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Psychother Res. 2010 Jul;20(4):488-94. doi: 10.1080/10503301003796839.

Goal setting in psychotherapy: the relevance of approach and avoidance goals for treatment outcome.

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Medical Psychosomatic Clinic Bad Bramstedt, Bad Bramstedt, Germany.


The present study is the first aimed at investigating the influence of goal definition on treatment outcome in a sample of depressed patients. Data from 657 inpatients admitted to a psychosomatic clinic in Germany being treated in a cognitive-behavioral therapy program were analyzed. Treatment goals were identified as either approach or avoidance, and the sample was classified accordingly. Patients who identified approach goals only were placed in the approach group, and those who identified at least one avoidance goal were placed in the avoidance group. Results showed that framing goals using avoidance terms was associated with less symptomatic improvement but did not affect goal attainment. Findings from this research should be utilized in practice not only for process management such as individual treatment planning but also to control outcome quality. Furthermore, goal definition should be considered as a control variable in research on depression.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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