I talk a lot about notes. People ask me a lot about notes. Therapists write a TON of notes!
However, the really ironic thing is that we rarely consider how notes actually matter for clients. We just write them out of duty, and often with disdain.
Now, if you've decided that you hate writing notes, you'll always hate writing notes, and there's absolutely nothing that can be done about it, you're right. Nothing will change and you'll spend your entire career resentful about what probably takes up at least 25% (if not 50%) of your work time.
However, if you dare to consider the possibility that notes could actually have value for your clients, I guarantee you'll see a considerable shift in your feelings about writing notes.
I'm not talking about the legal stuff or insurance here. We all know that notes have value as a source of proving you provided a service or showing you acted ethically when seeing a client. But let's face it, that's not a very motivating factor for most counselors.
You need a connection to the transformation you see in the room.
I get it. So I've got some strategies to help you cross that bridge from mundane to meaningful.
1. Identify your client's voice. Progress notes are a way for you to help identify your client's thoughts, insights, and story. You are translating the (sometimes messy) process in the room. Help them tell their story as the final step in your session.
2. Picture your client next to you when writing. If you imagine that your client were reading each note it changes the way you write. And you know what? That's a real possibility. It's rare, but it could happen. Your clients have the right to see their notes. So consider their their feelings, their interpretation. What would stand out to them and what is their takeaway?
3. Imagine your client telling a close friend about the session. Similar to the above, this strategy helps you to make writing notes a truly reflective process. Stop for a minute and think "what would my client say about this session?" What feelings would they identify? What seemed to matter most to them? What would they say about your actions and responses during the session?
4. Get your client involved. One strategy that scares a lot of therapists is to actually include their clients in the note-writing process. I explain this strategy in detail in this blog post. This isn't for everyone but it can be very empowering for both the client and the therapist who struggles with time management. It's fascinating to review with your clients how they would document each session and often creates a greater understanding of the process as a whole.
5. Imagine this as a journal entry. Your notes are a way of documenting your client's journey in treatment with you. Sometimes this simple mindset shift can create more meaning. These notes are more than just a legal document, they're your way to look back on success and powerful moments later on.
It's hard to think of notes as boring and mundane when you look at them through this lens. This is the approach I take with all documentation and I hope it creates true meaning for you. If you're interested in a free training series on making notes more meaningful, click here.
I love sharing new strategies and creating ways to make meaning for therapists. If you've got some tips of your own, feel free to comment below and share with us!
In the meantime, happy (meaningful) writing!