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Coaching Agreements & Therapy Contracts
© Martyn Carruthers

Click HERE to make an appointment!

We offer coaching, seminars and training on family therapy,
systemic coaching, avoiding burnout, family secrets and relationship bonds.

Coaching, Counseling & Therapy Contracts

Although your choice of a therapy or coaching style may be made by an insurance company or a clinic, you can ensure that it is appropriate for you and your family. Good intentions, polite manners or a positive outlook do not necessarily mean effective changework with healthy consequences.

Most service providers use offers and service contracts to clarify their conditions. Life coaching, marriage counseling and family therapy can follow similar rules. Yet many therapy, counseling and coaching contracts often only specify that:

  • a client must pay the practitioner
  • a client must trust the practitioner
  • a client must obey the practitioner
  • a practitioner guarantees no results

Read the advertising for coaches, counselors and therapists. You will find offers to increase love, generate enthusiasm or create positive impact. You will rarely find offers for specific changes. While this might be appropriate for people who cannot make decisions, most people can and will make healthy choices - if choices are offered.

How can you check which modality of change would be best for you without learning all methodologies? And how can you check the professionalism of a coach or therapist without purchasing sessions? You can seek detailed offers and tests for success.

Detailed Offers

You are the expert about what you want - and about how you want it. During our systemic coaching, we offer you many choices, and we honor your choices. We help you explore the likely consequences of your choices and check alternative ways that you can achieve your goal, or whether you prefer to change your goals or your way of achieving them.

Tests for Success

If you are enmeshed in emotional entanglements or overwhelmed by a crisis or trauma, you may be unable to define your goals. You may even be unable to describe your complaints. You may assume that a practitioner can magically provide something you need - perhaps emotional clarity.

Nobody can guarantee your state. As you gain clarity about your life - you may find yourself happy or depressed! Your state provides important information! If you focus on unpleasant feelings, you can find ways to resolve the causes. If your sense of life is programmed, for example by hypnosis or medication, your good feelings may have the high cost of losing essential information about your life.


Clarify what a practitioner actually offers. If you ask a practitioner for offers, you may hear rather abstract phrases, such as increase love, add positive impact, generate enthusiasm or achieve enlightenment. Ask for details. Ask for evidence.

You can ask "How would I know whether your offer of increased love adds to my positive impact?" (You may have to wade through abstractions before you understand the answer.)

Or you can ask yourself "What would convince me that I have generated enthusiasm or achieved enlightenment, or whatever else was offered?"

Check if you want that goal, and, if you do achieve it - then what comes next? If you have successfully increased your love, etc, what would you want to do with it?

Do practitioners walk their talk - or stumble their mumble? Which practitioners enjoy happy relationships? Which practitioners show emotional stability and empathy when talking about difficult issues? Which practitioners focus on your goals and complaints - instead of their own theories? Who offers tests for your success? Who discusses alternatives to their psycho-theologies?

Trust & Compliance

A therapy contract may require that you establish trust, build rapport or accept openness as if you may otherwise distrust, prevent rapport or withhold openness. Does a practitioner demand your trust - or work to earn your trust? Sometimes "You can trust me" is a way to say "Obey me without question"

Beware if someone tries to take a parent knows best attitude about your life. Beware if you are asked to do things without explanation. Beware if a practitioner ignores the potential consequences of your choices, or ignores alternate ways that you can fulfill your goals.

You can trust people to do whatever is in their own best interest. What could be in the best interest of a person who wants to control you? (See Spiritual Abuse & Mentor Damage)

How long does it take?

Imagine a mechanic who tells you "Just bring your car in for an hour or two every week until your engine is ready to change". Or a plumber who says "I will intuit what is wrong with your water system and send energy to your pipes in ways that you cannot possibly understand".

While you are more complex than a mechanical system, you can risk being called a difficult client - and ask for offers that include expected results, by when and how expensive.

When should you fire a service provider?

Do you want to contribute to someone's income stream for an indeterminate time? Discuss the end of a service at the start. Be clear that you want offers, choices and proof of success. Resist prolonging a paid friendship - it is important that you fly solo!

After two of your sessions, I said goodbye to my therapist of four years. She helped me do so many little things that I came to depend on her. She was so nice to me that I forgot that I was paying her well over $100 per hour to be my Mom. BC, Canada

Page 2: Effective Therapy & Coaching

Some say that therapists thrive on incompetence. Well promoted, less competent therapists may enjoy a better income than those whose clients achieve their desired goals in shorter times.

Others perceive therapy to be a waste of time and money. The time to achieve a desired goal can be perceived to be interminable and costly. There may also be a social stigma that "people who need therapy" are weak, lazy or unable to cope with ordinary life challenges.

Sometimes paid friendship may be exactly what you want. Do you want to feel understood, to feel accepted, to feel open without fear of rejection or criticism? You may leave a session happy if what you wanted that day was deep human conversation about important life issues.

Offers & Outcomes

Coaching agreements help practitioners and clients define coaching goals and therapy plans, and to test for success of defined goals.

You may be asked "What do you want?" as if you know all possible choices and their consequences, and can choose between them.

Some therapists believe that they can intuit your goals. They may infer, "I know better than you what you want!"

We enquire into your situation and offer choices. e.g. "Do you already know what you want; or do you want to explore what possibilities exist; or do you want guidance through life until you can find your own way?"

Boundaries and Limits

A coaching or therapeutic relationship can help you achieve your goals. Yet a friendly word can become a touch, a touch can become a date, and a practitioner can become a victimizer.

Maintaining boundaries is an essential part of a healthy relationship. Although boundaries create a space for development and change, a contract cannot control a practitioner's or your entanglements, thoughts or fantasies. Despite good intentions, you may feel yourself drawn outside your boundaries.

A contract can include Plagiarism is theft. Copyright. If you give out materials that you designed, you can set the rules about your intellectual rights. Would you want your materials to be freely distributed by your clients?

Contracts can focus relationships. For example, a contract may include or exclude massage or touching, meeting outside sessions, sharing or withholding information and the limits of confidentiality. Some questions can provide useful feedback for both practitioner and client.

  • How might a practitioner avoid harming a client?
  • Which elements of a contract are essential to maintain boundaries?
  • Which elements of a contract can only be described as convenience?
  • When would a contract become an obstacle to creativity and change?

Coaching / Therapy Contract A

This coaching contract ignores the client's goals, the practitioner's role and the services to be offered.

This contract relieves a practitioner of responsibility and denies both practitioner and client opportunities to compare offers with results.

I, <client's name> take full responsibility for all actions that I take as a result of coaching. I understand that <coach or therapist's name> is not qualified to give legal, financial or medical advice.
I agree to:
  • Take action daily toward my goals
  • Be present and prepared for my coaching sessions
  • Be honest about my challenges and what I want to achieve
  • Generate my own solutions
  • Speak up immediately if anything bothers me about my coaching
  • Strongly request what I need for coaching to be effective for me

I commit to work with <practitioner> for a minimum of ... months, in ... sessions per calendar month, from ... through ... I agree to pay the coming monthly fee by the 1st of each month.

Coaching / Therapy Contract B

This contract loosely defines how coaching may be provided.

This contract does not define any offer, nor criteria for success.

Neither practitioner nor client can determine whether most of the agreements are fulfilled.

The coach, therapist or practitioner undertakes:
1. I will not solve your problems.
2. I will work to help you make the changes that you choose
3. I will help you develop the skills you wish to master.
4. I will treat you with respect and consideration.
5. I will regularly review your progress.
6. I will keep your personal contact information private.
7. I will not disclose information about you

The client undertakes:
1. I take full responsibility for resolving my own problems.
2. I will be punctual for sessions and give notice of cancellation.
3. I will pay the session fee if I cancel a session with less than 48 hours notice.
4. I will complete assigned exercises and homework
5. I will consult with a medical doctor if advised to do so
6. If I do not complete my work, my coaching may be terminated.
7. I will pay all fees, in full, at time of session or in advance.

A useful coaching contract can include a schedule for sessions, costs and payment terms and which services are chargeable. We find that systemic coaching moves along easier and clearer if we make written agreements detailing our offer, what the client pays and what the client receives.

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Plagiarism is theft. Copyright © Martyn Carruthers 2001-2010 All rights reserved.

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Solve Emotional & Relationship Issues

Have You Suffered Enough?

 Where are you now? Understand your emotions, fixations and enmeshments
What do you want? Know your life goals and how you sabotage yourself
Do you feel resourceful? Develop your inner resources with Dreamwork
Do emotions block you? Resolve relationship problems and mentor damage
Do beliefs limit you? Change your limiting beliefs and end dependence
Do you feel connected? Resolve identity loss to recover your lost resources
Is your partner happy? Build healthy partnership (or separate peacefully)
Are your children healthy? Happy parents can better manage family problems
Do you want team success? Team leaders and top teams can develop together
Do you have complex goals? Specialty coaching, counseling, therapy & training

Plagiarism is theft. Copyright © Martyn Carruthers 1996-2016 All rights reserved. Soulwork Systemic Coaching was primarily developed by Martyn Carruthers
to help people solve emotional problems and relationship conflicts to achieve their goals. These concepts and strategies are for general knowledge only. Consult a physician about medical conditions and before changing medical treatment. Don't steal intellectual property ... get permission to post, publish or teach Martyn's work.