The effects and experiences of goal setting in stroke rehabilitation - a systematic review

Thavapriya Sugavanam*, Gillian Mead, Cathy Bulley, Marie Donaghy, Frederike Van Wijck

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    152 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: To systematically integrate and appraise the evidence for effects and experiences of goal setting in stroke rehabilitation. 

    Design: Systematic review of quantitative and qualitative studies. 

    Methods: Relevant databases were searched from start of database to 30 April 2011. Studies of any design employing goal setting, reporting stroke-specific data and evaluating its effects and/ or experiences were included. 

    Results: From a total of 53998 hits, 112 full texts were analysed and 17 studies were included, of which seven evaluated effects while ten explored experiences of goal setting. No eligible randomized controlled trials were identified. Most of the included studies had weak to moderate methodological strengths. The design, methods of goal setting and outcome measures differed, making pooling of results difficult. Goal setting appeared to improve recovery, performance and goal achievement, and positively influenced patients' perceptions of self-care ability and engagement in rehabilitation. However, the actual extent of patient involvement in the goal setting process was not made clear. Patients were often unclear about their role in this process. Professionals reported higher levels of collaboration during goal setting than patients. Patients and professionals differed on how they set goals, types of goals set, and on how they perceived goal attainment. Barriers to goal setting outnumbered the facilitators. 

    Conclusion: Due to the heterogeneity and quality of included studies, no firm conclusions could be made on the effectiveness, feasibility and acceptability of goal setting in stroke rehabilitation. Further rigorous research is required to strengthen the evidence base. Better collaboration and communication between patients and professionals and relevant education are recommended for best practice. Implications for Rehabilitation Communication is key to collaborative goal setting. Education and training of professionals regarding goal setting is recommended, especially in relation to methods of involving people with communication and cognitive impairments. Educating patients about stroke and goal setting could enhance their participation in goal setting.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)177-190
    Number of pages14
    JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


    • Goal setting
    • Stroke
    • Systematic review

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Rehabilitation


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