How Much Time Do We Spend Writing Notes?
Progress Notes Survey Results, Part 2
By Barbara Griswold, LMFT (August 22, 2019)
Thanks to everyone who took my Progress Notes Survey. I clearly struck a nerve: 499 of you answered the survey, and left more than 850 comments, sharing your stress, frustration, anger, and feelings of inadequacy around this area of your practices. This is the second in a series of articles where I report on the survey results (if you missed the first article, click here)
One of the goals of the survey was to find out how much time therapists spend writing progress notes each week. To do so, I first asked how many clients therapists see each week, and how much time they spend writing each progress note.
The survey asked, “on average, how many sessions do you have in a week you are working?” As you can see from the chart below, the most frequent response was 16-20 clients per week (25%), closely followed by those seeing 11-15 clients and those seeing 21-25 (both 21%). The rest were neatly spread out on the spectrum, with about 17% at 10 clients or less, and 17% at 26 or more.1
Next the survey asked, “on average, how many minutes do you think it takes you to write each session note?” As you can see from the chart below, answers were dispersed over the choices provided. But I now see I should have given choices above 10 minutes, since almost a quarter of all respondents (22%) said it took them 10 minutes or more for each note, and in the comments sections many of these providers clarified that they took 15, 20, or even 30 minutes for each note. On the other side of the spectrum, 11 respondents (2%) said they didn’t write session notes at all.2,3
So how much time DO we spend doing progress notes?
If we take these answers and then adjust for how many therapists said in the Comments Section (not reproduced here) that they spent 15 – 30 minutes doing each progress note, my best estimate of the average time respondents spend on each note is approximately 8 minutes. Next, put this together with the average number of clients reported per week — 16-20. This would mean if a therapist sees 18 clients in one week and spends 8 minutes per note, s/he is spending approximately 2 and a half hours each week — or 10 hours a month — just writing notes. And if you have more than 18 clients weekly, spend more time with each note, or have intake sessions, crisis/complex cases, extended sessions, couples/family sessions, groups, or consultations with other professionals, monthly note taking may take many more hours.
Want to spend less time but write better notes? Take my Progress Notes webinar (click here) or work with me privately (schedule your consult here). One respondent shared, “Barbara– Before our consultation, it took me 10 minutes or more to write a session note. After our consultation and your Progress Notes webinar, it now takes me less than 4 minutes each. Thank you!”
Next time: Survey Results continued: How do therapists keep progress notes (i.e. handwritten vs, electronic? Which are the most popular electronic record keeping programs? What are our biggest challenges with notes?
1,2 — Totals do not equal 100% since some respondents endorsed more than one choice, and/or made a comment instead.
3 – Some respondents noted that they either did not write progress notes, or felt minimal notes were allowable after the intake, with EAP cases, or when the therapist was not an insurance provider. Remember that keeping thorough progress notes for each date of serviceis required by most state laws, professional ethics codes, and licensing boards regardless of the client type or network participation, and even EAP and out of network providers can have notes requested in a licensing or ethics complaint, disability or worker’s compensation case, or treatment review.