Be collaborative and listen carefully to the client’s goals for change. Work with him or her to formulate at least some goals that point to concrete interventions that can be facilitated by the practitioner such as development of skills (Dobson & Dobson, 2009).

Goals should be consistent with the SMART mnemonic: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and be Time limited. 


Specific – Goals in CBT should refer to specific changes in particular types of thoughts, feelings and behaviours (or patterns of these); interpersonal interactions, or social situations.

Measurable – Goals should refer to behaviours, emotions and situations that can be objectively assessed to enable evaluation of progress.

Achievable – Goals should be framed in terms of changes that are within the power of the client to achieve. They should not be dependent upon cooperation by other people.

Relevant – Goals should be relevant to other broader goals that the young person has for their future. They should fit with his or her core values and concerns.

Time Limited – Putting an endpoint to the goal provides a much clearer target to work towards. Procrastination may be avoided if outcomes will be assessed in the near future (Dobson & Dobson, 2009; p61;  Neenan & Dryden, 2004; p65-66; Scott,  2009; p31).

If possible set an early goal that is likely to lead to quick success or a reduction in distress (Dobson & Dobson, 2009).

Early wins build confidence and facilitate progress towards more challenging goals.