Tired of Writing Treatment Plans? Here’s a Tip to Make Them Quick

Written by Barbara Griswold on June 6, 2018
Therapist woman with grey hair and glasses at a computer.

Do you avoid writing treatment plans?

Maybe you don’t see them as helpful, or don’t feel you have time, so you don’t write them? Well, you’re not 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. Most insurance plans require treatment plans and 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: 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 treatment plans in session with 5 questions you can ask your client.   

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:

    1. “When you originally contacted me, how were you hoping these sessions could help you?”
    2. “When you think of our last session together, and you no longer feel the need to come anymore, how will you be feeling differently?”
    3. “And if you were feeling differently, what would you be doing differently (more/less)?”
    4. “What questions will you have answered about yourself or your life that you are now struggling to answer?”
    5. “What do you want from me to reach these goals?  What do you NOT want 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.  It is especially useful when it feels 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 the goals they outlined in their initial session, clients often tell me “wow, I don’t remember feeling that bad, or saying that!”

This review can help them focus on the part of their 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!

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About the Author

Barbara Griswold, M.S., is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the author of Navigating the Insurance Maze: The Therapist’s Complete Guide to Working with Insurance – And Whether You Should, 7th Edition and is very excited about her latest webinar, "What Should be In Your Client Charts — And Probably Isn’t: Writing Great Progress Notes and Treatment Plans”. Learn more on Barbara's website.

In addition to her private practice in San Jose, California, she provides phone consultations and training seminars to therapists nationwide with insurance questions and problems.

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