Inspired by our eight rehab mantra “Eyes on the goal”, this month we turned our attention to the importance of using goals in rehabilitation.

There have been some recent developments in the field, including the development and qualitative evaluation of a new tool designed for setting meaningful goals, emphasis on “meaningful”.

In a paper published in 2020, Dekker and colleagues [1] describe three steps that enable the discovery and development of meaningful goals. Step one involves the exploration of global meaning - the fundamental beliefs, goals and attitudes of a person, step two; the setting of a meaningful overall rehabilitation goal, and step three the setting and adjusting of specific rehabilitation goals.

In a more recent publication by the team, Littooij and colleagues [2] describe a qualitative evaluation study, which highlights the potential benefits of using their tool to identify a meaningful global goal and then using it to inform rehabilitation plans and interventions. Feedback from people with a first-time stroke and clinicians was generally positive, with some people saying that referring back to meaningful goals kept them motivated “this is what I want to accomplish and (…) why” (p. 421) and even effected behaviour change in some cases. A few patients with multiple sclerosis, who were also included in the study, however, indicated that it may have been better to not explore global meaning at the initial stages of rehabilitation, but later, once they had some time to reflect on various aspects of their personal life. They felt they were still coming to terms with the shock of their diagnosis during the initial stages of rehabilitation.

Most, if not all, rehabilitation practitioners will recognise goal-setting as a core aspect of their work. Many may already use a similar process to the method proposed by Dekker and colleagues’. But the value of their research goes beyond the provision of a new tool and new findings alone, to offer the opportunity to reflect on, and improve our current practices. How do you keep your ‘eyes on the goal’?

Both articles are open access from the publisher’s website. To learn more about our rehab mantras, and clinical approach, and rehab research highlights, visit


[1] Dekker, J., de Groot, V., Ter Steeg, A. M., Vloothuis, J., Holla, J., Collette, E., ... & Littooij, E. (2020). Setting meaningful goals in rehabilitation: rationale and practical tool. Clinical Rehabilitation, 34(1), 3-12. doi:

[2] Littooij, E., Doodeman, S., Holla, J., Ouwerkerk, M., Post, L., Satink, T., ... & de Groot, V. (2022). Setting meaningful goals in rehabilitation: A qualitative study on the experiences of clients and clinicians in working with a practical tool. Clinical Rehabilitation, 36(3), 415-428. doi: