Occupational Therapy Goals

Find out how you can set effective occupational therapy goals with the SMART goal framework and our free template. Download your PDF here.

By Gale Alagos on May 15, 2024.

Fact Checked by Nate Lacson.

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What are Occupational Therapy Goals?

Occupational therapy goals are specific, measurable objectives that guide the therapeutic process and help individuals achieve their desired level of independence and participation in daily activities. These goals are tailored to each person's functional independence, different abilities, sensory needs, and everyday activities, considering their physical, cognitive, emotional, and social well-being.

Achieving these goals directly improves individuals' quality of life and satisfaction. Based on this, we can create intervention plans that include adaptive strategies, upskilling, or altering the task to meet these goals effectively.

Long-term goals vs short-term goals

When setting occupational therapy goals, it's crucial to consider both long-term and short-term objectives.

Long-term goals are broad, overarching targets that an individual aims to achieve over an extended period. These goals represent the desired end result or the ultimate level of independence and participation in daily activities. Long-term goals may include becoming independent in self-care tasks, adapting to a new workplace environment, going back to school, or regaining the ability to participate in leisure activities.

Short-term goals, on the other hand, are specific, measurable milestones that contribute to the achievement of long-term goals. These goals are typically more focused and address specific skills or abilities that need improvement. Short-term goals are designed to be attainable within a relatively shorter timeframe, such as weeks or months.

For example, if the long-term goal is to live independently, short-term goals might include:

  • Improving upper body strength to facilitate dressing and grooming tasks.
  • Enhancing cognitive skills for medication management.
  • Increasing endurance for household chores and community mobility.

Short-term goals act as stepping stones toward the larger, long-term objective, providing a clear pathway and allowing for progress evaluation and goal adjustment as needed.

Pediatric OT goals vs adult OT goals

When setting occupational therapy goals, it's important to consider the unique needs and developmental stages of the individual, whether they are a child or an adult.

For children, occupational therapy goals often focus on promoting age-appropriate development and participation in daily activities, such as play, self-care, and education. Some common areas addressed include:

  • Fine and gross motor skills: Improving coordination, dexterity, and strength for activities like writing, buttoning clothes, and play skills.
  • Sensory processing: Enhancing the ability to regulate and integrate sensory information for better attention, behavior, and participation in daily routines.
  • Social and emotional skills: Developing appropriate social interactions, coping strategies, and self-regulation for successful participation in school and community settings.
  • Cognitive and perceptual abilities: Improving problem-solving, memory, and visual-perceptual skills necessary for academic performance and daily living tasks.

For adults, occupational therapy goals typically aim to maximize independence, productivity, and quality of life after injury, illness, or disability. Common areas include:

  • Activities of daily living (ADLs): Regaining independence in self-care tasks such as dressing, bathing, and grooming.
  • Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs): Improving skills for managing household tasks, community mobility, and financial management.
  • Work and productivity: Facilitating return to work or educational pursuits through adaptations, compensatory strategies, and job retraining.
  • Cognitive and perceptual retraining: Addressing deficits in attention, memory, problem-solving, and visual-perceptual abilities due to conditions like stroke or traumatic brain injury.
  • Physical and functional abilities: Enhancing strength, endurance, range of motion, and mobility to support independence and participation in desired activities.

Printable Occupational Therapy Goals PDF

Download this Occupational Therapy Goals to help set effective occupational therapy goals with the SMART goal framework.

Types of Occupation Therapy Goals

When setting occupational therapy goals, it's essential to consider the various areas of daily life and the specific needs of each individual. Here are the main types of occupational therapy goals:

Activities of daily living (ADLs)

These goals focus on improving an individual's ability to perform basic self-care tasks independently and for unassisted survival, such as:

  • Dressing, including putting on clothes, fastening buttons, and managing zippers or laces
  • Grooming, such as brushing teeth, combing hair, and applying makeup
  • Bathing and showering, including getting in and out of the tub or shower, washing, and drying
  • Toileting, including managing clothing, transferring on and off the toilet, and maintaining hygiene
  • Eating and feeding, encompassing using utensils, opening containers, and bringing food to the mouth

Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs)

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are activities that are more complex and require higher cognitive functioning compared to ADLs. IADL goals target skills that may not be related to basic functioning but are necessary for independent living and managing daily life tasks, such as:

  • Meal preparation, including planning, cooking, and cleaning up
  • Home management, like cleaning, doing laundry, and making minor home repairs
  • Community mobility, involving the ability to navigate the community and use public transportation
  • Financial management, encompassing budgeting, paying bills, and handling banking tasks
  • Health management, such as medication management, following therapeutic regimens, and accessing healthcare services
  • Developing job-specific skills or retraining for a new career
  • Enhancing attention, memory, and organizational abilities for classroom or work performance

Fine motor and dexterity goals

Fine motor and dexterity goals target improving hand and finger dexterity, coordination, and strength. These goals are particularly important for individuals who have difficulties with activities that require precision and control, such as:

  • Learning adaptive techniques for handwriting, buttoning, or manipulating small objects
  • Improving grip strength and hand function for household or work-related tasks
  • Developing bilateral coordination and eye-hand coordination skills

Cognitive and perceptual goals

These goals focus on improving cognitive functions and perceptual skills, which are essential for performing daily tasks independently and participating in meaningful activities. These include the following:

  • Developing strategies to compensate for memory deficits or attention difficulties
  • Enhancing problem-solving abilities and decision-making skills
  • Improving visual-perceptual skills for safer navigation and task performance

Play and leisure goals

Play and leisure goals promote participation in recreational activities and hobbies, which can improve overall well-being and quality of life. Examples of these include:

  • Developing fine motor skills for crafts, drawing, or playing musical instruments
  • Improving gross motor abilities for sports, exercise, or outdoor activities
  • Enhancing social skills for participation in group activities or team sports
  • Adapting leisure pursuits to accommodate physical or cognitive limitations

Social participation goals

These goals address an individual's ability to engage in meaningful social interactions and maintain interpersonal relationships, such as:

  • Developing appropriate communication skills for conversations and social situations
  • Improving emotional regulation and coping strategies for managing social anxiety or frustration
  • Facilitating social skills for initiating and maintaining friendships or romantic relationships
  • Adapting social participation to accommodate disabilities or cultural preferences

Occupational therapy goals are tailored to each individual's unique needs, preferences, and desired outcomes, ensuring a client-centered approach to therapy.

How to use this template?

Our Occupational Therapy Goals Template aims to help practitioners such as occupational therapists collaborate with clients to set achievable goals. These step-by-step instructions are helpful when using this template.

Step 1: Introduce the template

Begin by explaining the purpose of the template to your clients or their caregivers. Ensure they understand that the template is designed to help create a structured and comprehensive plan for their occupational therapy journey. Provide clear instructions on how they can participate in the goal-setting process.

Step 2: Collaborate with clients

Involve your clients in a collaborative process to identify their specific needs, preferences, and desired outcomes. Encourage open communication and gather input from clients and caregivers to establish meaningful and achievable long-term goals.

Step 3: Document the goals

Once you have established the long-term goals, break them down into specific, measurable, and time-bound short-term objectives. Document these goals and objectives in the appropriate sections of the template, ensuring clarity and specificity.

Step 4: Plan intervention

Based on the identified goals, develop a comprehensive intervention plan. Outline the frequency and duration of therapy sessions, therapeutic approaches and techniques to be employed, such as psychotherapy or physical therapy, and any necessary equipment, adaptive devices, or environmental modifications.

Step 5: Review and adjust goals regularly

Review and assess your clients' progress towards their goals regularly. Maintain detailed progress notes within the template, documenting subjective information, objective observations, assessments, and interventions implemented during each session.

Occupational Therapy Goals example (sample)

Our Occupational Therapy Goals template is designed for many occupational therapists to encourage client participation in goal-setting. This includes assessing initial findings, setting both long-term and short-term goals, an intervention plan involving safety awareness and the use of adaptive equipment if possible, a discharge plan, and progress notes.

If this can be helpful for your occupational therapy practice, feel free to check out a sample filled-out template by clicking on the link below. You can also download it as a PDF for easier access.

Download this free Occupational Therapy Goals example here 

Occupational Therapy Goals example

How do you set OT goals?

When setting occupational therapy goals, it's essential to follow the SMART approach to ensure that the goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Here's how you can create SMART goals for more effective occupational therapy goals:

  • Specific: Clearly define the desired occupational performance or skill to be achieved. Instead of stating a broad goal like "improve independence," specify the exact task or meaningful activities that the client wants to perform independently, such as "dress independently with minimal assistance."
  • Measurable: Identify objective criteria or benchmarks to evaluate progress and determine when the goal has been achieved. For example, "Client will be able to put on a shirt independently, including fastening buttons, within 10 minutes."
  • Achievable: Set goals that are realistic and attainable based on the client's current abilities, limitations, and available resources. Consider factors like physical capabilities, cognitive functioning, and environmental barriers or supports.
  • Relevant: Make sure that the goals are meaningful and directly relevant to the client's needs, preferences, and priorities. Goals should align with the client's values, roles, and desired level of participation in daily activities and be reflected in the therapy process.
  • Time-bound: Establish a reasonable timeframe for achieving the goal. This helps to create a sense of urgency and provides a target for monitoring progress and making necessary adjustments. For example, "Client will be able to prepare a simple meal independently within six weeks."

Here's an example of a SMART occupational therapy goal:

By the end of the next eight weeks (time-bound), John (client) will be able to independently transfer from his wheelchair to the bed and back (specific and relevant), as demonstrated by performing the task safely and correctly in 3 out of 4 trials (measurable and achievable), w

Why use Carepatron as your occupational therapy software?

Carepatron is a leading choice for occupational therapy software because of its key features, which make it uniquely suited to the needs of occupational therapists. Here are some reasons why you may want to consider using Carepatron:

  • Holistic view of client progress: Carepatron provides a comprehensive view of every client’s progress, goals, and therapy history. This ability to easily track and document the client's journey promotes evidence-based decision-making.
  • Efficient documentation: With Carepatron, you can quickly document therapy sessions, including observations, interventions, and outcomes. This functionality not only saves time but also enhances documentation quality and consistency.
  • Streamlined scheduling: Our patient scheduling software is crucial for planning and organizing therapy sessions. We integrate your entire calendar, appointments, sessions, and meetings in one place.

Experience these benefits by choosing Carepatron as your management software partner. Sign up for your free trial today!

Occupational Therapy Software
Why are goals crucial in occupational therapy?
Why are goals crucial in occupational therapy?

Commonly asked questions

Why are goals crucial in occupational therapy?

Setting clear goals in occupational therapy is essential because it provides a roadmap for the therapy process, allows for measurable progress tracking, and ensures interventions are personally relevant and achievable for the client.

What is an example of an occupational therapy goal?

An example of a goal might be: "Client will independently prepare a simple meal using adaptive equipment within six weeks to promote self-reliance at home."

How are occupational therapy goals measured?

Appropriate assessment tools or observational methods may be used to track progress. Measurable goals could involve aspects like time, accuracy, frequency, or the level of assistance needed.

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