From intention to action: A mixed methods study of clients’ experiences of goal-oriented practices

Gina Di Malta, Hanne Oddli, Michael Cooper

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Objectives: Goal-oriented practices are central to many contemporary psychotherapies. The aim of this study was to explore clients’ experiences of this work. Design: Mixed methods, with a main qualitative part and a smaller quantitative component. Participants were 22 clients in integrative psychotherapy (15 females, six males, one “other”). Semi-structured interviews after session 4 and at endpoint were analyzed thematically. Based on identified themes, “goal attitude” scores were developed and their correlations with outcomes investigated. Results: Goal-oriented practices could help clients move from intention to action through increased awareness and focus, setting manageable tasks, and progress monitoring. However, they had the potential to hinder clients’ awareness of their intentions, feel irrelevant, disorientating, or demotivating. Effectiveness hinged on client’s management of their expectations, flexible working, and time. Positive attitudes towards goal-oriented practices were associated with improvement. Conclusions: Goal-oriented practices can enhance psychotherapeutic work, but need to be individually-tailored and implemented collaboratively.

© 2019, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. The attached document (embargoed until 08/07/2020) is an author produced version of a paper published in JOURNAL OF CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1770-1789
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychology
Issue number10
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2019


  • goal
  • goal setting
  • integrative psychotherapy
  • psychotherapy
  • thematic analysis

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