Counseling Treatment Plans: Establishing Your Roadmap to Success


Counseling treatment plans are the road maps for guiding your change. Your therapist is responsible for working with you in developing your own unique plan. A good treatment plan respects your rights to self-determination and informed consent, and is the result of a collaborative effort between you and your therapist. Your therapist is primarily responsible for providing feedback that encourages you to discuss workable problems and their long-term goals and short-term objectives, and to offer necessary therapeutic interventions.

From Diagnosis to Objectives

An effective treatment plan begins with an accurate diagnosis. Your diagnosis is the outcome of reviewing your symptoms and comparing them to the diagnostic criteria establish by the American Psychological Association. Your therapist works with you to determine which problems you want to address first. With the assistance of your therapist, you then select a long-term goal of change for this problem. For example, if your problem is feeling depressed every day, your goal might be to reduce depression only 2 out of 7 days. This process is repeated until your objectives are determined for each problem.

Making Objectives Manageable

Objectives can seem a bit unwieldy or overwhelming, and so they are broken into short-term goals. The number of short-term goals per objective varies, primarily because they are based on the unique resources, skills and abilities of the client. For example, if the objective is to reduce days of depression to 2 per week, you may decide to eliminate unresolved guilt and pessimistic thinking patterns, and then identify motivations for change. Each short-term objective is matched with a therapeutic intervention from your therapist. This may include the use of motivational interviewing to help resolve guilt, cognitive restructuring to change pessimistic thinking, mindful awareness training to improve self regulation, and value clarification to identify motivations for change.


There are several layers of accountability built into a treatment plan, and this is often responsible for the client's success. Your therapist is accountable to you to make available only those interventions that fall within their scope of practice and are based on research that has demonstrated their efficacy. With a plan in place, your therapist's responsibility is clearly defined. You are also held accountable as you have created and agreed to a plan of action to which you feel you can follow through and accomplish.

Changing Problems

A treatment plan is a changing and dynamic document. As you proceed through your list of problems, new problems will appear and old ones will resolve. The objectives may need revision once improvement is realized. For example, the client who once hoped to reduce days of depression to only 2 per week, after making progress and feeling more optimistic, may want to set a new objective of only 2 days of depressed mood per month.

Changing Short-Term Goals

Short-term goals and interventions are also subject to change as you discover new resources, and lose others. Your therapist should be active in this process, noting newly emerging strengths or weaknesses as your therapeutic work progresses. It is also important for your therapist to suggest adjustments to therapeutic intervention as newly acquired skills or information become evident.

Linda Seligman; Diagnosis and Treatment Planning in Counseling, 3rd Edition; 2004.
Sheila R. Woody Ph.D., et al; Treatment Planning in Psychotherapy: Taking the Guesswork Out of Clinical Care; 2004.
Arthur E. Jongsma Jr., et al; The Complete Adult Psychotherapy Treatment Planner; 2006.

Thanks to Thom Mote's article at

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