Life goals and social identity in people with severe acquired brain injury: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

Disabil Rehabil. 2015;37(14):1234-41. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2014.961653. Epub 2014 Sep 24.


Purpose: While there is a growing body of literature exploring life goals in rehabilitation, little research has been undertaken that includes the voice of the end-user. This study examined the views and experiences of people with severe acquired brain injury regarding the place of "life goals" in residential rehabilitation.

Methods: Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to collect and analyze data from five semi-structured interviews with participants in a residential rehabilitation setting.

Results: Three inter-related themes emerged from this study. Social connectedness (being 'part of things') emerged as a life goal of central importance for all participants (Theme 1). However, in order to achieve this sense of belonging, the participants needed to tentatively balance the opportunities arising within their environmental milieu (Theme 2) with the interpersonal factors relating to their unchanged, changed and changing self-identity (Theme 3).

Conclusions: This study suggests that social identity and social connectedness ought to be primary foci of rehabilitation rather than matters only of secondary concern. Consideration needs to be given to both the environmental contexts and the intrapersonal strategies that support people who require residential rehabilitation services to achieve social connection, and thus their life goals, following a severe acquired brain injury. Implications for Rehabilitation There is a need to better support people with severe acquired brain injury (ABI) in terms of their social relationships and social identity during the delivery of person-centered rehabilitation services. Within the clinical setting there should be regular, in depth and open dialogue in which the individuals' values and preferences are discovered. A focus on the coherence between daily activities and the person's life goals is required for people with severe ABI. Clinicians need to consider how life goals for individual people change or are re-prioritized over the life span.

Keywords: Acquired brain injury; goal setting; life goals; rehabilitation; social identity.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Brain Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Concept
  • Social Identification*