Unrealistic Expectations and Treatment Goals


Identifying treatment goals and desired therapy outcomes is essential for successful counseling since it allows for working toward a clear objective and monitoring the client’s progress. Goal-oriented practice is focused on establishing what needs to change through specific statements. Treatment is planned to facilitate change based on the client’s wishes and needs. In this regard, it is necessary to develop relevant and appropriate treatment objectives based on the particular concerns and problems mentioned by the individual. According to Cooper and Law (2018), “client-therapist goals consensus is associated with deeper, more meaningful, smoother, and more positive psychotherapy sessions” (p. 91). Therefore, it is essential to center the counseling process around the specific areas that require action and change to ensure positive outcomes. At the same time, unrealistic expectations and unattainable goals can present a significant challenge to the counselor and the client, leading to failure and frustration. For instance, accountability is essential for successful therapy, and expectation management and goal refocusing must be necessary. This paper aims to address a client’s problem who defines his treatment goal as making his wife more supportive and loving.

Problematic Treatment Goals

Determining psychotherapy goals is a beneficial process that contributes to understanding the client’s needs and establishing ways to improve the quality of their life. However, developing a realistic and relevant treatment objective can be challenging. In the given scenario, the client describes his treatment goal as an expectation of a change in his wife’s behavior, which is unrealistic. The problematic aspect of this statement is its focus on shaping another person’s behavior, while the overall purpose of therapy is to help the client find potential solutions to their problems (Cooper & Law, 2018). In other words, counseling is about self-exploration and growth, which can help the client maintain or improve relationships and communication but not define others’ behavior or feelings. Furthermore, clarifying that the counselor cannot solve the client’s problem or tell them what to do is necessary. Instead, therapy involves collaboration and exploration to help the person gain a holistic view of the problem and find ways of solving it to improve quality of life.

Therefore, making the client’s wife more supportive and loving is not an effectively-identified treatment goal. The initial statement points to some underlying relationship problems which need to be explored to establish an achievable and realistic objective. In this regard, expectations management in counseling is important since unmet expectations can result in the client’s frustration or withdrawal from therapy (Cooper & Law, 2018). Therefore, instead of merely agreeing with the client’s statement, the counselor must evaluate the attainability of the treatment goal, explore the problem in more detail, and assist in refocusing it.

Helping the Client Refocus the Treatment Goal

In the given scenario, there are several ways of helping the client address their problem and refocus their treatment goal. To begin with, during our initial session, I would interview to better explore the client’s background, relationship with his wife, and the perceived problems that led him to seek therapy services. It can be useful to collect more information about my client’s idea of a happy relationship, support, and love. In doing so, I would obtain basic cues about the cause of his unhappiness with his wife. For instance, poor communication, lack of understanding, or different views on various aspects of life can contribute to my client’s feeling of insufficient support from his spouse. It is critical to remain compassionate and validate my client’s emotions; however, an objective evaluation of the treatment goal is required to ensure effective therapy. Therefore, I would assist him in refocusing his objective based on the underlying problems.

Having a supportive and loving partner is important for many people. At the same time, a relationship involves two individuals whose approaches and values can vary, and expectations of each other might not correspond to reality (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2021). Based on the underlying factors, my client’s goal can be reframed to improving communication with his spouse or learning to communicate his needs. According to Capuzzi and Stauffer (2021), the ability to listen to each other is vital for a happy relationship. Therefore, improving communication can help my client experience greater satisfaction in marriage and maintain a mutually supportive relationship. Another possible cause might be the client’s inability to clearly communicate his emotional needs, which causes dissatisfaction with his wife. At the same time, it is impossible to determine the client’s problem without delving into his situation. There might be a number of underlying factors and a need for couple counseling to effectively address the issue, which implies that the therapy goal might need to be refocused entirely.


To conclude, unrealistic expectations and treatment goals can present a significant challenge to effective therapy processes and outcomes. In the given scenario, the objective identified by the client is problematic due to its focus on changing another person’s behavior instead of solution-seeking to a specific problem. Therefore, as a counselor, I would manage the client’s expectations and explore the underlying issues to help him refocus the treatment goal for satisfactory outcomes.


Capuzzi, D., & Stauffer, M. D. (Eds.). (2021). Foundations of couples, marriage, and family counseling (2nd ed.). John Wiley & Sons.

Cooper, M., & Law, D. (Eds.). (2018). Working with goals in psychotherapy and counselling. Oxford University Press.

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"Unrealistic Expectations and Treatment Goals." NursingBird, 1 Dec. 2022, nursingbird.com/unrealistic-expectations-and-treatment-goals/.


NursingBird. (2022) 'Unrealistic Expectations and Treatment Goals'. 1 December.


NursingBird. 2022. "Unrealistic Expectations and Treatment Goals." December 1, 2022. https://nursingbird.com/unrealistic-expectations-and-treatment-goals/.

1. NursingBird. "Unrealistic Expectations and Treatment Goals." December 1, 2022. https://nursingbird.com/unrealistic-expectations-and-treatment-goals/.


NursingBird. "Unrealistic Expectations and Treatment Goals." December 1, 2022. https://nursingbird.com/unrealistic-expectations-and-treatment-goals/.