We suggest that people interested in developing a counseling relationship schedule three sessions for an initial evaluation to discuss presenting issues and identify their aspirations and goals. This allows for a mutual assessment to be sure there is a fit between what the client is looking for and what the counselor has to offer. During the third session, a contract and time-line is established which includes the number of sessions and the agreed upon goals.
Goals are measurable behavioral changes clients are seeking to make in their lives. Clients are guided to write down goals in their own words. Some examples include: to communicate better with my spouse, family, friends and colleagues; to be able to speak up and be assertive when I have something important to say; to find healthy ways to cope with stress, anxiety and/or depression; to develop a more balanced life which includes good sleep hygiene, healthy nutritional eating, sufficient exercise, play and relaxation. In one example, a client might set two or three goals and spend 12 sessions over 3-4 months to work on them. A mutual understanding of concrete goals and focus on desired outcomes provides both clients and counselor with helpful guideposts throughout the consultation period.
At the end of the agreed upon time-frame, the client reviews progress made on his/her goals to date. This also provides an opportunity to change their goals/focus and re-contract for more time if desired. Subsequently, people can seek counseling or consultation on an intermittent or as-needed basis.