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Behavior Contract Template for Mental Health

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

If you are a mental health professional working with a client's on their behavior, you might want to use a contract to help make changes. This lesson offers a template for a contract you can use to work through issues related to mental health.

Using a Behavior Contract

As a mental health professional, you know how often the way someone is feeling influences the way they behave. Some people who are depressed or anxious hurt themselves or others and it may well be that these tendencies are the focus of your treatment plan. Though changing someone's underlying feelings and motivations may take a very long time, you will often want to start by changing their surface behaviors. One way you can do this is to use a behavior contract.

As with any contract, a mental health behavior contract explains the desired outcomes and stipulates what all parties involved agree to do in order to maintain compliance with the contract. Often, a contract will also explain what happens if the patient stops complying. Signatures will demonstrate everyone's agreement to the terms of the contract.

It's important to remember that when you make a mental health behavior contract, you are never targeting a patient's emotions; rather, you are focusing exclusively on behaviors. Keep your contract clear and realistic, make sure everyone involved understands the contract, and ensure that your client is motivated to make the necessary changes. If a patient is not ready and committed to making changes, the contract is unlikely to succeed.

Mental Health Contract Template

There are many different ways to write a mental health behavior contract, but the template in this lesson will help you get started. Though customization is part of the contract development process, at the least, behavior contracts should include a clear heading, a specific goal, the elements of the agreement, an outline for the consequences should an agreement be broken, and signatures.

Heading

Giving your contract a clear heading will make it look official and will help everyone remember exactly what it is. For instance:

  • Kathy's Food Behavior Contract
  • Jack's Hurting Things Behavior Contract

Goal

Next, you will want to clearly and simply define the purpose and desired outcome of the contract. Make the goal(s) indisputable, so that you can easily assess whether the goal(s) has been achieved. For example:

  • The purpose of this contract is to make sure Kathy eats three balanced meals and one snack per day to achieve her target weight of 115-120 pounds.
  • This contract is being put in place to make sure Jack stops hurting animals and other people's property with weapons, objects, or his hands and body.

Patient Agreements

This is, in some sense, the most important section of the contract. Here, the patient will have to agree to very specific behavioral changes and plans that will ensure the achievement of the eventual goals. Try to separate each behavior into its component parts. Here are some examples of patient agreements; there will likely be several for each contract.

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