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How to Create an Actionable Plan of Action In Therapy?

Table of Contents

Helping clients select an outcome is the easier bit, helping them work towards achieving that outcome is where things begin to get trickier and that is exactly the reason why the plan of action becomes really really important.

How to create that plan of action and ensure that the client actually acts upon the same is what we will look at in this article.

Different types of action plan and their key features

Now when it comes to therapy there are two types of plan of action that we need to focus on when it comes to a client.

  • The first type includes things that the client needs to do to achieve their outcome and
  • the second type includes the changes that the client needs to undergo to be able to do the things that are included in the first type.
Outcomes specific

Wait, what does that mean?

Let us take an example, the client wants to manage weight. The 1st plan of action would include all that client needs to do to manage weight. I am sure you can think of all the things that would be a part of this plan of action.

  1. Getting up in the morning
  2. Exercising
  3. Eating healthy food
  4. Avoiding junk food and too much sweets
  5. Meditation or relaxation or self-hypnosis for improving mental state
  6. Going for a therapy if there are emotional reasons associated with weight

Once the client is able to create this plan of action, you will notice some things in this plan the client is already doing or is confident of doing by themselves but there will also be certain things that the client will find difficult to do.

For example, The client may say that I will be able to wake up early, but I just don’t feel like going to exercise. The client may also say that I don’t know what do we mean by healthy food and hence need help with that. Also, I can avoid junk food but sweets, I will not be able to. When I look at the sweets I feel a sense of craving that I can’t control. I keep thinking just one more piece and by the time I come to my senses I have already eaten many pieces.

In order to do the things that the client is not able to do, the client needs to be able to either get more clarity about what needs to be done or take steps to manage their thoughts or manage their emotions and cravings or in many cases, the client may need to develop some skills or organise for some resources.

Plan of action

All these things that the client needs to do, to do the things on the 1st plan of action become a part of the second plan of action.

Now that we know what these two plans of action are that we need to help the client create, let us quickly look at the key features of these plans:

  • First, the plan of action must include as many steps as the client needs to do to achieve the outcome, whether they feel they will be able to do or not is something that we will look at later.
  • Second, the plan of action must be so specific and detailed that at any point of time even a 6-year-old child should be able to look at the plan and understand what are the next 3 steps that they need to take and how they would take that step.
  • Third, the plan of action should include what are the hindrances that can stop the client from acting upon this plan of action. Be it clarity, skills, resources, or mental state.
  • Fourth it should also include the steps the client needs to take to overcome these hindrances.
  • Lastly as far as possible each task on the plan of action should include details about when that task needs to be completed. For one time tasks you can ask the client the date and the time by when the client will complete the tasks and for ongoing tasks, you can ask the client about the time, duration, and frequency at which the client needs to do the task or you could ask the client how would they know, its time for them to do the task.

Step by Step Guide to help clients create a plan of action

Read the outcome and future

First, ask the client to read the desired outcome and the vividly described future a couple of times. Next, ask the client to write down the first 5 things they can think of, that they need to be done to achieve that outcome.

Write first things they need to do+others steps

Write the plan of action

After the client writes these 5 things down, ask them to write everything else that comes to their mind. Let the client know that it is important that they write down all that needs to be done irrespective of whether they think they can do it or not.

Check whether the steps are specific enough+Add sub steps

The third step is to check whether the steps/tasks included in the plan are specific enough to help a 6-year-old child to understand exactly what needs to be done. Any step that is not clear and specific, ask the client to break it down into smaller sub-steps and keep doing this till as many steps as possible are described clearly enough for the 6-year-old child to apply.

So if the client writes I will market my services, ask the client to break down marketing into sub-steps. If one of the sub-steps is Social media promotions, ask the client to break it down further and further till it provides exact details about exactly what steps need to be taken. This is called chunking down in NLP.

The client may finally write down the exact process they will follow for social media promotions from deciding content to creating it, posting it, and spreading the word about it or the client may say I would hire someone to do social media promotion.

If the client writes hire someone, ask them to write the steps they would take to hire the right person and to assign the work to him or her. I know this sounds too detailed, but do this and the client will eventually bless you for this.

Tick steps that can be done+ Write hindrances for unticked steps

Tick the plan of action that can be done

After the steps have been chunked down as much as possible for the client, ask the client to tick all the steps that they are confident to take, now that they know the steps. The steps that have been left unticked are the steps that the client is not confident of being able to complete.

So next step is to ask the client to write down in front of each step that is not ticked the primary hindrance that the client feels is stopping them from applying the steps. Ask them to select one of lack of clarity, skills, resources, or mental state as the hindrance.

Name the skills and resources

Once the client identifies the hindrances, every place where they have mentioned skills and resources, ask them to name the skill or the resources that they lack.

Steps for clarity, skills and resources

Next, the step is to ask the client to write down the steps they need to take to get the required clarity, develop the required skills and arrange for the resources that are needed.

Add timeline and reminder

Ask the client to add in front of each step the exact time when they will do each of these steps and ask them to add a reminder for in their phones for the same.

Identify hindrance mental state

Lastly, for each step where the client has mentioned a mental state, ask the client to mention whether the mental state is a verbal thought, visual thought, or an emotion. With the previous steps before the last one, the client knows what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and how they will do it.

The last step helps you understand what exactly you need to help the change in their thoughts and emotions so that they can do all that is needed to be done.

Mental state

You are now probably wondering, how in the world will you help the client change their thoughts (both visual and verbal) and their emotions?

Well, that is exactly what I will tell you in the next video.

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