Setting meaningful goals in rehabilitation: rationale and practical tool

Clin Rehabil. 2020 Jan;34(1):3-12. doi: 10.1177/0269215519876299. Epub 2019 Sep 18.


Context: Goal-setting is a key characteristic of modern rehabilitation. However, goals need to be meaningful and of importance to the client.

Axioms: Both theories and empirical evidence support the importance of a hierarchy of goals: one or more overall goals that clients find personally meaningful and specific goals that are related to the overall goals. We posit that the client's fundamental beliefs, goals and attitudes ("global meaning") need to be explored before setting any rehabilitation goal. A chaplain or other person with similar skills can be involved in doing so in an open-ended way. The client's fundamental beliefs, goals and attitudes serve as a point of departure for setting rehabilitation goals.

Setting goals: We set out a three-stage process to set goals: (1) exploring the client's global meaning (i.e. fundamental beliefs, goals and attitudes), (2) deriving a meaningful overall rehabilitation goal from the client's global meaning and (3) setting specific rehabilitation goals that serve to achieve the meaningful overall rehabilitation goal.

Conclusion: This is an extension of current practice in many rehabilitation teams, which may help counter the drive toward exclusively functional goals based around independence.

Keywords: Goal-setting; chaplaincy; meaning; rehabilitation; tool.

MeSH terms

  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Rehabilitation*