Horses for courses? A qualitative exploration of goals formulated in mental health settings by young people, parents, and clinicians

Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2016 Apr;21(2):208-23. doi: 10.1177/1359104515577487. Epub 2015 Mar 25.


Introduction: This research sought to explore and categorise goals set by children and young people, parents/caregivers and jointly by a combination of children/young people, parents/caregivers and/or clinicians within mental health settings across the United Kingdom.

Method: Using a dataset of 441 goals formed at the outset of 180 treatment episodes (2007-2010) from UK child mental health services using the Goal-Based Outcomes tool, a grounded theory approach was taken, which built on previous research into child-rated goals to develop frameworks for parent and joint goal data which were then compared with the child goal data.

Results: A total of 19 subthemes and four overarching themes were identified for parent goals. A total of 19 subthemes in five overarching themes were identified for joint goals. These were compared with 25 subthemes and three overarching themes for child goals. A comparison of subthemes between parent, child and joint goals demonstrated many consistencies, but also differences. Most commonly rated goals from children focused on coping with specific difficulties, personal growth and independence. Parent goals focused mainly on managing specific difficulties, parent-specific goals and improving self or life. Jointly negotiated goals focused on parent-specific goals, self-confidence and understanding, hopes for the future and managing specific problems.

Conclusion: The results suggest that goals may capture areas not captured by other normed outcome measures. In particular, goals may capture higher order, underlying factors, such as confidence, resilience, coping, and parenting factors that may not be explored by other measures. The differences across perspectives also link to existing literature suggesting a different focus on treatment based on perspectives and highlights the potential importance when jointly agreeing goals of ensuring the voice of the child/young person is heard and included in goal setting.

Keywords: CAMHS; Child Outcomes Research Consortium; Goal-Based Outcomes; Goals; outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers
  • Child
  • Child Health Services*
  • Goals*
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Parents
  • Qualitative Research
  • United Kingdom