How to Write Better Case Notes (Part 1)

How to Write Better Case Notes Part 1


Nobody likes writing psychotherapy or social work case notes!


Case notes are a struggle for almost every social worker and clinician. They’re time-consuming and generally a drag. However, learning how to write social work case notes is a necessity and the more skilled you are at them, the faster they will go. This edition of how to write better case notes focuses on interventions.


Social Work Case Notes need to include interventions

I often see clinicians write a narrative of their sessions (more on this in a future post) leaving out the interventions!


You were hired for your particular skill set — your ability to provide services to clients through the interventions you use. You have been trained in social work, psychotherapy, or related interventions. So, don’t forget to document this important piece of your work.


Interventions may seem second nature even to new social workers and, therefore, you may not even be aware of the interventions you are using. For example, we are so used to providing empathy and active listening that we forget they are interventions. Interventions aren’t necessarily complicated (they can be, but don’t overlook the simple ones). Here is a list of interventions commonly used in social work, psychotherapy, and case management.

Social Work or Psychotherapy Interventions:

  • Assess

  • Roleplay

  • Model

  • Confront

  • Explore feelings

  • Reinforce

  • Reframe

  • Relaxation training

  • Reflective listening

  • Psycho-education

  • Grounding exercises

  • Clarify

  • Stabilize

  • Validate feelings

  • Facilitate

  • Coordinate

  • Schedule or arrange

  • Monitor

  • Link or refer

  • Advocate

  • Create goals

  • Skills training

  • Safety planning

  • Crisis intervention

  • Create a safety plan

  • Redirect

  • Supervise

  • Observe

  • Document

  • Counsel

  • Conflict resolution

  • Secure a placement

  • Life skills training


You might find it helpful to create your own list of commonly used interventions to use as a cheat sheet when writing notes. Obviously, your employment setting and training will lead you to your own unique set of intervention skills. I hope that becoming aware of your interventions will help you to write better social work case notes.


Please leave a comment and let us know what interventions you are using and any other challenges you have writing social work case notes.


More about writing case notes

How to Write Better Case Notes (Part 2)

How to Write Better Case Notes (Part 3)

8 Tips to Complete Your Social Work Documentation


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©2015 Sharon Martin, LCSW
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Sharon Martin has a passion for clinical supervision, mentoring new social workers, blogging, and reading all things social work related. She is a California Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 20 years in the field. Sharon has worked extensively in Bay Area non-profits and successfully runs a private counseling practice in San Jose. Sharon writes regularly for PsychCentral and the Good Men Project. She's also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism.


  1. Lety Villasenor's Gravatar Lety Villasenor
    April 19, 2017    

    I have recently started a job in social services and I’m finding writing case notes according to the organization’s standards to be challenging. I have found your articles to be very helpful but are there any other suggestions or resources that could help improve my writing?

  2. Twanna's Gravatar Twanna
    February 1, 2018    

    Thanks ! This was very helpful Sharon!

  3. Ruby's Gravatar Ruby
    March 13, 2018    

    Love your tips.

  4. Kathi -Ann Charles's Gravatar Kathi -Ann Charles
    October 5, 2018    

    What is Prep?

  5. Sarah's Gravatar Sarah
    November 5, 2018    

    Hi sharon thx for the gr8 tips😀. Do u recommend placing “interventions” in a seperate category?

    • November 21, 2018    

      I think it’s helpful to group them together. My current note format has checkboxes for the interventions I used in session.

  6. Linda Key's Gravatar Linda Key
    June 10, 2019    

    Can you send me a copy of your note format?

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