What if a person has no goals?
People at the Collage social club and Ellis continuing day treatment center are being asked about their goals for recovery. It's one of the first questions and it's interwoven with asking them about their dreams, hopes and vision as they learn to get ready for the conversion of their programs to a new one called PROS, or personal recovery oriented services.
In it they'll be expected to work at these goals in individual and group settings with the help and support of others. The program isn't to get going till November. People have to enroll in one of the programs that Ellis Hospital will offer, probably at the continuing treatment site downtown, where classes, workshops, counseling sessions and social and recreational activities can be held.
Everybody is expected to have at least one goal and this ties them to enrollment in PROS. If you reach your goal you can drop out of the program or you can go on to achieve further goals, like education or developing skills you'd like to have, their mentors have told us at meetings.
But what if someone is unable to express any personal goals, has lost the spark to want to achieve something? It's another challenge, another way to look at recovery. You can't recover if you don't have any goals, can you?
There's a very good discussion of goals and how to draw someone out to learn to express them in an article in the July 16 Weekly Highlights on a new website called Recovery to Practice. A shorter version starts below. It's written by Larry Davidson, PhD, and Priscilla Ridgway, PhD, of Yale Department of Psychiatry. It rings true because we don't find our children or their friends in the system talking about goals. They've either given up or never were inspired to shoot for realistic goals. Why hasn't this been addressed before this?
(Davidson and Ridgway:) “This question is raised often by providers who are concerned that the people they work with have given up on whatever hopes, dreams, or aspirations they may have had earlier in life or who have been met with an initial blank stare or a shrug. The process of identifying and setting personal goals provides the foundation for recovery‐oriented practice, however. The question of whether or not people have such goals, therefore, is important.
“Restoring hope--Has this person perhaps become demoralized over time due to repetitive experiences of failures and losses that have been due to mental illness, stigma or discrimination, or a combination of both? Has the person lost hope as a result?
“It can be extremely difficult to have a mental illness, and extremely challenging to carry on one’s life in the face of it. It also may be hard to keep picking up the pieces time and time again when things fall apart, or to continue to believe that the future might be any better than a bleak or desperate present. The presence of a basic sense of hope is crucial to a person identifying any goals for the future. When hope has been lost, it can and must be restored as an essential basis for the person’s active engagement in recovery, and in the central role of identifying and pursuing personally meaningful goals.
“The restoration of hope can come about in a variety of ways, including through the activation of spirituality and faith, experiences of pleasure, and supportive and inspiring social relationships. When a person has lost hope and/or faith, it is crucial that other people continue to carry hope for that person until a time that he or she begins once again to believe that life can get better. Peer staff, who can provide tangible and credible evidence of the possibility of recovery, can be especially effective in instilling hope through their function as role models.
“Regaining interests--It is possible that through the combination of socialization and the lack of means to pursue their interests, people may lose any sense of what they might find interesting or enjoyable. In this case, helping the person to get back in touch with what interested him or her, or what he or she enjoyed, prior to becoming ill may be a useful place to begin the process of re‐igniting or” jump starting” his or her passion. There also is an array of tools, including interests and strengths assessments, that might help the person to recall those things that he or she had found pleasurable or meaningful in the past.
“Finally, there can be no substitute for actual life experience in re‐igniting, or eliciting for the first time, a person’s interest,” Davidson and Ridgway point out. “For some people, simply talking about participating in an activity is just as likely to raise anxiety and introduce doubts as it is to whet his or her appetite for involvement. Especially for people who have become accustomed to viewing life as if from a distance, as something that happens primarily to other people, it may require both encouraging and accompanying the person for him or her to feel comfortable trying new things."
The authors go on to discuss the possibility of co-occurring depression and achieving trust so the person is comfortable enough to share personal information. These and other useful insights are found on the website: http://www.dsgonline.com/rtp/resources.html. (Roy Neville)