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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.

Original publication




Journal article


Disabil Rehabil

Publication Date





177 - 190


Attitude of Health Personnel, Disabled Persons, Goals, Humans, Patient Participation, Rehabilitation, Stroke, Stroke Rehabilitation