Most of us are familiar with going to a doctor appointment. Once there, the first step is to fill out a medical history form. As the name implies, this is where you give the doctor your medical history. The doctor uses this history to look for possible concerns or patterns in regards to your physical health.
This is similar to what happens in the first therapy session but rather than a medical history form an initial assessment is used. An initial assessment is where you provide information to your therapist about your history. Your therapist will use this information to look for any possible areas that may need attention or that may be the source of the problem.
From the information given, the therapist will develop a treatment plan. The treatment plan is similar to the medical regimen the doctor chooses in order to best address your medical needs. The treatment plan is essential in guiding the therapeutic process. Think of it as a “blueprint” that you and the therapist are utilizing to build and repair your “house”. This “blueprint” is tailored for each individual, therefore, just as medical regimens vary from patient to patient – in duration and type depending on the severity of the issue – the same is true for a treatment plan in therapy.
Once a treatment plan has been developed the next step is to determine treatment goals. Treatment goals are the steps that you will take to accomplish the treatment plan. In building a house you need the foundation before the walls: the walls before the roof. This is similar to treatment goals. Treatment goals are determined by you and your therapist. They are developed from the type of help that you are in need of and the history that you provided in the initial assessment.
After the treatment plan and treatment goals are determined, the process of attending therapy sessions begins. Typically these sessions are on a weekly basis; however, given the severity of the problem the sessions may be bi-weekly. As progress in meeting the treatment goals is made, these sessions will be less frequent – weekly, twice a month, once a month. Ideally the client will reach a point where only occasional sessions are needed as determined by the client’s progress and the therapist’s professional opinion.