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Creating an Effective Treatment Plan for Anxiety: What to Include + Example

Treatment plans are comprehensive documents crafted by mental health professionals working with clients who are experiencing an array of behavioral health concerns, including developmental disorders, mental health disorders, and substance use disorders.  These documents can serve as a road map for therapy, identifying specific, and realistic goals that clients are working towards, and smaller objectives that can be accomplished while working towards achieving a main goal. Keep reading to learn how to create a treatment plan for anxiety.

Setting Goals and Objectives With Clients in Your Anxiety Treatment Plan

Treatment plans should be client specific, and align with your clients motivations. It is helpful to keep in mind the stages of change when identifying goals because clients may have thoughts or ideas about goals that they could work towards, yet not be ready to make strides towards them, and that’s okay! Meeting your client where they are, and not pushing them towards goals they aren’t 100% sold on can help preserve and enhance your therapeutic relationship.

When we look specifically at anxiety, research has shown that the most effective treatment options include psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, or the combination of both. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is known as one of the most effective evidence-based therapies for anxiety symptoms and related anxiety disorders. Depending on your clients presenting concerns and challenges, other therapeutic approaches that have supporting research include psychodynamic therapy, behavioral therapy, and exposure therapies.  Commonly used medications for anxiety include SSRI’s and SNRI’s. 

Before we delve into treatment plan goals and objectives for anxiety, let’s take a few moments to identify a hypothetical case that can be used to discuss treatment plan development.

View our Counseling treatment Plan that corresponds with this resource or view all of our Anxiety Worksheets

Example Client:

Your client is a 29-year-old male who sought help for his anxiety symptoms. He has no history of mental health concerns, abuse or neglect, and noted that his current symptoms began 6 months ago. He was unable to think of any life changes that precipitated his symptoms. Your client reported feeling restless, fatigued, irritable, and explained that he struggles to “quiet” his mind at the end of the day. Client expressed difficultly staying focused at work, and feeling as though his symptoms are impacting his work performance. He noted that he is happy with his career and that his employers are happy with his output, he has positive relationships with his family, and has limited social support outside of his immediate family and small group of friends. 

Anxiety Treatment Goal Example 1

Examples of goals and objectives that may be included in your treatment plan include:

Goal: Decrease symptoms severity

  • Objective: Attend counseling sessions regularly, as scheduled
  • Objective: Begin using relaxation techniques including deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation when symptoms arise
  • Objective: Keep a running log of symptoms including when they are present, how long they last, any triggers that caused them, and note if they had a negative impact on level of functioning 

Anxiety Treatment Goal Example 2

Goal: Improve personal coping skills

  • Objective: Participate in psychoeducational sessions that teach about anxiety, and effective coping skills that can be used in response to symptoms
  • Objective: Implement mindfulness practices into routine to promote present-moment awareness throughout the day
  • Objective: Apply cognitive-restructuring strategies to address unhealthy automatic thoughts that may arise when symptoms are present
  • Objective: Begin incorporating positive affirmations, self-compassion, and self-care into routine to promote positive self-esteem 

Anxiety Treatment Goal Example 3

Goal: Strengthen emotion regulation skills

  • Objective: Identify cognitive distortions through use of cognitive restructuring
  • Objective: Engage in regular physical activity for a holistic approach incorporating natural ways to reduce stress
  • Objective: Actively practice emotion regulation skills, including mindfulness and distress tolerance skills
  • Objective: Develop and implement a relaxation routine that includes mindfulness practices such as deep breathing and meditations, promoting awareness of emotions and emotional states

These goals and objectives are examples that are tailored to typical symptoms associated with anxiety. This client has a mild presentation and appears to be high functioning, clients who experience more severe symptoms, or those with a specific anxiety disorder, like phobias, will likely have more detailed or personalized goals and objectives on their treatment plan. 

What to Include in a Treatment Plan for Anxiety

Ideally, clinicians complete their treatment plan in conjunction with their client. If you are unable to do so in a session, you can use the information you have learned about your client from their initial assessment and previous sessions to complete a drafted treatment plan, that you can then review with your client in their next session. In addition to goals and objectives, other information that can be helpful to incorporate into your treatment plan include:

Agencies Involved and Plans for Care Coordination

Other professionals involved in care coordination should be identified, and you may choose to include their appropriate contact information. Depending on your client, this can include a prescribing doctor such as a Psychiatrist or Primary Care Physician, Social Worker, or Case Manager.

Clinical Diagnoses

Your treatment plan should include any clinical diagnoses that have been established, and may include the assessment dates, if known.  If you completed the necessary assessments and evaluations yourself, you can include the specific tools that were used to support your listed diagnoses or concerns. This can serve as a reminder for future use for a comparison of results.

Mental health concerns that are currently being managed, or those that are not impacting your clients presenting concern can still be identified on your treatment plan, as they may or may not begin to exhibit symptoms down the road.

Current Medications and Responses

Psychotropic medications are another item that you can include in your treatment plan, including the dosage and frequency of use. You may also include the noticeable changes your client has experienced while taking their medication.

Presenting Problem and Related Symptoms

This section of your treatment plan will provide a comprehensive description of your client’s current challenges, and the symptoms they experience. This section should provide details about your client’s current challenges and how they are impacting their every-day-life. When describing symptoms, you can make note of their frequency, intensity, and any triggers that bring them on. Make a note of when the symptoms and presenting problem began appearing. This section should directly influence the goals and objectives included in the next section.

Goals and Objectives

The” meat and potatoes” of your treatment plan is going to be the identified goals and objectives. Treatment goals are overarching, sometimes long-term, goals that your client is working towards. These goals should be realistic, specific, and attainable, and you may even choose to include several goals within one treatment plan. This allows your treatment plan to be used as an evaluation of progress as time progresses. Each goal will have a set of objectives, or smaller steps that need to be accomplished for the main goal to be met. Objectives tend to be short-term, allowing clients to recognize and celebrate smaller steps towards their identified goals. For many, goals can feel overwhelming and daunting, which can contribute to resistance or self-sabotage behaviors. Smaller steps can have a positive effect on this by showing clients that the work they are putting in matters, and that their efforts are making a difference in their life, even if they cannot see it at the moment.

Specific Interventions to Be Used

Keeping in mind best practices and evidence-based methods, you can list the specific therapeutic approach and interventions that will be used to support your client as they work towards their treatment goals. Mental health concerns are often diverse like the individuals living with them, which means that cookie-cutter treatment plans are often ineffective and don’t meet expectations. This may take a bit of research and practice in the beginning of your career, however, many clinicians often become fluent in their skill set as they gain more experience. If you ever feel as though you could use additional training or support, continuing education courses could be a valuable resource for you.

Family Involvement

This section will vary from client to client, as it is completely dependent on their situation. Children, adolescents, and teens will likely have family involved in their treatment. This can include family therapy sessions, or educational sessions for loved ones about the mental health concern at hand. Family involvement can include parents, partners or spouses, siblings, and children.

Additional Services and Interventions

Additional services and interventions being used may tie into the care coordination section at the beginning of your treatment plan, and indicate other services being used. This may or may not be relevant to each client.

Estimation for Completion

Treatment plans should have areas to make note of review dates, as this should be done regularly to check-in on progress being made. Treatment plan reviews provide you with an opportunity to modify goals if the client’s presenting concern has shifted, and to formulate new ones if they have accomplished a previously identified goal. As with other components on your treatment plan, your termination date and aftercare plan can be modified to meet your clients’ needs as time progresses.

Aftercare Plans

Aftercare plans are an important portion of a treatment plan because it can provide appropriate referrals or plans if your client was to end or terminate treatment before they complete their treatment goals. Your aftercare plan can include referrals for continued treatment, support group, peer lead groups, primary care or prescribing physicians for medications, and community resources available to them. 

Final Thoughts On Creating a Treatment Plan for Anxiety

Once you have completed your treatment plan, you can then focus on clinical work with your client. Some find the use of worksheets enhance and guide therapeutic sessions, and serve as a reminder of important talking points for clients when they return home. It can take time to digest information we share during sessions, which is why having a sheet to take home can help clients interpret and relate to material discussed. TherapyByPro offers various worksheets that can be used in therapy and counseling sessions, including this Anxiety Worksheet Bundle.  

Treatment plans can be used to provide structure in clinical settings, and help clinician’s plan ahead for sessions while respecting their clients individualized needs and goals. When the framework for therapy is established, you can plug in evidence-based approaches that will effectively support your client as they work towards their goals, and help them recognize the personal growth they have made while engaging in therapy.

TherapyByPro is an online mental health directory that connects mental health pros with clients in need. If you’re a mental health professional, you can Join our community and add your practice listing here. We have assessments, practice forms, and worksheet templates mental health professionals can use to streamline their practice. View all of our mental health worksheets here.

View our Counseling treatment Plan that corresponds with this resource or view all of our Anxiety Worksheets

Resources:

  • “Anxiety Disorders.” National Institute of Mental Health. Accessed March 20, 2024. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders.
  • Bandelow, Borwin et al. “Treatment of anxiety disorders.” Dialogues in clinical neuroscience vol. 19,2 (2017): 93-107. doi:10.31887/DCNS.2017.19.2/bbandelow 
Anthony Bart
Author: Anthony Bart

Anthony Bart is a huge mental health advocate. He has primarily positioned his marketing expertise to work with mental health professionals so that they can help as many patients as possible. He is currently the owner of BartX, TherapistX, and TherapyByPro.

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