A therapy blueprint is CBT tool which summarizes the work a therapist and patient have completed together. Patients can be encouraged to think of it as ‘the first session of the rest of your life’. Therapy blueprints are one way to help clients reflect on what they have learned during therapy. They act as a way of promoting resilience by reinforcing what has been learned. Therapy blueprints also act as a form of relapse prevention – by making new knowledge more accessible clients are more able to cope effectively with future setbacks.
The structure of a good therapy blueprint mirrors the process of therapy itself. Suggested areas for exploration include:
- Assessment: What were the problems? How did they develop?
- Formulation: What kept the problems going? Why did they not get better naturally? Were there any strategies with unintended consequences?
- Treatment: What new knowledge and skills did you develop? What techniques were practised?
- Reflection on progress: What can you do now? Looking back (past goals), looking forward (current goals)
- Relapse prevention: What obstacles and setbacks can you forsee? How will you cope? What helpful strategies might you implement?
Another helpful way of conceptualizing the therapy blueprint is to think of how it represents the past (the problems, what maintained them), the present (the therapy itself, new knowledge learned and skills developed) and the future (goals, plans, and strategies to manage setbacks). Therapists will find it helpful to introduce the therapy blueprint prior to the final session, and as early as the client is willing.
“A therapy blueprint is a helpful way to look back over therapy, reflect on what you have learned, and think about what has been important to you. We want to catch it now while it’s fresh in your mind. People often find that a therapy blueprint is a helpful reminder, once therapy is over, of things that they know are helpful for them. It’s also a helpful way for us to reflect on what skills it might be important for you to keep practising, to plan for triggers and things that might be difficult for you, and for us to set some goals for the future.”
- Wells, A. (1997). Cognitive therapy of anxiety disorders: a practice manual and conceptual guide. Wiley.