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Occupational therapy demands mental fortitude and a willingness to achieve results from the patient. However, it isn’t simple for the therapist either. They have to know how to set smart goals. Occupational therapy depends on the therapist’s and patient’s communication.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to set SMART goals for occupational therapy that will help your patients achieve the best results in the shortest time and share nine examples of such goals.
What Are SMART Goals?
To set smart goals for occupational therapy, you must first learn what defines a SMART goal. “SMART” is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.”
Each of these criteria is crucial for making your goals easy to achieve. With all of them together, there’s nearly zero chance for failure. However, missing even one component may prevent you from completing your goal due to frustration, procrastination, or a loss of motivation.
So now, let’s take a closer look at each of the SMART goal components:
A specific goal should clearly define what you want to accomplish, how you will do it, why you need it, and when the goal will be completed. In other words, it should have a certain level of detail that makes your goal statement into a plan for achieving your core objective.
Your goal should feature milestones that will help you track your progress at any point in time. The milestones can be defined by any metric, be it time, amounts, or other units.
Most importantly, they should let you identify how far you are from the starting point and adjust your actions accordingly. For example, a measurable goal should answer the questions “How much?” “How fast?” or “How many?”
When breaking down your primary objectives into smaller steps, never forget about the bigger picture. Your goals should align with your purpose in life and help you get closer to your final destination.
If completing your goal doesn’t help you achieve your objective, you may have wasted your efforts. Plus, constantly keeping the reason you’re striving to meet your goals in mind helps maintain motivation.
When you look at your main objective, it may seem far off and unreachable. Each attempt that ends with failure leads to frustration and loss of the will to try again.
That’s why your goals should be attainable. Attainable goals serve as stepping stones on your path to achieving the primary objective, making it more precise and less challenging. Every time you complete a milestone, you receive a boost of endorphins that help you stay motivated and continue.
You can achieve an attainable goal with your resources and skills and within your chosen time frame.
People often neglect deadlines when setting goals, which leads to procrastination. Even the most specific, achievable goal without a defined timeframe may seem distant and nonurgent.
Deadlines keep you focused on completing your goal on time. Bear in mind that overly tight deadlines may make your goals unattainable. Be reasonable and honest with yourself when setting deadlines.
The SMART goal framework is helpful in any aspect of your life, not solely in occupational therapy. So if you’d like to learn more about how to improve your life, find a purpose, or advance your career, consider checking our ultimate SMART goal guide.
Why Are SMART Goals Important for Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy is a challenging process, both for the patient and the therapist. Learning to do basic things all over again can be challenging physically and mentally, and that’s where SMART goals can help.
SMART goals for occupational therapy help maintain the patient’s motivation and make their significant objectives seem more bearable. In addition, they reduce the fear of failure and provide a new boost of inspiration every time a milestone goal is completed.
When it comes to setting SMART goals for occupational therapy, the therapist should work with the patient to determine which goals are attainable.
The therapist should consider numerous factors, including the patient’s prognosis and additional health conditions. The patient, in turn, should inform the therapist of any factors that may affect their schedule and keep in touch while working on completing the goals.
A common mistake is combining two or more goals into one. This makes tracking goals more challenging and confusing. Instead, make the goals as clear and straightforward as possible to ensure the patient can easily measure their progress and determine when the goal is achieved.
To help, here are some examples of SMART goals for occupational therapy that you can use to improve your practice.
9 SMART Goal Examples for Occupational Therapy
1. Decrease Anterior Knee Pain
“Over the next four weeks, the patient’s anterior knee pain evaluation during prolonged sitting will decrease from 7/10 to 3/10 to help them return to work in the office. This will be achieved by taking prescribed medication daily.”
S: This statement clearly defines the patient’s issue, primary objective, the plan for completing the goal, the timeframe, and the measurements.
M: Each day of taking medication and each decrease in the pain level are milestones for completing the goal.
A: This is an achievable goal, though it may need to be altered if the pain doesn’t decrease.
R: This goal aligns with the patient’s main objective of reducing knee pain and returning to work in the office.
T: The goal will be completed within four weeks.
2. Demonstrate Increased Strength by Crawling
“Over the next four weeks, the child will demonstrate increased strength by crawling 15 feet in one session. This will be achieved through daily physiotherapy exercises.”
S: This statement specifies the main objective, the measurement, the timeframe, and the means of achieving the goal.
M: Each daily physiotherapy session and each additional foot crawled in one session are milestones towards completing the goal.
A: This is an attainable goal, but it can be adjusted if the child’s progress is too slow or outpaces expectations.
R: This goal is relevant for the patient’s primary objective of becoming stronger and moving independently.
T: This goal will be achieved in four weeks.
3. Sustain a Tripod Grasp Control
“The patient will sustain a tripod grasp control for drawing and handwriting over the next month. This will be achieved by performing written homework assignments daily. The progress will be measured by the successful attempt count.”
S: This is a specific statement – it clearly defines the patient’s goal, how they will complete it, and the main objective.
M: Each daily assignment completed and each additional successful attempt is a milestone towards achieving the goal.
A: This is an attainable goal, as long as the patient practices.
R: This goal is relevant for the patient’s primary objective of learning to write and draw independently.
T: This goal will be completed in a month.
4. Improve Fine Motor Skills
“The patient will improve their fine motor skill by learning to dress in a button-up shirt independently. This will be achieved over a month by buttoning up one shirt daily. The progress will be tracked based on the count of successful attempts throughout a week.”
S: This goal statement is specific. It defines the patient’s main objective, the strategy of achieving the goal, and the timeframe.
M: Each additional successful shirt-buttoning attempt is a stepping stone towards achieving the main objective of learning to dress independently and improve fine motor skills.
A: This is an achievable goal, with lots of time built in for practice.
R: This goal is relevant for the patient’s objective of improving fine motor skills.
T: The goal will be completed after one month.
5. Open and Close Containers Independently
“By the end of June, the patient will be able to independently open and close containers with ELA painting supplies in 9 out of 10 trials to create drawings during listening assignments.”
S: This is a specific statement. It clearly defines the patient’s objective, the steps they should take, the timeframe, and the measuring system.
M: Each successful attempt is a milestone for achieving the goal.
A: This is an attainable goal, as long as the patient is dedicated to the task.
R: This goal aligns with the patient’s objective of learning to draw independently.
T: This goal will be completed by the end of June.
6. Gain Age-Appropriate Self-Awareness
“By the end of the year, the patient will gain age-appropriate self-awareness, including maintaining personal space and not touching people without their permission when engaging in conversations with adults. This will be achieved through weekly therapy sessions and parent supervision.”
S: This goal statement specifies why the patient needs to achieve this goal, how they will do it, the timeframe, and the measurement.
M: Each successful conversation with adults where the patient exhibits age-appropriate self-awareness is a measurement point that helps track progress.
A: This is an attainable goal, with an extended timeframe to allow for plenty of learning experiences.
R: This goal is relevant for an autistic patient whose main objective is gaining age-appropriate self-awareness.
T: This goal will be completed by the end of the year.
7. Eat Independently
“The patient will be eating independently three out of four times by the end of six weeks to improve their motor skills and decrease their dependency on caregivers. This will be achieved through daily attempts to hold their spoon without dropping it.”
S: This goal statement is specific. It defines the patient’s problem, objective, the strategy of completing the goal, and the timeframe.
M: Each successful attempt of eating independently is a unit of measurement.
A: This is an attainable goal and often the first step for patients with this problem.
R: Completing this goal moves the patient closer to their core objective of becoming less dependent on caregivers.
T: This goal will be completed in six weeks.
8. Walk Independently
“By the end of summer, the patient will be able to walk for 150 feet independently and without crutches. This goal will be achieved by daily walking training, supervised by the therapist or caregiver. Over time, the patient will be able to walk without any help for extended periods.”
S: This is a specific goal statement defining the patient’s objective, how they will complete the goal, the timeframe, and the units of measurement.
M: Each additional foot walked independently is a literal step towards the patient’s objective.
A: This is an attainable goal, as crutches are not a permanent solution to decreased mobility.
R: This goal is relevant for the patient’s objective of walking without crutches for extended periods.
T: This goal will be completed by the end of summer.
9. Improve Academic Performance
“Over the next four months, the patient will improve their academic performance by learning to read 100 words per minute. This will be achieved by practicing reading 10 pages daily.”
S: This is a specific statement. It defines the patient’s objective – improving their academic performance, the way of achieving the goal – daily practice, the timeframe, and the units of measurement.
M: The number of words read in a minute is the metric.
A: This is an attainable goal, with four months being a comfortable period to improve reading speed.
R: Completing this goal will help the patient reach their primary objective of improving their academic performance.
T: This goal will be completed in four months.
Final Thoughts on SMART Goal Examples for Occupational Therapy
For occupational therapy to be successful, both the patient and the therapist should learn to set SMART goals.
Occupational therapy is often a bumpy road, but journaling the patient’s health and mental well-being can be of great help. And if you wish to teach your patient to set practical goals independently, consider offering them one of our SMART goal worksheet templates.
And if you want more SMART goal ideas and examples, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 5 SMART Goals Examples for Personal Training & Fitness Trainers
- 15 SMART Goals Examples for Your Nursing Career
- 5 SMART Goal Examples to Improve Your Positive Mental Health
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.