Better, Faster Treatment Plans

Treatment plans are the number one thing people search on Google to find QA Prep! That tells me there are LOTS of questions from mental health therapists about this topic.

In this quick video I'm sharing with you one easy way you can improve the quality of your treatment plans while also saving yourself time.

Not too keen on watching a video? Then read the highlights below!

I'm not quite sure why treatment planning turned into something we have to do for paperwork's sake instead of something we do for a real purpose. But unfortunately, it did. And I hope to change that with this tip: 

One easy way to make your treatment plans more meaningful to you and your clients is to write the treatment plan with the client in the room.

I know, I know... a lot of clinicians don't like to do this! They're worried that doing paperwork with a client will negatively impact the relationship and create a barrier. However, when done with care, it actually has a different impact. 

Here are some benefits of writing treatment plans with clients:

  • You'll be able to use your client's own words to describe their concerns, needs and goals

  • You're able to receive immediate feedback on what they want out of therapy or how they view the counseling process

  • You can share with them what your involvement is in the therapeutic process

So, if you've never tried doing this before and treatment plans are a hassle for you, try it out!

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Productivity Hack for Writing Case Notes

I've got a quick tip for you that can dramatically improve your productivity when writing case notes and catching up on paperwork!

In this video I share with you the Pomodoro Technique, a popular time management strategy for getting tasks done.

The key to the Pomodoro Technique is taking breaks! Do NOT skip this part and when you're trying it out make sure you stick to the schedule. 

This is one of the strategies we use for the weekly Get Notes Done Hour in the Meaningful Documentation Academy, as well as our quarterly Get Notes Done Days... and people are really liking it!

Let me know how this strategy works for you in the comments below.

How My ADD Helped Me With Paperwork

Believe it or not, I was recently diagnosed with ADD. The reasons I was never diagnosed before now are clear. I've always received very good grades, was a genuinely good kid who never caused any trouble, am generally a responsible adult and... I've always been great with paperwork at any job I held.

While receiving the diagnosis was a huge relief for me to explain reasons I've had difficulty with many other areas of life, I began to question how I've been so successful with documentation. Yes, ADD looks very different in each person, but paperwork is supposed to be an almost universal problem for people with this diagnosis! How come it was never a problem for me?

After reflecting on this for quite some time I realized that many aspects of my ADD actually worked to my benefit in completing therapy notes. For real. Let me explain.

Below are some common problems associated with ADD/ADHD that I found I have been using to my benefit this whole time:


Now, this may seem really counterintuitive, but the fact that I regularly (meaning, ALWAYS) procrastinate pushed me to create very firm deadlines for myself when completing paperwork. I know that I can put something off for a really long time. And in my early years as a therapist, I actually had very little supervision regarding documentation, so it was up to me to create deadlines or become extremely backed up. 

While it wasn't easy, I focused on discipline and made sure that I scheduled in time for writing notes and completing assessments. I knew if I didn't schedule it, something else would inevitably take up that time and then, as described in the next reason, I would not be able to produce a quality note. 

Poor Memory

To put it bluntly, I have a horrible memory. So poor, in fact, that if I didn't write my notes within 24-48 hours, I would never be able to write them at all. The sooner, the better for me... and everyone else!

However, I do NOT write notes in between sessions. That just never worked for me. I need the break in between because I've just spent a good amount of energy keeping focus on my client and I need to recharge before the next one.

I either write notes in the session or the following morning, before starting the rest of my clinical day. That way I am able to feel ready for the day ahead and close out what was pending from before... and know it's accurate.


Here's where I truly used some ADD traits to my advantage. As many others with ADD/ADHD, I am able to hyperfocus for very long periods of time on things that are of interest to me. So, if I don't write notes in session, I write them in large chunks. That means I rarely sit down to write notes for 10-15 minutes. It's usually more like 45-60 minutes of getting everything done at once.

This means I don't have to pull attention away and I can get in the zone for writing. And because I know that distraction is around every corner, I'll often close my door and shut off things like email during these times.

I create an environment that encourages me to hyperfocus on the task and get it done.


Some of you may be thinking, sure you can hyperfocus if you like something, but what if you don't like a task... like writing notes?! Well, the key is to find something about it you do like. If you've taken my free Crash Course, you know I talk about creating meaning in your notes and preparing yourself for writing notes.

I literally choose to enjoy the task. First, I know it's a really important thing to do and that helps to motivate me in the beginning. Secondly, I look at writing notes as an opportunity for me to reflect on the clinical work. I view it as a time for me to sit back and see things from my client's point of view or to make sure I'm staying on track with our overall goals. 

It's never a time to just sit down and write notes that mean nothing. This is the time for me focus on my client's session one last time and make sure I've closed any open doors. 

Tips for Dealing with Paperwork for Counselors with ADD/ADHD

Maybe some of the things I've described above help you to see things a little differently or give you some helpful tips to try. But there are plenty more ways to deal with paperwork if you're a therapist with ADD/ADHD. You can also try some of these strategies below:

  • Choose a time that works for you. Make sure the time you're writing notes works to your strengths. For example, I focus better in the morning so that's when I'll write notes... or blog posts ;) 
  • Get accountability. It's scary to admit to another professional that you've gotten behind in paperwork. However, all of us therapists know that talking about something when we feel fear and shame is the best way to overcome those feelings. Even if it's simply shooting me an email, tell someone about the help you need.
  • Incorporate exercise or movement. If you tend to have difficulty sitting still for long periods of time, don't! Write a note, then do 10 push ups or squats. Write another, repeat. I've done this when reviewing paperwork for other people because it keeps me engaged and helps me focus.
  • Try collaborative documentation. If writing notes is a significant point of stress for you, write as much as possible in session with clients. This accomplishes a few things... it will actually help you to be more engaged in the process because your client is there and you're doing what you love- interacting with clients. It will also ensure that your notes are actually done before your client even leaves. No more worrying about procrastination!

While I want this post to provide you with some very practical tips you can implement immediately, I also want it to provide you with hope

I have been surprised by the number of therapists who tell me they have ADD/ADHD. Now, this could be due to the fact that I specialize in an area likely to cause trouble for counselors with ADD/ADHD but it has shown me there are many of us experiencing the same struggles.

You are not alone. And there are plenty of resources out there to help you. 

Consider doing things like bookmarking my Resources page so you have an easy place to reference helpful thing you may need later on but know you won't be able to keep track of today. Or check out my ebook Workflow Therapy, which compiles all of my time management and systems blogs into one place so you can have an easy resource for organization. 

If you're a licensed counselor or therapist, you may also want to consider signing up for my Webinar CE Club*, which provides you a guaranteed CE credit each month simply for watching my webinars and completing a quiz. No more worrying about searching for continuing education classes at the last minute! Set yourself up and be prepared.
*The Webinar CE Club no longer exists, but you can still access all my tips, trainings, and even more in my Meaningful Documentation Academy.

There are many other tips and resources I could list here! But I'd love to hear what other things you've found helpful for dealing with ADD/ADHD as a therapist or counselor. Share in the comments below and let's show our support for one another. 

The Comprehensive Note Writing Guide for Therapists

I've written quite a few blog posts on notes over the past few years. Side note: In case you're feeling overwhelmed by the thought of blogging or starting something new, I never thought I'd have this much written by now! Keep at it and be consistent :)

Anyway... I wanted to put what I consider some of my best tips for writing notes all in one easy-to-find spot. Below are articles I've written here on QA Prep, as well as some other gems I've written for other people's sites. 

See what applies to you and check out the related article. Notice something you'd like to work on at some point in the future? Schedule it in your calendar now and bookmark this page so you can follow up when you have time to focus

Reviewing and improving your notes is an ongoing process. Don't feel like you have to do it all at once or learn everything right away. But if you don't schedule it and make that a priority, it's likely one of those things that will fall by the wayside. So take 30 seconds to schedule that time right now.

Let's dive in...

Questions to ask yourself when writing notes

It's always nice to have some guidance when sitting down to write notes. In this article I outline four questions you can post somewhere to ask yourself before writing notes. This helps to put you in the right mindset and keep the content something you can be proud of. 

Consider who may read your notes

There are actually many people who could potentially read your client's case notes. In this article I review the three people who are most likely to do so and how to consider what each may be looking for. 

Create your own notes template with check boxes

A lot of people ask me about creating check boxes for the notes in order to save time. In this article I outline a sure-fire process for doing this in a way that will still capture the individualized needs of your clients, as well as your unique ways of providing therapy.

Choose a notes template that works for you

Although I talk about some common notes templates in my free Private Practice Paperwork Crash Crash, this article gives you a quick read with similar information. I review four common notes templates and how they may apply to your counseling practice. 

Figure out how long your notes need to be

In this article I give you an example of both a short and long note and we evaluate what type of information we can remove in order to make things more efficient. This article is especially helpful if you feel like you write too much in your notes and want to cut things down.

Review your notes to see how you're doing

In this recent article I share some strategies for how to review your documentation. This is something I think is very helpful when you're feeling stuck with a client, as well as when you're ending treatment or writing summary letters. 

Write notes that make insurance companies happy

Notes don't necessarily need to be very different if you contract with insurance panels, but there are things you consistently need to think about with your documentation. In this article I outline the most important things to focus on if you think an insurance company may want to see your notes some day.

Identify ways to save time on notes

Most therapists are looking for ways to save time when writing notes. While I do encourage you to make documentation a meaningful part of the clinical process, efficiency is always a great thing! In this article I give you a variety of strategies for saving time on notes... and you can try out most of them right away.

Catch up on notes if you've gotten behind

It's a horrible feeling to get behind in your notes. Overwhelm takes over and it can be very difficult to find a way to catch up. In this article I share a five step process for catching up on notes, no matter how far behind you are!

There you have it! A comprehensive list of how to improve your notes and think about them a little differently. If you'd like more help with notes and documentation in general, you can check out my online workshop The Counselor's Guide to Writing Notes**. I love seeing how people's fear of documentation shifts after they can see some examples. 

You can also check out my ebook, Workflow Therapy: Time Management and Simple Systems for Counselors. It's a compilation of my best tips and blogs on improving your efficiency and managing all the paperwork related items in your practice.

So whether or not I see you online or in person, happy writing. 

**The Counselor's Guide to Writing Notes is now included with membership to the Meaningful Documentation Academy.