Occupational Therapy Goals: The Complete Guide

OT goal writing: the ultimate guide

We have all been there, trying to figure out what is the best way to write good occupational therapy goals… why is this sometimes so hard?   ugh

See, I was randomly looking through the Occupational Therapy Treatment Ideas & Information Facebook page the other day (it is a HUGE group with tons of ideas!), when I came across a post about an OT that was talking about difficult it was for her to write goals beyond the typical ADL.

So I wanted dig in and explore what are some of the most common reasons that goal writing is such a pain in our butt, what we need to do in order to make our goals more skilled and client centered, and share some of my favorite resources (including the OT Goal Writing and Occupational Therapy Goal Bank for adults ebook and Workbook – a complete must have to write rock solid, client-centered OT goals, check it out below ).

Do you worry your occupational therapy goals are not client-centered or fear they'll be denied? This comprehensive guide on OT goals is for you!


Worried that your goals will be denied? I can help you write client centered and measurable occupational therapy goals!

Let’s Dig Into Why Writing Goals Can Be Challenging:

Problem 1: We are limited by the electronic medical record we use.


Demonstrating how difficult it is to write good OT goals with dropdown menus

Let’s be honest, we are at the mercy of the software that we are given!

It is hard when all you are doing is trying to write goals based on the information that you have collected during your evaluation, but all you end up doing is navigating through endless dropdowns and trying to “fit” your patient into the software.

It’s a balance between trying to create OT goals that are client centered, are relevant to the clients self directed goals, goals based on what insurance will pay for and what we see as occupational therapists that need to be addressed in order to accomplish all of this! 😱

Trouble writing OT goals?

Problem 2: There are many different ways to actually accomplish goals.

It seems like every OT setting, facility and school has a different way of teaching this, with some of the most common being:

  • OT SMART Goals: Significant, Measurable, Achievable, Relates to person, Time based
  • RHUMBA: Relevant, How long, Understandable, Measurable, Behavioral, Achievable
  • COAST (my all time fav!): Client, Occupation, Assist level, Specific, Time bound

Learn easy occupational therapy goals, writing, outcome measures and OT goal bank of examples!


Problem 3: We aren’t always taught (or maybe it just gets lost over time) to use outcome measures or use our initial evaluations to guide our goals.

We end up writing OT goals that are:

  • not the most client-centered,
  • hard to achieve,
  • using too many measurements to make the goal difficult to achieve or
  • labeled as “not functional.”

So What Are Some OT Goals?


Because this occupational therapy goal example has so many conditions, it will be very difficult for the patient to actually meet all of these and progress.

Within 2 weeks, the patient will perform upper body dressing (UB) independently (I) with use of adaptive equipment (AE) while sitting edge of bed (EOB) with “good” dynamic sitting balance.


Within 2 weeks, the patient will perform UB dressing (I) with “good” dynamic sitting balance.

Here are 3 tips to get you going on writing goals that are more client-centered and writing goals so you don’t have to fear they will be denied:

#: Use outcome measures in your goals

#: Get a good understanding of what should actually be in a Long Term and Short Term Goals

#: Do not write goals on occupations or components that are not a part of your evaluation

I shared these tips in much greater detail via Facebook on Sunday night, so if you missed it, click here to see the video breakdown of the 3 tips.


OT Goal Writing Tips: #1️⃣: Use objective measures in your goals #2️⃣: Get a good understanding of what should actually be in a Long Term and Short Term Goals #3️⃣: Do not write goals on occupations or components that are not a part of your evaluation

Be sure to check out the Occupational Therapy Goal Writing, Objective Measures + Goal Bank (for adults!) and Workbook that gives practical tips and instruction for goal setting in an easy to follow format, provides outcome measure examples for a variety of goals plus a bank of short term goals and long term goal examples for performance components and diagnoses such as:

  • BADL
  • IADL
  • Performance components of occupational therapy practice
  • Specialized areas such as:
    • chronic conditions
    • dementia
    • low vision
    • maintenance therapy
    • progressive diseases and more!

Learn easy occupational therapy goals, writing, outcome measures and OT goal bank of examples!

OT Flourish members can access:

Goal Writing Splinting for the Non-Functional UE

Goal Writing for Patients with Dementia That Have Adverse Behaviors

General Goal Writing Tips

Not a member of the OT Flourish Membership? It is the #1 resource to help boost your confidence and help you get out of your rut in treatment ideas through step by step videos, as well as assessments and clinical resources at your finger tips. PLUS, group mentoring to help you problem solve your toughest patients!

Not feeling confident working with older adults in your OT practice? If you are new to working in SNF or Home Health, we are here to level up your practice! Join the OT Flourish Membership today!

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