Did you know reviewing your consent form with your clients is your first opportunity to start a meaningful conversation about therapy? Seriously, it's way more than just a form. So don't think your first session has to be this super impersonal time reviewing paperwork.
Let's jump straight into the three ways you can turn your form into a meaningful conversation...
1. Personalize it.
Many therapists think their consent form has to be super formal since it's a legal document. But who says?! Bring your personality to the table right away. If you and your clients are more formal, keep it that way; but if you tend to be more relaxed or playful then add that to your language.
Use language such as "you" and "we" instead of "client" whenever you can. Break up the form so it's not a long box of text. Think through what therapy looks like with you and include as many of those pieces as possible.
Another way to personalize your consent form is to add cultural pieces to it. Make sure the form is relevant to your specific population. Work with kids? Address things like what will happen if a parent asks details about a session. Work with couples? Address what confidentiality will look like if one person asks for records later on.
It's simply a conversation about how therapy looks, as realistically as you can offer.
2. Create the framework for the relationship.
This is your chance to put into words the role you play as the counselor. What's expected of you? What's not expected of you? What limitations do you have in your role? What are common misconceptions you encounter that it's important to address?
It's also your opportunity to share what is the client's role. We all know this is a key component of the "success" of the therapeutic relationship... the client's motivation and expectations. However, very few therapists actually discuss with clients what they expect of them.
This means concrete things like arriving to sessions on time and paying for missed sessions without prior cancellation but it also means a lot more. Do you tend to assign homework? Do you expect clients to follow through with things in between sessions? Do you expect clients to talk or participate in other ways?
These are all key elements to ensuring your clients are aware of the coming journey with you.
3. Use the form to initiate questions from your clients.
This is the time when you want clients to ask questions about therapy. You want to know what their concerns are. Have they had any previous experiences with counseling and was it positive or negative? What do they expect to happen?
All of these things turn a conversation about a form into what it was originally intended to be- a conversation about the relationship. I like to say that your consent form is simply proof you actually talked with your clients about the limitations and benefits of therapy.
I hope this helps you to change your thinking a little about what an informed consent form can be. My goal is always to help you create more meaning in your documentation... which coincidentally also makes it easier and more simple.
If you'd like to learn even more about ways to make you consent form that much better, sign up for my free October training series**. This week is all about informed consent and I've got even more tips for those who sign up.