Example treatment plan goals and objectives using measurement-informed care

This article provides examples of treatment plan goals and objectives utilizing scores from measurement-informed care (MIC) surveys. 

The power of measurement in treatment planning

Self-reported measures, completed by clients and reviewed collaboratively in session, can be a powerful tool for building treatment plans. These measures often pinpoint specific symptoms needing attention. The therapist and client can then work together to identify areas for focus and set targeted treatment goals based on the areas of highest symptom severity. See the following examples for how measurement survey results can support effective treatment planning.

*Please note, the below are only examples and are not prescriptive.

Example clinical goal

Reduce frequency and intensity of [XXXX] (i.e., anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms, etc.) so that daily functioning (i.e., at school and in relationships) is no longer impaired.

Non-measurable objectives to avoid:

  • “Client will attend therapy”
  • “Client will have less anxiety.” 
  • “Client will gain insight into anxiety symptoms” 
  • “Client will isolate less” 
  • “Client will learn about what’s behind their depression”

Why avoid these non-measurable objectives? 

In all of the above examples, it would be difficult to measure progress as they are non-specific and non-measurable. How would we measure how much “insight” someone has gained? What does isolate less even look like? What would a client actually be doing to have “less anxiety”? Instead consider the following examples. 

Example treatment objective #1

The following example treatment objective focuses on item number 1 on the GAD-7 assessment where clients will self-report the frequency of the symptom: “Feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge.”

  • Example objective: “Client will engage in 2 grounding exercises each morning on the bus prior to entering school building to aid in reduction of social anxiety.”
  • Measuring this objective: “Reduction of score on GAD-7 item #1 from a 3 (“Nearly every day” ) to a 1 (“several days”) over the next 6 sessions, client self-report and therapist observation.”

Example treatment objective #2

The following example treatment objective focuses on item number 7 on the GAD-7 assessment where clients will self-report the frequency of the symptom: “Feeling afraid, as if something awful might happen.”

  • Example objective: “Client will use 4 square breathing and coping card to reduce panic attacks from 6 times per week (currently) to 2 times per week or less.”
  • Measuring this objective: “Reduction of anxiety symptoms on GAD-7 total score from baseline of 19 (severe) to 13 (moderate) over the next 8 sessions, client self-report and therapist observation.”

Example treatment objective #3

The following example treatment objective focuses on item number 6 on the PHQ-9 assessment where clients will self-report the frequency of the symptom: “Negative self-perception, feeling like a failure or letting oneself or family down.”

  • Example objective: “Client will use the notes app on their phone as a thought log to capture cognitive distortions, and replace it with a balanced thought, daily for the next 4 weeks, to identify and reduce negative self-talk that contributes to increased depression. 
  • Measuring this objective: “Reduction of score on PHQ-9 item #6 from a 3 (“Nearly every day”) to a 1 (“several days”) over the next 4 weeks, client self-report and therapist observation.”

Example treatment objective #4

The following example treatment objective focuses on item number 3 on the PHQ-9 assessment where clients will self-report the frequency of the symptom: “Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or sleeping too much.”

  • Example objective: “Client will use progressive muscle relaxation and guided mindfulness practices each night 30 minutes prior to bed to increase ability to fall asleep for the next 8 weeks, in order to improve sleep quality and decrease lethargy during the day”
  • Measuring this objective: “Reduction of depressive symptoms on PHQ-9 total score from baseline of 15 (Moderately severe) to 11 (moderate) over the next 8 weeks, client self-report and therapist observation. “

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