fully indemnified by the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) and MIAB Expert Insurance for Psychiatric and Private Medical practice. He is fully registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK with a licence to practice.

Dr Lapa is approved under Section 12(2) of the Mental Health Act (1983)

Member of Independent Doctors Federation (IDF), British Association for Psychopharmacology (BMA) and The Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO)

Dr Lapa’s extensive experience has also concentrated on the following areas of clinical practice:
– Assessment, Diagnosis and Pharmacological Treatment for Adults with ADHD.
– Drug and Alcohol Dependency and maintaining abstinence and continued recovery
– Intravenous and Intramuscular Vitamin and Mineral Infusion Therapy
– Dietary and Weight Management and thorough care from assessment to treatment to end goals and maintenance
– Aesthetic Practice and Procedures