How to Write a Summary of Counseling Sessions

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Proper notes for counseling sessions are an important aspect of effective treatment.
Proper notes for counseling sessions are an important aspect of effective treatment. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Progress notes are used by counselors to track sessions with clients. If you're working with a new client, you'll complete an intake interview, and develop a treatment plan. Once you have the treatment plan in place, you'll begin to work on goals during your weekly or biweekly counseling sessions. Many counselors use progress notes and written summaries to document the quality and effectiveness of the treatment process. You may find that you use the notes in the long term to assess possible patterns, problem behaviors or improvements in client health.

Use at least one page per session to summarize you notes. You may choose to use photocopied forms and write your notes by hand, or you can create a computerized template and type your notes after the session. Your forms should always include the client's name, diagnosis, treatment plan, and pertinent information at the top.

Note specifics, such as client concerns or your observations and interpretations about the client. It's important to track the client's mood, demeanor and, even, personal appearance. If she's anxious or depressed, for example, she may have a hard time concentrating or explaining her ideas, and she may appear disheveled or even fatigued. As you note these observations, over time you'll likely see possible patterns and even improvements.

Prepare a summary of the counseling sessions by rereading each of the individual session's notes. Review the progress and note specific treatment goals that have been reached. For example, if a goal was to use regular exercise as a treatment for depression, you can asses the extent to which the client has reached this goal. You'll need to summarize the client's initial reason for seeking therapy and the length of time she attended counseling. You can then summarize how the client communicated and determine whether the counseling process resulted in an noteworthy changes.

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