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Self-regulation and Goal Theories in Brain Injury Rehabilitation

Hart, Tessa PhD; Evans, Jonathan PhD

Section Editor(s): Whyte, John MD, PhD; Hart, Tessa PhD

The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation: March-April 2006 - Volume 21 - Issue 2 - p 142–155

Goal planning is a central concept in the clinical practice of rehabilitation. Several disciplines within psychology and medicine have elaborated theories related to goal attainment and self-regulation, the process of managing one's own goal-directed behavior. These theories may be highly relevant to brain injury rehabilitation both to help address characteristic deficits in executive function and to teach clients how to manage life tasks outside of formal rehabilitation. In this article, we describe testable, theoretically motivated interventions at 2 levels: the goal level focused on attaining or enhancing performance on individual tasks and the self-regulation level of metacognitive processes involved in planning and managing one's own goal-directed behavior. We also discuss issues in experimental methodology that are important to adapting this area of research to brain injury rehabilitation, including consideration of cognitive status and other individual differences in selecting the participant sample, choice of between-subjects versus within-subjects experimental design, and selection of appropriate outcome measures.

Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute and the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pa (Dr Hart); the University of Glasgow Section of Psychological Medicine, Glasgo, United Kingdom (Dr Evans); and Oliver Zangwill Centre for Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, Ely, United Kingdom (Dr Evans).

Corresponding author: Tessa Hart, PhD, Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, 1200 W Tabor Rd, Philadelphia, PA 19141 (e-mail:

This article was presented, in part, at the Galveston Brain Injury Conference, Galveston, Tex, April 2005.

The preparation of this article was generously supported, in part, by the Moody Endowment and by grant #H133G020052 from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, US Department of Education. We thank Brigid Waldron and Venice Anderson for assistance with the literature retrieval and manuscript preparation.

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.