What Is a BIRP Note?
BIRP notes are a template mental health professionals use to document their clients' progressions and treatment plans. BIRP is an acronym used to help clinicians organize their notes into four specific sections — Behavior, Intervention, Response, and Plan.
This consistent method of writing notes is widely accepted for its standard format. This consistency makes the BIRP template an important resource for communicating client information with other healthcare providers.
Why Are BIRP Notes Important?
BIRP notes are a type of clinical record that helps ensure clients receive continuous care, especially if they change providers or see multiple specialists.
Timely updates to records provide everyone involved with the most accurate information to make their care decisions. This updated information makes reviewing notes more convenient for providers, as well as ensures the safety of the client.
Imagine a psychiatrist prescribes their client medication and forgets to make a note of the prescription in the BIRP notes. If the client sees another specialist, the new provider will have no knowledge of the medication.
This miscommunication can lead to providers over-medicating clients or prescribing medications that can potentially react with each other and cause negative side effects for the client.
Proper documentation is also critical in case you get audited or your notes need to be used in a court proceeding. Documentation of appointments with clients is required in most states, and BIRP notes are an effective way to help you comply with requirements.
How Are BIRP Notes Used?
Most forms of progress notes are used to streamline the note-writing process, and BIRP notes are no different. Standardized forms of documenting clinical records like BIRP or SOAP notes making note writing fast so providers can spend more time with clients.
BIRP notes also make reading notes simple so providers can communicate a client's progress and plan with other clinicians. While one of the most important uses for BIRP notes is to track a client's progress, they can also be used for insurance reimbursement, billing and planning.
Commonly-Used Intervention Words for Mental Health Progress Notes
Writing mental health progress notes for your clients can be time-consuming, primarily because they require you to use clinical language. This jargon serves a purpose: it allows you to clearly and precisely communicate important information about your client and your treatment. But you probably don’t use clinical terms in your daily conversations, so it’s easy to get a bit rusty.
Because you use the same interventions for multiple clients, you can speed up the progress note-writing process by keeping a list of commonly-used intervention words handy. When you’re casting about for the right word, simply refer to your list! While the words you choose will depend on your clients and the treatments you use, we’re sharing an extensive list of common interventions as well as intervention words to use in your progress notes so you’re never at a loss for the perfect one.
Anger Management — At their core, anger management techniques help clients to recognize that anger is a normal emotion that we all feel. Therapists use this intervention to help clients more easily recognize when they’re becoming angry and develop strategies for expressing this powerful emotion in an appropriate way that will benefit them rather than create additional problems.
Behavior Reinforcement — A behavior that’s followed up with a reinforcement will either increase or decrease the possibility of that behavior being repeated in the future. A positive reinforcer will encourage the likelihood of the behavior’s repetition, while a negative reinforcer is likely to decrease the chances of that behavior being repeated.
Cognitive Restructuring — One of the core components of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT, cognitive restructuring operates on the assumption that it’s not what happens to us that makes us unhappy, anxious, or depressed — rather, it’s how we think about what happens to us. Cognitive restructuring techniques focus on increasing awareness, challenging the accuracy of troublesome thoughts, and developing a more mindful awareness with the goal of lessening the frequency and intensity of difficult emotions.
Collaborative Problem-Solving — Originally designed for use with children and adolescents exhibiting challenging behavior, CPS has been applied successfully in a range of applications that involve conflict. This technique involves three steps: gathering information about the challenging situation from the opposing perspective, sharing your own vantage point, and then working together to create a realistic plan to resolve the difficulty through mutually agreeable compromise.
Communication Training — The goal of communication training is to provide individuals with tools to be more effective communicators in a variety of work and interpersonal contexts. These may include stressing positives over negatives and using validation to increase the comfort level of the listener. Active listening and rephrasing or questioning the speaker to ensure understanding are also communication training skills.
Developing Coping Strategies — Positive coping skills help clients to work through difficult circumstances in a healthy way. Therapists assist clients in identifying coping skills that best fit their lifestyle and individual needs. Common coping skills include meditation, mindfulness, physical activity, spending time in nature. This process often involves gradually replacing unhealthy coping skills with healthy ones.
EMDR — Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, is a technique used to assist clients in processing traumatic life events. This type of therapy involves the therapist directing the client’s lateral eye movements or providing other external stimulus while the client revisits the traumatic experiences gradually over time, in small increments.
Exploration of Feelings — Therapists can direct a client’s examination of how feelings impact behaviors and the body’s physiological responses.
Goal/Progress Review — Therapists and clients can collaborate on goal-setting for desired therapy outcomes and periodically review progress towards goals.
Identifying Triggers — An emotional trigger is any experience that makes us feel uneasy. These triggers may invoke feelings of anger, shame, or envy. Therapists work with clients to identify situations that cause a significant reaction. Triggers often point to underlying issues that may be addressed in therapy. Strategies to cope in a triggering situation can also be developed.
Imagery/Relaxation Training — Guided imagery is a stress-reduction technique that involves visualizing oneself in a non-stressful, relaxed setting. When a client imagines being in a favorite place, they engage their senses in noting specific sensory details of the experience, such as what they’re seeing, the temperature of the air, and the scents they’re likely to encounter. Other commonly-used relaxation techniques include progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, or mindfulness practices. These methods work by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system to create a calmer, more relaxed state.
Labeling Feelings — Clients can benefit by purposefully naming difficult feelings in order to decrease the emotional and physiological response.
Mindfulness — Mindfulness is the practice of being fully engaged in the present moment, aware of where they are, what they’re experiencing, and the physical space they’re inhabiting. Specific examples of mindfulness techniques include meditation, breathing exercises, and gratitude or self-compassion practices.
Problem-Solving Skills Training — Problem-solving skills training is a cognitive-behavior intervention that provides a framework for addressing difficult life challenges. It’s a four-step process that involves examining the current approach used when problem solving, carefully defining the problem being addressed, brainstorming and evaluating possible solutions, and implementation and follow through.
Stress Management — Stress management encompasses a diverse array of techniques and programs designed to help people deal with life stressors in a more effective, proactive way. By examining specific sources of stress and taking action to reduce their effects, stress management practices can significantly improve quality of life. Meditation, yoga, physical exercise, setting healthy boundaries, and affirmations are examples of a few of the more widely practiced stress management approaches.
Descriptive Intervention Words for Progress Notes
This list isn’t comprehensive, but it’s robust enough to provide you with ideas and serve as a handy reference.
- Assisted client in
- Focused on
- Gave homework
- Inquired about
- Reflected back
- Responded to
- Role played
- Set boundaries
Writing progress notes doesn’t need to be a time-consuming process. By keeping a list of commonly-used intervention words available to reference, you can speed up the process. Additionally, using practice management software with progress note functionality also makes the process more streamlined. You can use templates and reference a library with information on requirements, treatments, and specialties.
Learn how MyClientsPlus can help you streamline your progress notes process. Request a free trial.
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If you are a mental/behavioral health provider then you might be familiar with BIRP notes. BIRP notes are a notetaking format that therapists might use to document sessions in clinical records. Therapists are infamous for their notetaking. In every movie with a mental health provider, you see them scribbling things in a notebook right in front of their patients. The reality is that the documenting of clinical notes is important for billing, the tracking of progress, and keeping providers organized. What are BIRP notes, how are they used, and how are they different from other notetaking styles?
The Composition of Clinical Records
Clinical records are an important piece of the mental health profession. Having detailed records is what helps improve the quality of care and the tracking of a client’s overall progress. So what makes up a clinical record?
Patient Information (Name, DOB, demographics, etc.)
Reason for Seeking Services (Depression, Anxiety, Stress, etc.)
Diagnosis and Impression
What are BIRP Notes?
The acronym for BIRP notes stands for Behavior, Intervention, Response, Plan. It is a format of notetaking that helps mental health providers track patient progress and formulate plans for the future. The formatting of notetaking enables providers to document efficiently without missing details.
The behavior section of BIRP notes is dedicated to how the client presents themselves, the problem, their “behavior” and other observations of both subjective and objective details. This section might include things the client said during their session, their responses to certain questions, their mood, or different emotions they expressed, how they carried themselves, and more. For example, if the client presented themselves as frustrated or responded to certain questions with hesitation, those things would be noted in this section. If they said, “that really made me feel ___,” a therapist might also write that in this section as a quote.
This section of BIRP notes is less about what was observed and more about the methods used to work with the client to reach goals, uncover information, or guide them through their next steps. It should be a detailed account of the session, not from the client’s actions, but from the therapists. This section might include certain interventions you used, what questions you asked (and why), or changes you decided to make to the treatment plan while it was unfolding.
In the first two sections of BIRP notes, you detailed the client’s emotions, behaviors, and responses to certain questions or topics as well as what methods you used during the session. The Response section should be dedicated to an in-depth analysis of the client’s responses to the interventions you chose to use. Rather than use vague terms like “they were angry,” a therapist might write, “They were frustrated when I asked them ___ and responded by saying ___. It took them a few seconds to gather their thoughts to formulate a response.”
The Plan section of BIRP notes is meant to detail the action plan for the next session and on. In a field like mental health, treatment plans require a certain fluidity. BIRP notes enable a provider to plan from a visit to visit depending on how the session went, what information was uncovered/discussed, and what the client hopes to work on in the future. This section should detail the time and place of the next appointment, what interventions the therapist plans to use, and what topics will be addressed. For example,
Other Documentation Models:
Some of the most common documentation models other than BIRP notes include SOAP notes and DAP notes. SOAP notes originated in healthcare as a model to streamline the notetaking process. Due to the fact that mental health care is less black and white compared to healthcare, some therapists prefer DAP notes. DAP notes offer more room for subjectivity in notetaking, but unlike BIRP notes, include an assessment section.
SOAP, DAP, and BIRP notes all aim to streamline the notetaking process. They are all effective ways for standardizing the documentation process so that providers do not spend an unnecessary amount of time on it, but are still a reliable source of information regarding the session. All are used for billing, planning, and progress tracking purposes.
The best and simplest way to document easily and effectively is to adopt a notetaking software. Certain notetaking solutions come with BIRP note formatting options, as well as other options, to help record information digitally in a secure and accessible way.
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Birp depression on sample notes
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