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Goal Setting Part 2: Follow-up after a role-play with Dr. Aaron Beck

In the article below, you’ll read feedback from a recent workshop participant. She implemented techniques she learned during a role-play with Dr. Aaron Beck.

Read the original article about her role-play.

You and I did the role-play with my client, Mary, who wanted to be a counsellor, but couldn’t contribute to class discussions due to her social anxiety. Her inability to contribute was reducing her class participation and therefore her progress in the course.

In the role-play, you asked me to visualize achieving my goal.

Even though I was role-playing, it was extremely moving for me and I could connect, rather unexpectedly, with a strong sense of motivation. I’ve been thinking about this technique a lot since then.

When Mary came to her next session following the role-play, I worked with her to connect with the feeling that she would experience if she were to achieve her goal. She described that she predicted feeling a sense of pride, passion and happiness if she were to be able to achieve her goal. As she was walking through this process, I noticed a slight, almost imperceptible, but then again, extremely moving shift in Mary’s demeanor. It was as if the shackles of anxiety were released for an instant and then, in shock, she reconnected with the safety of the shackles.

I checked in with Mary and, feeling a little unsettled by the momentary shift, she was able to reflect that something had just happened, but she couldn’t articulate exactly what had happened. She appeared bemused and thoughtful about this process. We continued with the session and began to discuss how she was going to achieve her goals. As we were working through this, she began to reflect that she could begin the difficult, but “worth-it” job of embarking on homework.

We constructed the hierarchy of homework exposure tasks and she reported a sense of tentative excitement. This is something that has never happened within our therapy, nor seemed like a possibility for her. When I commented on this, reflecting on this progress, she actually laughed! This was an unreserved, real, hopeful and wonderful laugh. Again, to me, it felt like the shackles of the anxiety had dropped away for a second and then sprung back into place. She went off to complete homework in the ensuing week.

After the session, I had to reflect. I felt so moved and so privileged to be a part of that experience with this young woman.

When she returned, she hadn’t completed the homework we had discussed! I felt disappointed. She then explained that the assigned exposure task felt a little daunting, so she further broke the task down and completed a smaller step. I was blown away! In previous sessions, feeling daunted would have prevented her from completing any homework at all.

This time, she bravely problem-solved and found another way to tackle the problem.

Mary felt proud. She hadn’t achieved the goal she’d visualized but had begun to experience some of those positive feelings she had described in-session. These positive feelings were motivating for her and present a reason for her to continue to persist with difficult tasks.

I am so moved by this technique which has created a space for Mary to move into a possibility or reality she never thought available to her.