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Navigating the New Year: A Trauma Therapist's Guide to Goal Setting

 As a trauma therapist, I understand that setting and achieving goals can be a powerful tool for healing and growth, especially for those who have experienced trauma or PTSD. The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to reflect on our intentions and aspirations. In today's post, we'll explore the process of goal setting, and how to navigate some of the tricky (and sometimes toxic!) beliefs about goals and self-improvement. 

1. Creating a Vision Board: Connecting with Your Inner World

One valuable approach to goal setting is the creation of a vision board. I LOVE a good vision board. I made my first one last year and hung it above my desk where I see it every day. 

A vision board is a visual representation of your aspirations and dreams. It serves as a powerful tool to connect with your inner world and help set meaningful goals. 

Here's how to go about it:

  •  Before you dive into creating your vision board, take some time to reflect on your core values. Trauma, depression, and anxiety can sometimes distort our sense of self and values, so this step is crucial for aligning your goals with your true self.
  • Gather Materials: Collect magazines, images, quotes, stickers, and any other materials that resonate with your values and aspirations. These will be used to create your vision board.
  • Assemble Your Vision Board: Let your creativity flow as you arrange the collected materials on a board or paper. This process can be therapeutic in itself, helping you explore your desires and needs.
  • Place It Where You Can See It: Display your vision board in a place where you'll see it regularly. This will serve as a constant reminder of your goals, helping to keep you on track throughout the year.

2. Avoid the "New Year, New Me" Trap

Because it is, in fact, a trap. Trauma survivors may have a history of self-criticism and perfectionism. When setting objectives for your goals, it's essential to take a gentle approach, rather than doing a complete overhaul of your whole life. That won't stick. 

  • Start Small: Begin with small, manageable objectives. This allows you to build confidence and a sense of achievement.
  • Stay Flexible: It is so, so important to stay flexible in order to make the most of your goals. Be open to adjusting your objectives as needed, adapting to life's unpredictability. Things happen. Be willing to adjust in order to keep moving forward. 
  • Consult a Therapist: If you're uncertain about your goals or objectives, consider consulting a therapist who can provide guidance and support. They can help you navigate the process with greater ease.

3. Setting Realistic Goals: Building Trust with Yourself

Trauma can erode one's trust in themselves and their capabilities. Setting realistic goals is a way to rebuild that trust:

  • Use SMART Goals: Follow the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) criteria to ensure your goals are clear and attainable.
  • Listen to Your Body:  Pay attention to your body's responses to your goals. If you feel overwhelmed or disconnected, it may be time to reassess your goals.
  • Honor Your Progress: Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. This reinforces the trust you're building with yourself and your ability to set and reach your goals.

4. Having Checkpoints Throughout the Year: Self-Compassion and Reflection

In my work with clients, I often emphasize self-compassion and self-reflection. Incorporate these principles into your goal-setting process:

  • Regular Check-Ins: Schedule regular checkpoints throughout the year to assess your progress. Be kind to yourself, and remember that setbacks are a natural part of growth.
  • Reflect on the Journey: Consider journaling or talking to a trusted friend or therapist about your experiences and challenges along the way. This reflection can deepen your self-awareness and resilience.

Goal setting, when approached with mindfulness and self-compassion, can be a transformative process.  We can set the stage for a year of healing and personal growth. Remember that your journey is unique, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach. The key is to honor your own pace, trust your inner wisdom, and be gentle with yourself as you work towards your goals.

I hope you have a happy and healthy new year. Here's to 2024!


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