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Disabil Rehabil. 2006 Jun 30;28(12):741-9.

Purposes and mechanisms of goal planning in rehabilitation: the need for a critical distinction.

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Rehabilitation Teaching and Research Unit, Wellington School of Medicine and Health Science, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand.



To determine a preliminary typology of purposes and mechanisms ascribed to goal planning in rehabilitation. To demonstrate the importance of making a critical distinction between these different purposes and mechanisms when reviewing or designing research on goal planning in rehabilitation.


A search of Medline, Embase, PsychINFO and CINAHL for articles on goal planning in rehabilitation. Articles were only included if they were about patient populations and made explicit statements regarding the function or purpose of goal planning in rehabilitation. Thematic analysis was used to qualitatively synthesise the purposes and mechanisms of goal planning described in the literature.


Four major purposes for undertaking goal planning in rehabilitation are identified: (1) to improve patient outcomes (as determined by standardised outcome measures), (2) to enhance patient autonomy, (3) to evaluate outcomes, and (4) to respond to contractual, legislative or professional requirements. The first of these purposes is associated with four distinct mechanisms with the remaining three purposes appearing to relate to one underlying mechanism.


This typology offers one approach for critically engaging with the wide-ranging issues in goal planning. Debate stemming from this work could facilitate systematic reviews of this area as well as guide research and application to practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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