This article examines the role of goal setting in the continuing relationship between specialist nurse and patients recovering from stroke. The nurse intervention was intended to ease the patient through the stages of recovery from stroke, focusing on emotional and social recovery rather than physical function. Literature on the use of goals in the nursing process is discussed. The article uses data from contemporary nurse records and from interviews with nurses and with patients and caregivers. The data from each of these elements were subjected to content analysis and were then synthesized using a grounded theory approach to interpret their significance. The perspective of patients and caregivers provides an additional insight into the use and limitations of goal setting which is largely developed in the literature from a nursing perspective. Nurses were found to have different interpretations of the use of goal setting. Some used it explicitly in their relationships with patients, whilst others used the concept to inform their actions whilst being less explicit and more informal. In all cases they demonstrate the tension between establishing and supporting progress towards realistic recovery goals and recognizing the limitations now placed on stroke victims.