9 Goals of Counseling (Aims, Goals, and Objectives of Guidance and Counseling)

All the activities of guidance and counseling must be structured to reach a specific end. These are the goals of counseling.

From the initial counseling session with the client, the counselor must clearly establish the goals to be attained through the counseling relationship at the final session. 

Counseling goals are predicated on the needs of the individual client and are the basis for judging the success or failure of the counseling relationship, which will either lead to termination (if successful) or referral (if unsuccessful).

We see that the primary benefit of setting goals for counseling is to design the path that the counseling sessions will take and establish a basis to measure the success of the counseling relationship.

Related: What Is Guidance and Counseling? (Overview, Scope, and Types)

Goals of Counseling

Below are the major goals and objectives of guidance and counseling. These goals can be further tailored to specific needs of clients.

1. To foster the psychological development of clients

The primary concern of counseling is the psychological well-being and development of clients so counselors assist their clients with psychological disturbances and guide them toward peace and stability.

This includes enhancing their cognitive, emotional, intellectual, and social capabilities and functions because if any of these aspects of an individual’s psychology is facing some form of disturbance, it will affect their entire being and hinder them from living satisfying lives.

Someone suffering from anxiety will therefore benefit from counseling because it disturbs their psychological function. Cases like low self-esteem, phobias, depression, and loneliness are all examples of psychological disturbances.

2. To facilitate behavioral change in clients

Another goal of counseling is to assist clients in experiencing changes in their behavior which is their responses to stimuli from the environment.

Behavior change does not only mean stopping a bad habit. There are three levels to it: increasing an existing desired behavior, reducing an existing undesired behavior, and learning a new desired behavior. These behavior changes also cut across different areas of the clients’ lives. 

Many of the issues people face in their lives will be resolved if their behavior changes just a little. A husband and wife always having disagreements might only need simple adjustments in their actions and responses to each other, not divorce. 

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These changes are only possible when both parties are open to help and ready to change.

Related: What is Personal Guidance? (Meaning, Stages, and Objectives)  

3. To increase clients’ understanding of self and their environment

Counseling aims to help clients understand themselves and their environment or situation better. A lack of understanding can cause people frustration.

Understanding of self spans even basic experiences like a girl approaching adolescence and doesn’t know why pubic hairs are growing on her body.

The counselor must not only give accurate information but also give it in a systematic manner that will take the client from the level of understanding they have, progressively to the level of understanding needed for effective functioning.

So they must not only tell her that it is normal to see pubic hairs. They must also take the time to explain what other body changes to expect and what precautions she should begin to take based on these developments. The counselor becomes a sex and sexuality educator at this point.

4. To improve clients’ ability to establish and maintain relationships

Humans are social beings. The quality of our lives is largely influenced by our relationships. These relationships start from the family we were born into, friends and close neighbors, and colleagues. 

To enjoy relationships, we must develop social skills— the ability to communicate clearly, have fun, make friends, leave friends, respond appropriately to offenses, and balance all of that with healthy alone time.

This is why marital counseling is such a big deal. However, we must enjoy satisfying relationships outside marriage as well.

5. To enhance client effectiveness and ability to cope

Many coping mechanisms we learned while growing are no longer serving us today. For example, if you yelled until your desires are met as a child, you might lose your job for that.

So to continue living great lives and be effective in our daily activities, we must develop new coping skills.

This is one goal of counseling. Some life coping skills include the ability to maintain relationships, creating work-life balance, effective study habits, and the skills needed in careers.

Workplace counselors help workers manage workplace stress and develop effective time management skills to not to get overwhelmed e.g. in meeting deadlines.

6. To foster clients’ respect for the worth of self and others

Counseling also seeks get clients to a point where they appreciate, see worth in, and respect themselves and others. No matter the challenge a person is facing, the counselor must help them see that going through the challenge does not make them less worthy than other people.

A girl who was sexually abused by her dad might begin to feel she is bad and deserves such experiences. But she can work with a counselor to get those thoughts out.

Also, she must be helped not to begin to see men as evil.

Related: Non-directive Counseling (Definition, Techniques, and Importance) 

7. To enhance the decision-making process and skills of the clients

As much as counselors are guides, the goal of counseling is not to simply tell the client what to do. Instead, the counselor must truly guide the client and let them see the decision-making process so they can begin to make informed decisions themselves. 

If a client comes to a counselor with a divorce case, all the options and their consequences should be brought before the client and whichever is opted for, the client should fully know why.

This way, in case of a similar situation, the client can go through that decision-making process without the aid of a counselor. A counselor’s joy is seeing their clients thrive without them.

8. To facilitate the maximization of clients’ potential

The ability to make decisions is just one of several potential people have but need to be stirred.

Another goal of guidance and counseling is to get clients to a point where they begin to use their abilities, personalities, passion, emotions, intellect, and so on, in the best possible way to design and live a satisfying life.

A client who comes to a counselor with difficulty in speaking up in social situations has the inherent ability to speak, only that they don’t know how.

The counselor must then provide them with the needed enlightenment and assist them in honing their speaking skills, probably by guiding them towards overcoming the limitations that are suppressing that ability e.g. low self-esteem.

9. To assist clients to become self-actualized

In simple words, to be self-actualized means to get to a point where you are fully satisfied with who you are and all that you are doing with in life. If clients consistently continue to maximize their potential in every way, they are self-actualized.

Self-actualization does not necessarily come through hitting success like writing a bestseller. The process of researching, writing, planning, publishing, and marketing the book, if that is what the individual wants for their lives, can give a sense of self-actualization.

The counselor should guide the client, adjustment after adjustment, until they can say, “this is more like the life I want to live.”

Related: Counseling Interview (Definition, Types & Stages)

Aims, Goals, and Objectives in Guidance and Counseling

What we have listed so far are the broader goals of counseling. Each of them can be further broken down into specific objectives as we have seen in various examples.

Therefore, although these are the goals of counseling in general, the counselor must define a smaller goal for each client that should be achieved through their sessions.

In goal setting, three terms are used in differentiating ends based on their broadness; they are aims, goals, and objectives.

Aims are very broad and vague and cannot be measured. Eg to help the clients feel better or become better. Several things can be defined as feeling better and becoming better. It is too vague to base your guidance and counseling activities on.

Goals are more specific than aims just like the nine goals of counseling we have examined. Eg to give the client a deeper understanding of the situation. Although this is more specific, if this is all you work with as a counselor there will still be uncertainty because knowing that “your wife is not the problem— you are” is a better understanding for a husband but is not a solution. 

Then lastly, we have the objectives of counseling. Counseling objectives are very streamlined so that you know the exact result you want to see and they can be measured. Counseling objectives are the “goals” counselors should set during the initial session with the client.

To define counseling objectives, goals should be made SMART.

SMART goals in counseling

Setting SMART goals in counseling involves breaking down the broader goals of counseling into specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable, and time-bound objectives.

Specificity is the ability to pinpoint what exactly needs to be changed. Measurable means there are exact markers to tell when the counseling objective has been achieved. 

Achievable means the specific improvement or change desired must be something that can truly happen. Reasonable means there should be a logical reason why the goal should be achieved. Time-bound means they must have a deadline for completion.

Examples of SMART Counseling Goals

The table below shows some examples of SMART goals compared to not-SMART goals both trying to address the same issue. Each row examines the different parameters of SMARTness.

ParameterClient’s issueNot-SMART GoalSMART Goal
SpecificCan’t tell his wife when she offends him and is suffering from the hurt because she keeps doing things he doesn’t likeThe client should have an increased ability to express his feelings to his wifeThe client should be able to tell his wife when she offends him without feeling guilty about it
MeasurableThe client is battling with people-pleasingThe client should overcome people-pleasingThe client should be able to say no to every request she receives without feeling bad about it
MeasurableConstant fights among a coupleThe couple should have peace in their marriageThe couple should be able to live for 3 months without fights
AchievableThe client is battling excessive angerThe client should stop getting offendedThe client should be able to get over offense without yelling or holding grudges
ReasonableMarital conflict because the husband doesn’t like the fact that his wife spends too much time with other malesThe wife should avoid talking to all males except her husbandThe wife should not spend more than 15 minutes talking to a male not her husband in a secluded place
Time-bound*The client is depressed because things aren’t working out as plannedThe client should stop worrying about his problemsBy the fifth session, the client should be able to stop worrying about his exams for more than 3 minutes even without a call-to-order from a third party.

*The last row incorporates all the 5 parameters of SMART goals.

Conclusion

We have so far seen the nine goals of counseling and why counselors need to set goals at the initial counseling session. We have also examined the differences between counseling aims, goals, and objectives, and how to set SMART counseling goals.

If this roadmap of goal setting in counseling is followed, counseling will not just benefit individual clients; it will become a tool for national development.

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