Goal formulation and tracking in child mental health settings: when is it more likely and is it associated with satisfaction with care?

Q&A session with senior author Julian Edbrooke-Childs

What did this research aim to find out?

Goal formulation has been used in mental health settings in the UK and the US for some time, and is seen as important in evidence based practice. However, little is known about this approach in children's therapy.

Specifically, we wanted to find out whether setting goals with patients, and keeping track of the goals, was more likely with certain children and young people - and whether setting goals and keeping track of them meant that patients' parents were more satisfied with the care their children received.

How did you investigate this?

We looked at 3,757 cases from 32 child mental health services and used the Goal-Based Outcomes (GBOs) tool and the Experience of Service Questionnaire (ESQ). The GBO tool measures progress towards goals which have been agreed and set by practitioners, children and parents. The ESQ asks 12 questions about the support received and is completed by parents. 

We then used two statistical methods: a multilevel logistic regression to look at the goal setting against children's characteristics, and a Poisson regression to look at the difference between parents who were completely satisfied with care, and the parents who were not completely satisfied with care.

What did you find?

We found that formulating goals was more likely for pre-schoolers, those with learning difficulties, or those with both hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorder.

With regard to whether parents were more likely to be satisfied with their child's care if goals were set and tracked, we found that parents of children where this had occurred were more likely to report that they were completely satisfied with the service.

What does this mean?

The findings suggest that goal formulation and tracking might be important in patient satisfaction with care. We would recommend that clinicians consider using goal formulation and track the goals with their parents, as it seems to promote collaboration. We would also highlight the need for better training in goal formulation and setting, in order to make sure that more children and parents can be worked with in this way.

Read Goal formulation and tracking in child mental health settings: when is it more likely and is it associated with satisfaction with care? by Jenna Jacob, Davide De Francesco, Jessica Deighton, Duncan Law, Miranda Wolpert & Julian Edbrooke-Childs