Published on 7 November 2023
The Cedar Create evaluation team and colleagues from Cedar recently published new research ‘Therapeutic Goal Types in Young People’s Mental Health Providers and Changes in Anxiety and Mood’. Nicholas Smith, Melika Janbakhsh, Hollie Gay, Jennifer Limond and Jonathan Parker set out to:
Clinical goal setting is an important area of practice within mental health interventions for children and young people (CYP). The present research aimed to explore the type of intervention goals set by CYP during mental health interventions. Further, changes in goal progress from pre- to post-intervention were compared between externally observed behavioural goals and subjective feelings-based goals.
The relationship between therapeutic goal achievement and changes in symptoms of depression and anxiety (measured using the Revised Children’s Anxiety and Depression Scale) was also investigated. Data were collected from 792 participants aged 3 to 18 years (mean age: 13.8, SD: 2.85) across all gender identities and ethnicities, who received low-intensity cognitive behavioural therapy interventions from Children’s Wellbeing Practitioners in the Southwest of England.
A mixed methods approach involving conceptual content analysis, correlational analysis, and group comparisons was utilised. Eleven categories of child-rated goals were identified. The most commonly developed goals focused on understanding, managing, and expressing emotions and feelings. No significant differences were found between behavioural and feelings-based goals (p = 0.061). Partial correlations demonstrated that improvements in goal progress were significantly associated with reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms (rs > −0.157, p < 0.001), even when controlling for the number of sessions attended (rs > −0.146, p < 0.001). Integrating goal-based outcomes with standardised measures could enhance a comprehensive approach to service delivery and evaluation.