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Gaining Clarity On Your Client's Journey – Setting Developmental Goals

As professional therapists and coaches we've been trained to begin with an initial assessment of our clients history and needs. The clearer both you and your client are on what are the goals or outcomes of your work together, the better your chances of achieving them.

If you're going to add biofeedback or neurofeedback as a major tool in your work, how do you adapt your initial client intake work? Especially if your client isn't familiar with biofeedback or neurofeedback, you'll need to make these tools relevant to your clients' goals – but how?

In this article I'm going to explain my own approach, which is to think in terms of developmental goals – what skills and inner resources does the client need in order to achieve his goals?

Assessment is about mapping the client's journey. Where are they starting from – i.e. what issues and problems are holding them back? And then what is their destination – what specific outcomes do they want to achieve? Both these questions are important and no doubt you already have your favoured approach.

A common framework for coaches and therapists is SMART goals – eliciting goals that are:

  • Specific – goals should be relatively concrete rather than vague and general,
  • Measurable – it should be easy to know when the goal has been achieved or how much progress has been made,
  • Achievable – it's realistic for the client to expect success,
  • Relevant – the client actually wants the outcome, and
  • Time-bound – it should be possible to put a time deadline on achieving the outcome.

But SMART goals aren't everything. Sometimes the client just wants to feel better, or not feel bad. But feelings don't make good SMART goals.

Often developmental goals can help bridge the gap, and can be more appealing to clients. For instance, a universally appropriate goal for clients of stress management therapists and coaches is to develop resilience. Resilience is the ability to recover or bounce back quickly and easily after a stressor – an upset or a set-back. Resilience is a skill-set that can be trained and developed.

I developed a Stress Resilience Blueprint aimed at my stress management clients: a short summary of the skill-set of resilience, and how I can deliver on it using biofeedback.

If you haven't already done so, you can learn more about the blueprint in this article. If you prefer there's is a short video commentary covering the same content.

I draw out five key component skills of the resilience skill-set. Here they are again:

  1. Mind-body awareness – by this I mean awareness of body responses and processes including feelings, plus thinking and other mental processes, and crucially how these two relate to each other – awareness of how the mind-body connection plays out in practice.
  2. Attention – flexibility & stability of focus. It might not be obvious how this is key to resilience and emotional well-being all round.
  3. Letting go part 1: physical. This means being able to calm the body – reducing physiological arousal and letting go of tension.
  4. Letting go part 2: mental. This means being able to separate yourself a little from your own thinking – differentiating your thoughts and beliefs about the world from the world in itself. It means acceptance – letting go of mental struggle.
  5. Accessing & sustaining positive emotion – it's not enough to get rid of negative emotions (and that's ultimately not possible anyway).

These are mind-body skills: they are to do with managing the mind-body connection. This is the idea that how we think, feel, act and pay attention is reflected in body physiology, and vice versa. The mind-body connection is central to the nature of stress and emotions, and any professional working with stress and emotional problems needs to take account of it.

This list is a useful starting point – but for professional coaches and therapists we can expand on it and clarify some of the points – particularly attention, which doesn't always get a lot of attention (excuse the pun) in professional training. More on this in up-coming articles.

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I've created a summary statement of what everyone needs for effective stress management: how to work with anxiety, panic, irritability, fatigue, insomnia, brain fog, low mood and other stress-related symptoms.

This plan is a blueprint of what my services and products aim to deliver.

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How To Manage Your Mind With Biofeedback & Mindfulness

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  • Why breathing is at the heart of stress management
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