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The importance of goal setting in brain injury

Austin Tooze, Cognitive Rehabilitation Assistant at BIS Services, discusses its role in neuro-rehab



As a Cognitive Rehabilitation Assistant (RA) with BIS Services, your role is imperative to the rehabilitation of an individual with an acquired brain injury (ABI).

To best support and rehabilitate clients, it requires a significant amount of goal setting. Goal setting is a great way to track the progress of clients with their neuro-rehab. 

Goal setting is a method where it can clearly state defining goals for clients to achieve. This can be a broad spectrum, as each client is very different from one another. An example of a goal for a client could be wanting to walk their children to school again if they have vestibular or motor difficulties; or wanting to cook a meal using different appliances such as oven, stove and air fryer continuously. 

As an RA, I use goal setting all the time. In RA sessions, I have gone through a list of goals with numerous clients and asked them what goals they would want to achieve with the support we provide.

I ask clients to name short term goals to long terms goals. As an alternative, I also asked them to list activities that they would like to do in support sessions. These short-term goals could be as simple as assistance with booking/attending appointments, to cooking a meal from scratch. I believe it is important to include a list of activities while working towards client goals as it can give them a break and can reset their mentality.

While setting goals and achieving them is very important, it is also important to set goals that are realistic for the client. It can be difficult to motivate a client to work towards a goal and have them feel like they are not getting any closer. Therefore, in my support sessions I ensure that the goals set are realistic.

If a client achieves a certain goal, rather than choosing a radical new goal, slightly increase the difficulty of achieving the next goal. That would mean that the client will feel a sense of accomplishment of not only achieving the goal that they set, but also ‘scaffolds’ them and builds confidence to achieve another goal, or builds the foundations to reach further goals in the future.

This type of goal setting helps not only the client but the RA and other members of the MDT. It helps the RA by allowing them to clearly plan sessions orientated around their goals. This will help with the structure and routine of the client and will again ‘scaffold’ them to build that motivation and determination to complete a task and work towards their goals.

With the combination of the rest of the MDT (multi- disciplinary team), they can give insight into how far or close a client is to achieving their goals. The MDT can also offer support and further strategies into how an RA can further assist a client to achieve their goals set.

When spending significant time with a client, it is important to reflect on the progress made when working towards a goal. For example, when I first started with one particular client, they struggled with property management. After working with the client for a while, they have started to manage their property more independently and require minimal assistance from an RA as a result. In one of our sessions, we reflected on his progress and how it improved his mood as a result. Although it is not perfect all the time, no person is perfect, and everyone can suffer with a lack of motivation to complete certain things. It is a part of life.

As part of achieving goals, it is important to take a break and do fun things to help with mood and build the motivation again. Clients tend to get bogged down and appear to have lower mood, when all they are working towards are goals. To them, neuro-rehab and support sessions can be a full-time job and they need a break from time to time. Just like everyone else, everyone deserves a break to prevent burning out.

The beauty of goal setting is that it is not solely reduced to neuro-rehab. It is something that everyone cane apply to their daily lives whether they work in brain injury or not. It is something that everyone can use and strive for and will make them improve their lives and make more motivated and, overall, a better individual.

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