How to Write a Family Contract For Counseling

Written by michelle blessing
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How to Write a Family Contract For Counseling
Be sure the family understands the contract prior to signing to prevent any legal problems. (signing a contract image by William Berry from

Creating a contract to utilise during counselling can assist both the therapist and family during sessions. A contract can keep the family on target with identified goals, set structure and rules for each session, and let the family know what to expect throughout the duration of therapy. The contract can set forth payment arrangements and grounds for termination also. A contract is a legally binding document, so be sure to explain all aspects and have the family involved during the entire process.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Arrange to meet with all family members who will be participating in counselling. Any family member over the age of 14 can sign the contract for themselves; the parents will need to sign for any minors.

  2. 2

    Discuss the benefits and risks of receiving counselling. Ask each family member to discuss the goals they would like accomplish during counselling, and write all goals down on a piece of paper. Be sure all the goals identified are realistic. Have the family agree on three to five goals to start. Write these goals down in the "Treatment" section of the contract.

  3. 3

    Review the counselling confidentiality policy. Explain that most conversations will be kept between yourself and the family, with a few exceptions. Those exceptions will include reporting incidents of suspected or validated abuse or neglect or if a family member is deemed a threat to himself or others.

  4. 4

    Have each family member sign release forms giving you permission to speak to outside parties if necessary. Explain to the family why it would be necessary to discuss the counselling session with this person; for example, you may discuss progress or problems with your supervisor as a means to assist in the family's therapy.

  5. 5

    Review the attendance expectations with the family. Let the family know how often you will be meeting with them (weekly, bi-weekly, or some other duration) and explain the importance of keeping every appointment.

    Explain the cancellation procedure to the family--who to call if they can not make an appointment and any fees involved with a missed appointment--and document all this information in the contract.

  6. 6

    Discuss your fees, billing procedures, record-keeping policies and any other information you deem relevant to the family's counselling. You can also talk about the expected duration of the counselling sessions and schedule any progress check-ups or meetings. Document all dates, fees and miscellaneous information in the family counselling contract.

  7. 7

    Review the contract with the family and clarify any questions. Make any necessary changes to the contract at this time. Once all the parties are satisfied with the goals, rules, fees and other information, have each family member sign the contract. You need to sign the contract and provide each family member with a copy. Keep a copy for your own records.

Tips and warnings

  • Explain to each family member that counselling is not a cure. Counselling techniques discussed or taught during sessions need to be practised and utilised in order for the family to see results, and there is no guarantee of success or change.

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