Treatment Planning: Collaborating with Your Therapist

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What is a treatment plan and where can I get one? Here are the answers to your burning questions.

Treatment plans in therapy

If you’ve been in therapy or are looking to start therapy, you’ll likely want to know about treatment plans. Every individual who receives intervention will have a treatment plan that is the result of a collaborative effort by the client and the provider.

Here’s the inside scoop on treatment plans for therapy.

What is a treatment plan?

A treatment plan is a document that is created to help a professional provide individualized treatment in a timely, strengths-based and constructive way. A treatment plan serves as documentation of progress and clarifies the desired outcome of treatment.

Who writes a treatment plan?

Treatment plans in therapy should stem from a collaborative approach. According to the journal Frontiers in Psychology, one of the most predictive factors of success in treatment is what’s called the “therapeutic alliance,” or the trusting relationship that enables positive change in therapy.

For this reason, it’s essential that treatment plans aren’t just assigned by therapists, but decided upon by the client and the professional working together as a team. When a client and a mental health professional (such as a counselor, social worker or therapist) have open communication and a good understanding of motivating factors, stressors and the priority of concerns, treatment plans will be most effective.

How is a treatment plan created?

If you’ve never had a treatment plan before, you’re likely wondering how they’re written. Typically, within the first one to three sessions of meeting with a clinician, a treatment plan will be created. There are several variables that feed into the creation of a personalized plan.

  • the setting: a treatment plan for substance abuse will look much different than a treatment plan for an eating disorder or anxiety
  • the presenting concerns: one of the priorities of any therapy is minimizing disruptive symptoms. While a treatment plan may be adapted to include other things, later on, the most severe concerns will be addressed first
  • the assessment: the first step in starting any form of treatment is participating in an intake or level of care assessment. This assessment will determine the extent of the condition and the types of goals that will need to be created
  • personal motivations: in order to find true healing, the goals will have to be created in such a way that they address the desires of the person seeking treatment. Impersonal goals will result in stagnation and likely relapse
  • the treatment modalities used: treatment plans are designed as a guide for the implementation of the treatment itself, and therefore should reflect the interventions being used

Treatment plans sound complex, but when you understand the layout and see treatment plan examples, you’ll feel assured knowing your care is organized and intentional.

What does a treatment plan look like?

A treatment plan generally includes a handful of targeted goals and underlying objectives. The goals refer to overarching outcomes that you and your clinician aim to achieve. The objectives are clear and concrete steps you’ll need to take to get there.

Treatment plans and the goals and objectives they include are created using the acronym SMART.

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Relevant

Timely

SMART goals are realistic, time-bound and can be easily measured or quantified in order to track progress. Goals that are vague or unrelated to the desired outcome are a waste of your time, and using this framework prevents careless goal planning.

How does a treatment plan help me?

There are numerous perks to a well-thought-out treatment plan. First, a treatment plan that uses a collaborative approach is effective. Rather than receiving a one-size-fits-all plan that is distributed to all clients regardless of presenting concerns, a treatment plan helps to build and grow a unique relationship that treats collaborators as equals and teammates.

Therapy treatment plans are also strengths-based. While many mental health and substance use disorders manifest in negative thinking and poor self-efficacy, treatment plans can help you feel like you have the power to change the outcome of your life and achieve happiness through your own effort and courage.

Treatment plan examples

Finding treatment plan examples online isn’t an easy task, especially because it can feel like the ones you find are irreverent to your needs. This is often the case because a treatment plan that feels right can only be created when you’re in the room.

Regardless, it can be helpful to browse through treatment plan examples so you know what to expect. Here are two samples.

An example treatment plan for mental health

Presenting concern: generalized anxiety disorder

Goal 1: Within three months, the client will be able to identify triggers to anxiety and solutions to soothe distress.

Objective 1: Within one month, the client will learn to identify the top five triggering emotions/events/settings/stimuli that contribute to feelings of intense worry or fear.

Objective 2: Within two months, the client will develop at least three soothing techniques (coping mechanisms) that can be used across multiple settings.

Objective 3: Within three months, the client will implement at least one soothing technique each day when feelings of anxiety arise and journal regarding the usefulness of soothing techniques, and ways to improve coping.

An example treatment plan for substance abuse

Presenting concern: opioid use disorder

Goal 1: Within the next six months client will find a stable living environment that is separated from communities that could encourage a relapse.

Objective 1: This week client will write a budget based on current income.

Objective 2: Within the next two weeks client will apply for financial assistance for housing or seek public housing alternatives in collaboration with a social worker.

Objective 3: Within the next month, the client will have a plan to move into a new location.

Objective 4: Within the next two months, the client will find opportunities for assimilating into the community in a sober setting.

Treatment plans generally include multiple goals. These examples are given to show the specificity of how goals should appear.

Getting help

If treatment planning for substance abuse feels overwhelming, don’t worry. You’re not meant to do it all alone. A mental health professional can help assess your symptoms, determine top priorities in treatment and establish concrete goals and objectives.

When you’re ready to find healing from mental health or substance use concerns, reach out to The Light Program.