This is a five stage plan for setting contracts for psychotherapists and counsellors. The first stage is asking the client, what do you want from the psychotherapy or counselling? What’s your goal? What do you want to have achieved after the psychotherapy has ended? How would you like to be different? So you get a contract or a goal or a focus of awareness in how the person is going to be different.
The second stage is about how they would sabotage their goal or their contract. Now of course they might say to you, I don’t know how I would sabotage, so you need to explore that because this is their resistance or they may actually not know. It might be out of their awareness. So you need to explore how they might sabotage or stop themselves getting what they want because if they actually were able to get what they want, they wouldn’t be seeing you in the first place. In transactional analysis terms that would be a question aimed at the child ego state or their unconscious, or part of themselves they have disowned or are unaware of, so this is helping them bring to awareness how they might actually be stopping themselves change. Usually it is a decision made from history which they are projecting onto the present which actually is the problem. Anyway, once they have identified that area which might take quite a long time, then you can move onto the next question in the contracting stage and that would be, what needs to happen in the therapy for you to make these changes? So, you’ve found out what they want. Secondly, you’ve looked at what the sabotage is and thirdly now you’re on to what do they need to do with you in the therapy or counselling which will achieve their goals? Ok? And you might actually want to say verbally but you might actually want to write that down so the person takes ownership of what they are going to do and what the changes are.
The next stage would be checking out what support have they got while they are making these changes. Who is going to help then or support them, even if it is only on a making contact level, talking, etc, etc. This will be very good also for checking out how isolated they are. How lacking they are in internal and external support frames? And the final part of this five stage plan if you like would be to ask them how they are going to celebrate when they have made the changes they have come to counselling or psychotherapy for? How will they celebrate, and also who they would celebrate with would be a good way.
So we’ve got a five stage plan in the contracting in these early stages of psychotherapy and counselling. First of all to check out what they want from therapy, and of course if they kind of say, well I’m not sure what I want, then a magic question to ask would be of course, well if you can guess what you wanted, what would that be, and that will free up the child ego stage or the unconscious to spontaneously start looking at what they want. The second stage of course is looking at sabotage mechanisms or the resistance to change. Third stage is looking at what they need to do in therapy with you to make those changes. Fourth stage is around support and the fifth stage is how they are going to celebrate the changes made.
I have always found this a really useful plan to make at the beginning of psychotherapy or counselling so you’ve got a sort of, I wouldn’t call it a treatment plan, but at least a way forward and you’ve looked at the sabotage mechanisms, and they have taken some ownership in this process as well.