Hate Writing Treatment Plans? Here’s a Tip to Make Them Quick (May 12, 2018)
Do you avoid writing treatment plans? Or maybe you don’t see them as helpful, or don’t feel you have time, so you don’t write them? Well, you aren’t alone — it seems like a large number of therapists I consult with don’t write treatment plans for their clients.
But this is something that you might want to rethink. In addition to the fact that most insurance plans require treatment plans, many professional association ethics codes and state laws require them to be part of a client’s chart. Add to this the best reason to write them: The fact that they can really help improve your treatment, and increase client engagement.
So today let me share a tip for making treatment plans quicker and easier: Start them in session. What would this look like?
Near the end of the intake session, grab your pen (or tablet or laptop) and tell your client you want to be sure that they get what they need from these sessions. Help identify goals with questions like these:
- “When you originally contacted me, how were you hoping these sessions could help you?”
- “When you think of our last session together, and you no longer feel the need to come anymore, how will you be feeling differently?”
- “And if you were feeling differently, what would you be doing differently (more/less)?”
- “What questions will you have answered about yourself or your life that you are now struggling to answer?”
- “What are you wanting from me to reach these goals? What are you NOT wanting from me?”
With a little practice, you will learn to turn the answers into specific, measurable, and objective goals, and maybe a few ideas for interventions — in other words, a treatment plan that’s half-written before the session ends.
It’s also a hopeful and upbeat way to end your first session: Having the client visualize the two of you working together toward the same goals, and to imagine feeling better — what that looks and feels like.
And how can this plan aid treatment? You’ll find out if you bring it out occasionally during treatment, as a sort of therapy evaluation. You can do this periodically, and it is especially useful when you or the client feel like the work has lost focus or plateaued. It can be a great tool in helping clients to identify progress they hadn’t noticed, which may help them feel better about the work you are doing. When reading goals they outlined in their initial session, clients often tell me “wow, I don’t remember feeling that badly, or saying that!” (this is why using quotes can be really effective).
It can help them focus on what what part of the plan they’d like to work on next. You may of course add new goals together, and discuss how you’ll work on those. Or if some goal hasn’t been reached, it is a great opportunity to non-defensively discuss with the client whether they may need a change in approach, more intensive treatment, or additional therapy adjuncts.
And since we are always looking for time savers, adjustments to the treatment plan can also be written in session!
Don’t know what should go in a treatment plan or progress notes? Wish you could write them more quickly? Check out my progress notes and treatment plans webinar, or schedule your consultation