How long are assessments and treatment plans good for?

By David Joel Miller.

When do you have to do a new assessment or treatment plan?


Photo courtesy of

At 1st glance, it would seem like we ought to be able to come up with a specific number to answer this question. It’s a whole lot more complicated than that. Think of this like asking how long the food you buy at the grocery store is good for. The correct answer should be – it all depends.

For the counselor or therapist, this matters because redoing assessments and treatment plans can take a lot of time, time you would rather be spending with the client. For clients, this comes up when they must redo paperwork they have completed previously.

Three possible answers to these questions, the theoretical answer, the answer that pleases the funding source, and the program’s policies.

Theoretical reasons to reassess.

There’s a difference between an assessment, the form you fill out, and assessment, the process. Initially, the counselor does an assessment to gather information, define the client’s problem, and develop a plan for treatment. This process is documented by filling in an assessment form. The information should be used to develop a plan of care.

Assessment, the process, continues throughout treatment. Any time new information becomes available, the assessment, the diagnosis, and the plan of care, may need to be revised. If it’s a small piece of information, a note in the chart may be sufficient. If a whole new problem is discovered, it may require a new assessment.

Reassessing is primarily a matter of clinical judgment. As long as the client stays in treatment and nothing changes, the original assessment should still be valid. Presumably, a client in treatment should be getting better. At some point, it would be good practice to reassess to verify whether the original problem still exists and needs treatment.

Clients who leave treatment, and then return, should be interviewed, to see if anything has changed, and a new treatment plan is developed.

Funding sources have their assessment rules.

People who pay for other people’s treatment what to know they’re getting their money’s worth. Insurance companies, criminal justice, Medi-Cal, Drug Medi-Cal, Medicare, Medicaid, may all have varying requirements. A lot of the rules beginning counselors learn about how long assessments and treatment plans are good for come from the rules of the funding source their program works with.

Your program or agency’s rules about treatment plans and assessments.

Some agencies set their own policies and procedures for how long an assessment and treatment plan are good for. One agency locally creates treatment plans good for a full year, another creates treatment plans for 90 days, and does updates every 30 days. When an agency works with multiple funding streams, they frequently do their assessments and new treatment plans frequently enough to satisfy the funding stream with the shortest time requirement.

Thanks to the reader who sent in the original question on this topic. I hope it helps you understand why there’s so much variation in how frequently assessments and treatment plans are done and revised.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books