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The Mental Health Treatment Plan: Introduction to an Essential Ingredient

Throughout Therapy Soup you will find reference to one of the most important ingredients in that “soup”, the mental health treatment plan. This is an introduction to the treatment plan but I’ll also devote several upcoming blog posts to the subject—perhaps not a glamorous subject, but a very important one.

After the evaluation, and the discussion of treatment options, the next therapy session or two will be devoted to the creation of a written treatment plan. It can take up to thirty (30) days to fully develop a complete plan depending on the complexity of the issues you face. In fact, over time, the plan will flex and grow as you do so expect changes after thirty days as well. A treatment plan is a living document—it will need to be referred to, checked in with, updated, and amended by you and your therapist, together.

A treatment plan is a written plan created by a therapist and patient that is used as a guide to how therapy should ideally proceed in order to address clinical and any other relevant life issues. It is central to effective therapy.”*

Written treatment plans are maps or guides to therapy. They should contain realistic and measurable goals and objectives and list time frames in which to check in and see if reasonable progress towards achieving the goals and objectives has been made.

In this instance we can learn a few things from insurance providers. HMOs and insurance companies require therapists to submit treatment plans. There are a few reasons they do so—including the fact that adhering to written treatment plans holds the therapist accountable for using effective therapy techniques and methods. The main reason they require them is simple. Treatment plans work—their use helps patients get better, sooner. And the sooner a patient gets well and the longer his recovery lasts, the less money the insurance company will have to pay out in the long run.

What makes sense for the insurance company makes sense for you, whether or not you’re paying cash for therapy. Still, even if insurance is paying for your therapy you should keep in mind that your insurance company benefits are like any finite asset. Consider your benefits allowance to be a personal account, like a bank account—and use your  benefits wisely, just like you use your savings.

Remember: it makes both clinical and financial sense for therapy to have a beginning, middle, and most important, an end. The insurance companies don’t want to keep paying for treatment without an end in sight. Neither should you.

The opinion of most therapists is that treatment plans are pivotal to treatment. We will continue to discuss their construction and proper use.

*From Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On (Without Wasting Time or Money), HCI Books.

The Mental Health Treatment Plan: Introduction to an Essential Ingredient

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2010). The Mental Health Treatment Plan: Introduction to an Essential Ingredient. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Jan 2010
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