Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that affects individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.
It’s characterized by symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance behaviors, and hyperarousal. Effective treatment for PTSD involves setting goals to manage and cope with the symptoms.
One approach to establishing these goals is using the SMART criteria. In this post, we’ll discover 13 SMART goals examples that can be used to treat PTSD.
What is a SMART Goal?
The SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based) system is great for setting therapy goals in PTSD treatment.
Are you still unsure? Let’s break down each element of SMART:
Being detailed when setting therapy goals for PTSD treatment can significantly increase the likelihood of achieving them. Specificity promotes accountability among therapists and patients.
By clearly defining specific goals, everyone involved understands exactly what needs to be done for successful treatment.
Having measurable goals ensures you can confirm whether the desired outcome has been achieved, allowing therapists and patients to track progress. Without this element, it’s challenging to determine if a treatment goal has been met.
While ambitious goals may lead to disappointment, being realistic makes a vast difference in successful PTSD treatment. Collaborating with therapists, family members, and other support groups to set achievable goals provides a clear direction, facilitating smoother treatment processes.
Setting meaningful goals that align with your core values can inspire you to overcome the challenges of PTSD treatment. When the journey becomes tough, your inherent beliefs will be a reliable guide to keep you focused. You’ll be motivated to do everything necessary to meet your goals.
A defined timeline can break down overwhelming treatment goals into smaller tasks, allowing for better focus and progress tracking. You’ll be able to celebrate various milestones while keeping the therapy goal in sight.
13 SMART Goals Examples for PTSD Treatment
1. Reduce the Frequency of Flashbacks
“Over three months, I’ll work with a therapist to develop coping mechanisms for when I experience flashbacks. This will involve utilizing grounding techniques and journaling about my experiences twice daily.”
Specific: This statement focuses on reducing the frequency of flashbacks for three months.
Measurable: You can track the frequency of flashbacks over three months to determine if there is a decrease.
Attainable: With the help of a therapist, you have a high chance of successfully minimizing the frequency of flashbacks.
Relevant: Flashbacks are a common symptom of PTSD, and addressing them can significantly improve one’s quality of life.
Time-based: Success is expected to be accomplished after three months.
2. Attend Regular Therapy Sessions
“I plan to attend therapy sessions once a week for the following 9 months. I’ll schedule my sessions in advance and make sure to attend each one on time. I will also actively participate in therapy by completing assigned exercises or tasks.”
Specific: The aim is to attend therapy sessions once a week and actively participate.
Measurable: Make sure you keep track of therapy sessions and participation.
Attainable: Attending one session per week is achievable with proper scheduling and commitment.
Relevant: Therapy is essential for tackling PTSD symptoms and addressing underlying trauma-related issues.
Time-based: You have a 9-month deadline to attend regular therapy sessions.
3. Improve Social Support Network
“I want to expand my social support network by joining a local PTSD support group by the end of two months. This will help me connect with others who have experienced similar traumatic events and provide a safe space to share my experiences and receive support.”
Specific: The SMART goal clearly outlines the action to be taken (joining a support group) and the time frame for reaching it (two months).
Measurable: You can gauge progress by the number of support group meetings attended and connections made.
Attainable: This goal is achievable as there are likely multiple PTSD support groups available in one’s local area.
Relevant: Connecting with others who have experienced similar trauma can provide valuable support and understanding.
Time-based: There is an end date of two months for accomplishing the goal.
4. Engage in Relaxation Techniques
“Within the next three weeks, I’ll engage in relaxation techniques (yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises) for at least 30 minutes daily. I hope to decrease my overall stress levels and improve my ability to manage symptoms of PTSD.”
Specific: The individual aims to use relaxation techniques for 30 minutes daily.
Measurable: Success can be measured by tracking the frequency and duration of the techniques.
Attainable: The goal is achievable as it only requires 30 minutes per day and offers various options for relaxation techniques.
Relevant: This is appropriate as it can help reduce stress levels and improve symptom management for PTSD.
Time-based: Goal achievement is anticipated over the three weeks ahead.
5. Identify and Challenge Negative Thoughts
“Every time I catch myself having a negative thought, I will write it down and challenge it with a positive alternative for 30 days. I’ll aim to have at least three positive alternatives for each negative thought.”
Specific: This goal outlines the actions to take whenever a negative thought arises (writing it down and challenging it) and the time frame for doing so (30 days).
Measurable: You could count the number of negative thoughts written down and the corresponding positive alternatives generated.
Attainable: Identifying and challenging negative thoughts with practice is possible.
Relevant: Challenging negative thoughts could help cope with PTSD and boost mental health.
Time-based: The SMART goal will be met within a specific time frame of 30 days.
6. Set Boundaries to Protect Personal Space
“I want to work on setting boundaries to protect my personal space for two months. I’ll set aside one hour weekly to reflect on my boundaries and identify areas where I must set firmer limits. Moreover, I’ll practice assertiveness techniques in my daily interactions with others.”
Specific: The statement outlines an action plan to work on setting boundaries.
Measurable: Reflect on and identify areas where boundaries need to be set, as well as practicing assertiveness techniques.
Attainable: This goal is possible within two months and does not require any external resources.
Relevant: Establishing boundaries can allow those with PTSD to feel safer and more in control of their personal space.
Time-based: Completion of this goal is expected after two months.
7. Create a Safety Plan for Triggers
“I will work with a therapist to develop a safety plan for when I experience triggers related to my PTSD over four months. This should involve identifying specific triggers, developing coping mechanisms, and creating a support system for when triggers occur.”
Specific: This explains the exact steps that will be taken to create a safety plan for dealing with PTSD triggers.
Measurable: Ensure you regularly check in with the therapist and track the safety plan development.
Attainable: Working with a therapist and creating a safety plan is a feasible goal.
Relevant: Creating a safety plan for dealing with triggers directly relates to managing PTSD symptoms.
Time-based: The SMART statement should be achieved within four months.
8. Decrease Avoidance Behaviors
“By the end of four months, I will have decreased my avoidance behaviors related to my trauma by 50%. I plan on doing this by gradually exposing myself to triggers and using positive self-talk when faced with them.”
Specific: The goal outlines what avoidance behaviors need to be decreased and how to reach them.
Measurable: Determine the percentage decrease in avoidance behaviors over time.
Attainable: This goal is doable with gradual exposure therapy and positive self-talk techniques.
Relevant: Decreasing avoidance behaviors can help handle PTSD and enhance overall well-being.
Time-based: Four months is the timeline given to meet the goal statement.
9. Reduce Substance Use or Abuse
“I want to reduce my alcohol intake by 50% and eliminate recreational drug use within 6 months. I’ll use a combination of therapy, support groups, and self-help books to achieve my goal.”
Specific: The goal clearly states what substance abuse behaviors will be reduced and eliminated.
Measurable: Progress can be gauged by monitoring the frequency of consumption.
Attainable: This follows a realistic and sustainable approach with the help of appropriate resources.
Relevant: Reducing substance use or abuse is crucial for tackling PTSD symptoms.
Time-based: A deadline of 6 whole months is provided for goal completion.
10. Develop Coping Strategies for Nightmares
“I want to develop three effective coping strategies for managing my nightmares for three weeks. I’ll do this by talking to my therapist and researching techniques, such as visualization and relaxation techniques, to reduce the frequency of my nightmares.”
Specific: The person wants to develop three coping strategies for managing nightmares.
Measurable: Counting the number of strategies developed within three weeks.
Attainable: Developing coping strategies is reasonable with the assistance of a therapist.
Relevant: PTSD often causes nightmares, so developing coping strategies can manage this condition.
Time-based: You have a three-week time limit to reach excellence.
11. Establish a Healthy Sleep Routine
“Within the next month, I’ll work on establishing a healthy sleep routine by going to bed at 10 PM every night and waking up at 6 AM. I will also limit my caffeine intake after 3 PM and avoid using electronic devices before bedtime.”
Specific: You know the explicit actions to be taken—going to bed at a certain time, limiting caffeine intake, and avoiding electronics before bedtime.
Measurable: Ensure you go to bed at the designated time and check how well you sleep each night.
Attainable: With good sleep hygiene habits, this goal is possible within a month.
Relevant: Getting enough quality sleep is crucial for treating PTSD, such as irritability and mood disturbances.
Time-based: Make sure you succeed with this SMART goal after one month.
12. Increase Physical Activity Levels
“I’ll strive to increase my physical activity levels to at least 30 minutes daily within a month. I understand the importance of exercise for improving mental health and want to make it a part of my daily routine.”
Specific: This statement is well-defined because it includes a target time frame (one month) and what you’ll do (physical exercise).
Measurable: Determine the number of minutes spent on physical activity every day.
Attainable: Boosting physical activity to 30 minutes daily is reachable for most individuals, and it has numerous benefits for health.
Relevant: Studies have shown that regular physical exercise could help reduce symptoms of PTSD, making this goal suitable for those seeking treatment.
Time-based: The goal is time-bound, with a deadline of one month.
13. Have Realistic Expectations for Recovery
“I will focus on setting realistic expectations for my recovery from PTSD over the four months ahead. That includes acknowledging that it may take time and patience to heal and that setbacks are a normal part of the healing process.”
Specific: Your goal details that you’ll focus on setting realistic expectations concerning your recovery from PTSD.
Measurable: Evaluate whether or not you accepted the time and patience required for healing.
Attainable: It’s realistic to set achievable expectations for recovery from a mental health disorder.
Relevant: The goal is appropriate because it focuses on a key aspect of healing from PTSD.
Time-based: Goal attainment is expected within the next four months.
Note that these are just examples of potential SMART goals for PTSD treatment. Each individual’s journey toward healing and recovery will be unique, so work with a therapist or healthcare professional to create personalized goals that align with your circumstances.
The purpose of setting SMART goals is to provide a clear direction and plan for achieving your ideal outcome. Focus on progress rather than perfection, and celebrate each baby step toward your ultimate goal of healing from PTSD.
You’ve already taken a significant step by acknowledging that you want to make positive changes in your life—now let these SMART goals guide you towards a healthier and happier future.
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