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“Goals Give You Hope”: An Exploration of Goal Setting in Young People Experiencing Mental Health Challenges

Jamie Penno*, Sarah Hetrick, Grant Christie

Department of Psychological Medicine, The University of Auckland, Auckland, 0626, New Zealand

* Corresponding Author: Jamie Penno. Email: email

International Journal of Mental Health Promotion 2022, 24(5), 771-781.


The mental health of New Zealand’s adolescents is, by global standards, remarkably poor. Addressing such mental health needs is not only pertinent with regards to the quality of life of our young people, but also the health of our society as a whole, with current unmet youth mental health needs becoming future adult population health deficits. While an array of evidence-based psychotherapies are available as treatment, our knowledge of the mechanism of actions underlying each of these is lacking. We propose that the practice of goal setting as a therapeutic technique may represent not only a common element across these therapies, but may also significantly contribute to their relative efficacies. Developing a fuller understanding of goal setting’s usefulness and efficacy, as perceived by youth with mental health difficulties, may serve to aid in the development and deployment of more effective interventions, providing a small stepping-stone on the path towards addressing our current youth mental health crisis. Through a series of semi-structured interviews with nine young people aged 16–24 years old in New Zealand, we strive to create a nuanced understanding of young people’s perception and use of goal setting, and its potential significance both within and beyond the realm of psychotherapy. Key themes derived from the data include (1) motivation for goal setting and achieving; (2) barriers to goal setting and achieving; (3) strategies for goal achievement; (4) the role of self-efficacy; (5) the role of support; and (6) benefits of goal setting. The findings generated from this study suggest that goal setting as a therapeutic technique, when used appropriately, can have significant positive impacts on the emotional state, productivity, and view of the future for young people experiencing mental health challenges.


Cite This Article

Penno, J., Hetrick, S., Christie, G. (2022). “Goals Give You Hope”: An Exploration of Goal Setting in Young People Experiencing Mental Health Challenges. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 24(5), 771–781.

cc This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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