BIRP Notes - A complete guide for Mental Health Therapists in 2022

Jamie Frew
Jamie Frew
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Introduction

As a mental health therapist, you’ve likely heard of the term BIRP notes before. If not, that’s okay! We’re here to help guide you through BIRP notes for mental health, and how they can be used to elevate and enhance the quality of your practice in no time. The term BIRP stands for Behavior, Intervention, Response, and Plan, and is widely used by over 80% of practitioners to communicate client information and record the patient experience. They’re an excellent way to note the progress of a patient’s mental health condition and are great for sharing information succinctly, streamlining the documentation process.

What is a BIRP Note?

 As briefly touched on, a BIRP note is a progress note form, commonly used by mental health therapists, that explains and records clinical information pertaining to an individual’s mental health. It describes the patient’s behavior, the intervention that is needed, or that has previously been provided for the patient, as well as the response to such interventions, and future steps. They are necessary progress notes that support legal obligations, as well as help guide mental health practitioners on the future course of action for the patient at hand. Not to mention for reimbursement and insurance purposes! For medical billing and coding processes, you may need to provide evidence of the exact resources and treatment used, and BIRP notes act as excellent reference notes for you to mention. BIRP notes are essential clinical records and documents that almost every healthcare practice incorporates in their services, and so becoming acquainted with their purpose is absolutely critical.

Why are BIRP notes important for mental therapists?

For mental health therapists specifically, there are many reasons why BIRP notes are important. These include the following reasons:

Fast notes – Using BIRP formats allow you to record all essential details without compromising on time. In fact, using these notes will allow you to record information quickly, with the format only concerned with core components that directly relate to the treatment of the patient.

Accurate information – Because BIRP notes are progress notes, this means that each additional session with a patient provides an updated record of their mental health condition. As a result, all healthcare providers are seeing the most accurate, up-to-date information pertaining to patient health.

Avoids miscommunication – BIRP notes are great in laying out all the essential details to clarify any concerns or queries that healthcare practitioners may have. Due to their universal format, this also means that healthcare professionals can easily understand and decipher the content, which ensures that only the right medications are prescribed and that the appropriate treatment is given.

Legal support – Additionally, BIRP notes are a great way to safeguard you and your practice in the case that your notes need to be used in a court proceeding. Alternatively, if you become involved in a malpractice suit, having BIRP notes can legally support you and ensure that you’re compliant.

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Demystifying the different sections of BIRP notes

There are four core elements of each BIRP note that must be included in order to fulfill all its components, these being behavior, interventions, response, and plan. To help guide you, we’ve outlined all the essentials you need to know when it comes to creating these notes.

Behavior – In this section, all objective and subjective observations concerning the patient’s mental health condition need to be noted.  For the subjective information, this means noting the patient’s experience directly from the patient themselves, with direct quotes used as supporting evidence. Objective details need to also be written concerning the patient’s vitals, tests, as well as any other medical assessments. These should be irrefutable facts that other medical professionals would also be able to notice in the patient.

Interventions – Next, you should include information concerning the objectives and goals of the patient’s therapy. Ideally, you should summarize the conversation, any current techniques used, as well as any present actions taken.

Response – Here, you need to record the patient’s response to their intervention, and how they feel it is working. All reactions should be noted, as they help guide the course of action and what can be done next regarding the patient’s health.

Plan – As the final stage, this step outlines the next steps for the patient. This means you must note when the next session will take place, and what it will focus on. Bear in mind that you also need to write down any homework or exercises given to the patient that needs to be checked next time, so you can remember. It can be difficult to keep track of what treatment is given, and writing it down can be immensely beneficial for you to refer to in the future.

Checklist to write great BIRP Notes

Now that you know the essentials of BIRP notes, it’s helpful to understand ways to enhance them further, and provide deeper insight when it comes to evaluating your patient’s mental health. Firstly, you must make sure to include any relevant demographic information such as their age, gender, employment, and living situation. Any diagnoses and medications must also be noted, as this can influence the direction of the conversation, as well as any resulting treatments. When first presenting the problem, it’s also helpful to note the experience in the patient’s words to avoid missing important information or misrepresenting their concerns. This includes any safety issues, such as self-harm, that can pose a risk to some forms of treatment and assessment. Including these types of information can help when you begin to address client goals and objectives, and the steps needed in order to achieve such goals. Sometimes taking special note of their current mental status, or any unusual behaviors, can aid in a greater understanding of their progress, and so this should also be included in addition to any symptoms presented. Covering all this information should allow you to produce valuable notes, with plenty of content to work with in order to address the patient’s main concerns and prioritize their mental state.

BIRP Note examples for Mental Health Therapists

Sometimes it can be easier to understand BIRP notes when given an example, and as a result, we’ve created a common BIRP template note for you to follow in your practice. Keep in mind that every note can look a little different, however, if you follow the four core components, you should be on the right track toward successfully assessing patients.

Behavior

Met with John today in the office, and noticed that he looked fatigued, with visible signs of exhaustion. John reported being unable to sleep well in the past week and had recurrent thoughts about work that were difficult for him to dismiss. Such thoughts had led him to concentration problems, as he confirmed.

Interventions

All of John’s negative thoughts were identified and challenged. The connection between his insomnia and his work troubles was made and normalized through discussion. Distraction techniques were provided, in addition to sleep aids prescribed, in order for John to be able to function normally throughout his day.

Response

John rejected the link between insomnia and work stress, however, this was overcome. He was initially disengaged throughout the conversation with reduced eye contact, however, he was able to describe his feelings and relay them back to me.

Plan

John will be seeing me next Thursday the 8th. This will assess the sleep aid and distraction techniques, and whether his feelings about work have had any significant changes.

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Conclusion

BIRP notes are a great way to compile all necessary patient information regarding their mental health, and they work to document all signs of progress. Using BIRP notes can provide excellent insight into the subjective and objective assessments of a patient’s experience and current mental health state, as well as note observations to be synthesized for future treatment plans. While they can seem challenging to get your head around, we hope this guide has clarified many of your concerns and outlined how to successfully produce valuable notes. Software, such as Carepatron, provide hundreds of free templates to help you get started with creating high-quality progress notes, however, regardless of your decision, we hope that you can now hit the ground running when it comes to evaluating your patients with care.

One app for all your clinical notes: Try Carepatron for free today

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