top of page
  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings



Concisely stated, a goal is the end toward which effort is directed. For instance, my aim for this blogpost is to clarify my approach to goal attainment.


When practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I assist people with goals by defining an aim, planning steps to achieve desired results, and assessing my clients’ commitment and efforts towards pursuing the object of their ambition.


Regarding this matter, page 104 of The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion (“Pocket Companion”) invites REBT practitioners to distinguish between goals set by clients prior to assessing their problems and goals which are informed by problem assessment.


For example, client X may aim to reduce social media use throughout the week so that he may be more productive in the social and occupational spheres of his life. This may sound like a straightforward objective.


However, as client X and I work towards his goal, he repeatedly doesn’t follow through with negotiated homework tasks. The original goal relates to avoidance of responsibility.


Still, sustained lack of commitment appears to be a secondary goal, as client X shirks undesirable tasks. Therefore, it isn’t likely that social media is the main issue, because the latter goal – realized only through problem assessment – may be the primary problem.


Page 105 of the Pocket Companion also encourages REBT practitioners to help clients achieve balance between short-term and long-term goals. Why might this be of importance?


This suggestion is because overly focusing on short-term goals may result in reduced consideration of purpose and meaning while focusing too much on long-term goals may result in little fun or desire to remain committed to one’s goals. I’ll give an example.


Suppose that client Y states that she’s interested in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Together, we define the goal that best suits her interest. The long-term objective is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and the short-term goal is to perform consistent physical training for the climb.


If client Y focusses too heavily on cardio workouts, interval sessions, strength and endurance exercises, balance and flexibility, and hiking done in preparation to the climb, she may lose sight of why she wants to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro, as well as the value related to doing so.


Likewise, if client Y concentrates too much on the ultimate climb itself, she may not have much fun when training. Perceiving the work-up to the climb as an arduous process when performing box squats and lounges, she may then lose desire for her long-term goal altogether.


In addition to these considerations, page 106 of the Pocket Companion invites REBT practitioners to discourage clients from setting goals which perpetuate irrational beliefs, as well as self-disturbed emotions and behaviors. How might this look?


Imagine that client Z has a goal to cultivate an intimate partner relationship with a woman who’s clearly stated she has no interest in any form of relationship with him. Work towards a personal goal to increase one’s productivity or to climb a dormant volcano is one matter.


However, forming objectives which are largely dependent on the response of another individual isn’t necessarily a helpful use of time, especially when someone has already dismissed the possibility of an aim. Thus, client Z may be setting himself up for continued failure.


From an REBT outlook, it isn’t the lack of success which causes unpleasant emotional or behavioral consequences. Rather, client Z’s unproductive beliefs about unrequited love may produce undesirable effects. As such, I would discourage client Z from pursuing this goal.


In this regard, my approach is in alignment with the recommendation of page 107 of the Pocket Companion that addresses goals with which one has the power to achieve. Thus, it could be disempowering for client Z to pursue his unhelpful goal.


Page 108 of the Pocket Companion encourages REBT practitioners to assist clients with setting goals in positive rather than negative terms. An example of a positive term goal would be for client X to express, “I want to increase my productivity.”


An example of a negative term goal would result if he stated, “I don’t want to spend too much time on social media.” Although a matter of slight perspective shift, it may be easier to work towards the presence of something than towards the absence of something.


Additionally, page 109 of the Pocket Companion invites REBT practitioners to help clients work towards goals based on overcoming disturbance before assisting with aims related to personal development. To illustrate this, I’ll reexamine client Y’s goal to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.


If she focuses on personal development related to the climb while not addressing self-disturbing beliefs which cause burnout during her training, client Y’s level of disturbance may interfere with her ultimate aim for personal development. Thus, balance of the short- and long-term goals involves continual assessment of disturbance.


Page 110 of the Pocket Companion encourages REBT practitioners to help clients with setting goals which are neither overwhelmingly high nor underwhelmingly low. Suppose that client Z agrees that wooing his prospective love interest may be overwhelmingly high.


Abandoning that objective, client Z then aims to merely practice an ambiguous form of self-care on a weekly basis, even though he doesn’t struggle with this area in his day-to-day life. I would then advocate setting a goal that actually involves purpose and meaning, and which is realistic.


Noteworthy, page 111 of the Pocket Companion reminds REBT practitioners to only briefly allow clients an opportunity to unload frustrations. After that, clinicians may then assist with drawing out implicit goals.


If client goals are healthy, practitioners may connect content of the unloaded frustrations with work towards goals. If goals are unhealthy, discussion about the unhealthy nature of client objectives is conducted as a means to assist with setting healthy aims.


Imagine that client X begins venting his beliefs about how homework tasks are “dumb” and his new goal is to simply do nothing about his avoidance of responsibility. After he’s done unloading frustration, I’d assist with discuss with client X the possibility of setting a goal to address the matter, perhaps one that doesn’t initially involve social media usage.


Page 112 of the Pocket Companion advocates the eliciting from clients a commitment to achieve their goals, not merely a statement regarding the goal itself. In client Y’s case, I would routinely remind her about her commitment to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.


Now, suppose that client Z contemplates that his love interest is serious about wanting nothing to do with him, as indicated by a temporary restraining order, so he decides to define a new aim and take steps towards achieving his desired result. He now desires to unconditionally accept rejection.


At first, client Z is ambivalent about committing to the goal, because he unhelpfully believes that the woman in whom he’s romantically interested may one day change her mind. Per page 113 of the Pocket Companion, I would assist client Z with approaching this matter rationally.


Together, we could carry out a cost-benefit analysis to better understand his reservations about change. Once those reservations are dealt with constructively, client Z could then commit to his healthy goal.


Similar to my approach with client Y, I would routinely remind client Z about his commitment to the objective. Given the matters addressed herein, I hope to have met my aim for this blogpost by clarifying my approach to goal attainment.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




Dryden, W. and Neenan, M. (2003). The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion. Albert Ellis Institute. ISBN 0-917476-26-3. Library of Congress Control Number: 20031044378

Hollings, D. (2023, September 20). A messy situation. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2024, January 2). Interests and goals. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, May 18). Irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, October 30). Luv(sic). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, June 23). Meaningful purpose. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 24). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, November 1). Self-disturbance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, July 11). Unconditional acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page