How to Make SMART Goals with your Patients

While we are entering a new year in a much different way than we entered years in the past. That does not mean that we cannot make goals to improve our daily lives. While your clients may be unsure of what they want to achieve in the new year, you can help them set reasonable and achievable goals. For goal setting, you want to encourage your clients to set SMART goals.

S.M.A.R.T Goals – What are They and Why you Should Make Them with Your Client

S.M.A.R.T goals are often used within the business world to create and achieve goals. These kinds of goals have set a future endpoint, a timeline, and offer ideas on achieving and measuring success along the process. So often, we can dream big as humans and never accomplish the goals we want. Using this SMART outline can help your clients see what goals they have and explain which ones are achievable and which ones need refinement. 

S – Specific

Help your patient state their goal and use action words. Some examples of action words are: achieve, adapt, advance, analyze, communicate, complete, create, decide, define, improve, install, inform, modify, order, prevent, produce, simplify, teach, test, or utilize. Using these words can help set the goal into action. For example, a patient may say, “I want to complete 45 minutes of cognitive exercises a day.” Or they may say, “I want to prevent more cognitive decline this year; I am going to modify my sleeping patterns in order to achieve a better night’s sleep and improve my cognitive function throughout the day.” Both of these examples give a great zeal for an action to be improved and implemented.

M – Measurable 

Provide a way to evaluate your client’s goals via data tracking or timekeeping. If you are using HappyNeuron Pro, you can show your clients how you will track their progress via the results tab. Show them how time and other trackers help them reach their goals and show progress. If you aren’t using HappyNeuron Pro, make sure to be tracking your clients’ progress on another device or system. Measuring progress is critical to help keep patients engaged and wanting to achieve those specific goals they set.

A – Achievable

Help your patient see which goals are achievable within their current cognitive functions and which ones are not. No one can just wake up one day and run a marathon. It starts with little goals and builds. Small achievable goals make it easier for patients to see their progress and continue to reach their larger and heftier goals. Some small goals may be to wake up 15 minutes earlier and practice mindfulness before getting out of bed. Larger goals may be to read a book and tell their therapist about what they just read at the next appointment. 

R – Relevant

Make sure the goal makes sense with their current therapy goals. It is easy to have goals that are not achievable. We may dream of weighing a certain weight or reading ten books in a time frame. It is essential to understand your patient’s goals as a therapist so that you can help adapt or modify their current therapy plans. For example, maybe it is remembering all of their children’s phone numbers or essential people in their lives or recalling all the ingredients needed in their favorite coffee drink. Relevant goals help not only your therapy sessions but allow your client to feel as though they achieve many things quite often.

T – Time-bound

By setting things to a time-sensitive timeline, goals are more likely to get done. Just like homework assignments don’t get done until the day before it is due, goals don’t get achieved if there isn’t a time restraint. Help your patient create a 30/60/90 goal plan. By creating a time frame such as 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days, you can set up a framework to help build goals that are built on top of one another and achievable.  For example, your patient could set the goal to memorize their grandson’s phone number in 30 days. Next, your client must call their grandson at least 4x within the 60 days. Within 90 days, your client has to have both their grandson’s and granddaughter’s phone numbers memorized and regularly call them without looking up their numbers as much as they can. Deadlines are essential to make sure people reach milestones and the goals that they wish to achieve. 


Goals are an essential part of building a successful year. Although the new yea is starting way different than any other year, it doesn’t need to be a year full of unachieved goals. Creating SMART goals with your patients may be just what they need to help combat the past couple of months’ oddities. 

Christine Campbell

Christine is HappyNeuron Pro’s Marketing Specialist. People with intellectual disabilities have a special place in her heart. Growing up with a sibling with an autism diagnosis and intellectual disability influenced the way she views life. She is passionate about educating people about health and sharing cognitive tips.

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