What are SMART goals, and how are they used in allied health therapy?

SMART goals help a client’s therapy team focus their efforts so the client has the highest chance of achieving their goals.

All client goals must be created by or in conjunction with the client’s allied health professional (AHP). Allied health assistants are unable to formulate treatment plans and create SMART goals by themselves. To learn how to write a SMART goal in conjunction with your client’s AHP, let’s look at each individual component of the SMART goal:

S – Specific: Know exactly what you want to accomplish. Work with your client’s AHP to establish very specific goals. The general goal of say, “improve articulation”, can seem overwhelming and unobtainable for some clients. The more specific the goal, the greater the likelihood that your client will achieve it. If you’re stuck on how to make the goals specific, work with your client’s AHP to answer the basic questions of:

  • Who? (client, client and family or carer, or client and AHP combo)
  • What? (specific goal)
  • When? (days/times during week)
  • Where? (at client’s school or day centre, in home, on the go)
  • How? (any extra tools/supplies/prompts/cues needed)

M – Measurable: Track your progress. Look for measurable ways your client can work on therapy goals. This might mean completing 2 structured vocabulary exercises, completing 3 worksheets, or completing a set of prescribed physical exercises.

A – Achievable/Actionable: Some disorders are more difficult to treat than others and the goals for your client should be achievable based on their own specific challenges. Make sure your client has the resources needed to make the goals achievable – both in time and in tangible supplies.

R – Realistic/Relevant: Does the goal fit into your client’s current and future lifestyle? Make sure that the steps needed to reach the goal are healthy and logical.

T – Timely: When will the goal be achieved? What is the timeframe for achieving the goal? Make sure to incorporate time-related markers for the goals.

Child playing

Tips for creating SMART goals

Breaking the SMART components down even further, the following formula can be used to generate a SMART goal:

Person/Area of body  +  Impairment  +  Impairment Goal  +  Functional Activity  +  Target Performance  +  Rationale  +  Target Timeframe
Item Example SMART component
Person/Area of body Client, client’s carer. Head, shoulder, trunk, knee, etc. Specific
Impairment Vocabulary, speech sounds, behaviour, strength, ROM, etc Specific
Impairment Goal Level of complexity, developmental milestones, ROM degrees, etc Measurable
Functional Activity Conversation, turn-taking games, standing, dressing, etc Actionable
Target Performance % of the time, trials/opportunities, assistance level, minutes, distance, etc Measurable
Rationale Play, mobility, ADLs, increase participation, ensure safety, etc Relevant
Target Timeframe Deadline: end of the term, 10 sessions, 4 weeks, etc Timely

Examples of SMART goals

An example of a Speech Therapy SMART goal
Client  will  accurately  use  prepositional phrases  when  describing an object’s location   80% of the time  for the   therapist to retrieve  by the   end of the school term.
An example of an Occupational Therapy SMART goal
Client  will sustain a  tripod pencil grasp  for  handwriting  with  minimal support  while  completing written homework   80% of the time  over  10 sessions.
An example of a Physiotherapy SMART goal
Client  will demonstrate  increased   leg strength  by  walking sideways along furniture  to  obtain a toy  on  4 out of 5 opportunities   over 4 weeks.

This resource is constantly evolving. If you have any questions or feedback please contact info@foratherapy.com