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Addiction is a chronic illness, and most people who suffer from it will need expert help to restore their health. Widespread substance abuse 1 has led a huge increase in the numbers of people needing help.

During outpatient rehab, people suffering from addiction will be encouraged to set goals as part of the recovery process. It is important that the goals are realistic and achievable, and that they are customized to suit each individual.


The SMART acronym is widely used to help people set goals. It stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-constrained

People in rehab will identify specific, rather than generalized, goals. A specific goal might be to abstain from alcohol for one month, while a general goal might be to quit drinking altogether. Goals must be measurable. If a person sets a goal to stay alcohol-free for one month, they can easily see whether the goal has been achieved.

Setting attainable goals is a key part of the method. Learning a new language or developing greater insight into addiction are attainable goals, while hoping to never experience cravings again is not an attainable goal. Closely related to attainable goals are realistic goals. A realistic goal could be to move home to an environment that is less likely to drive a person to relapse.

Goals must be time-constrained. A person who decides to look for expert help in dealing with addiction can decide to check in to a rehab facility within the next few days. That is a time constraint, and is much better than having some vague notion about seeking help at some point in the future.

Advantages of Setting Recovery Goals

When you set recovery goals, you are essentially preparing a plan of action. That makes you more focused on dealing with your problems. Goals are all about taking positive steps to get and remain sober. Because your goals are measurable, you will benefit from improved motivation as you reach each goal.

Being Realistic

Every person has unique characteristics and needs. That means each person will have to set their own recovery goals. There is no single formula that will work for everybody. During therapy, people with addiction will be guided through a process of setting goals that are specific to that person. It is important to be realistic about goals. Otherwise, they will not be achievable, and that can lead to disappointment and frustration, and it may be enough to make people return to using drugs or alcohol.

When you set goals, make sure they are realistic. While you may be able to get inspiration from other people who have used the SMART system, keep in mind that some realistic goals they set for themselves may not be realistic for you.

The nature of addiction makes recovery very difficult, but recovery is possible with the right kind of help and a good SMART strategy. 2

Give us a call or come visit our California Treatment Center


  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/national-survey-drug-use-health
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-effective-drug-addiction-treatment
Setting Realistic Recovery Goals During Outpatient Rehab
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