How To Write DAP Notes: 5 Best Templates and Examples

DAP Notes

The DAP structure can help you create clear, informative notes efficiently as an online counselor, healthcare provider, coach, or therapist.

If you’re looking for an organized framework to give your session notes some structure, this guide will show you how to create your own brilliant DAP notes templates.

Before you explore this guide, why not try out Quenza for $1 today? Quenza will help you create HIPAA-compliant DAP notes efficiently online, ultimately freeing you up to spend more quality time with those you help.

What are DAP Notes in Counseling?

The acronym “DAP” refers to a professional note-taking framework used by counselors, psychologists, and other healthcare providers in therapy. Used to create progress notes, psychotherapy notes, and other practice documents, the DAP format offers an organized, efficient way for practitioners to track their clients’ progress.

DAP stands for the various sections that structure a counseling note:

  1. Data
  2. Assessment, and
  3. Plan.

In mental health contexts, the DARP acronym is occasionally used instead. Here, the “R” represents an additional “Response” section, where a counselor records a client’s response to the described assessment.

What To Include in DAP Notes

For counselors with multiple clients, the DAP format can be a handy way to ensure all the key details of a session are recorded. Each section covers a different element of what took place:[1]

  1. The Data heading covers everything that occurred during a counseling session, including but not limited to a client’s observable responses, affect, traits, and behavior. This section includes specific, objective information about the session’s focus, what was said, and more to answer the question: “What did I observe?”
  2. Under Assessment, counselors interpret and analyze the data in the previous session. This involves applying some professional subjectivity and may result in clinical hypotheses or findings. Here, counselors might record things like how a session related to a client’s overall treatment goals, a working hypothesis, or working hypothesis, and/or a probable diagnosis of a client’s condition.
  3. The Plan section is used for making decisions and recommending a plan of treatment for the client. Here, the objective and subjective data from the previous two sections are used to inform a counselor’s strategy or next actions – often between the current session and the next. This could include recommendations for therapy or lifestyle changes, among other short- and long-term treatments.

DAP vs SOAP Therapy Notes Explained

The SOAP acronym is another popular therapy note framework used in mental healthcare settings, with a slightly different layout to DAP notes.

S, O, A, and P describe a patient’s session in terms of:

  • Subjective data – a client’s subjective experiences, opinions, or feelings
  • Objective data – quantifiable data such as test results, medication, or measurements
  • Assessment – a professional analysis of the subjective and objective data above, and
  • Plan – detailing the (recommended) next steps in a client’s treatment.

The key difference between SOAP and DAP formats is that the former breaks down the information about a session into two discrete sections, which can be highly useful in healthcare contexts where medications, blood results, and other clinical data can inform a patient’s treatment.

Counselors, however, aren’t always required to collect ‘hard data.’ The single ‘Data’ heading in a DAP note clears up this issue by consolidating all a counselor’s observations into one section.

2 Examples of DAP Progress Notes

Here are two examples of DAP Progress Notes in counseling, to paint a clearer picture.

Example 1: From the 3rd session with your client Alan Ellis

Data: Alan presented for session neatly and casually dressed and groomed. He reported he has continued to take his prescribed anxiety medication and feels “well”.

Alan reported he is doing and feeling “fine” overall. Alan spent the session discussing his plans to resume college study and his concerns about getting started. Alan discussed how his concerns are related to balancing his time with work.

Assessment: Alan engaged actively in today’s session. He presented as clear-headed and able to discuss his feelings.

Alan was able to identify protective factors for anxiety management and stress management techniques to implement if he feels panicked. Alan identified two other people he can call for support to assist with resuming his studies.

Plan: Next appointment is 9/26/21 @ 9:00 AM.

Example 2: Digital DAP notes for Alan

Quenza Counseling DAP Note
You can create therapy note templates using the DAP framework with Quenza’s Activity Builder.

Here, the same notes can be seen in an online format using therapy notes software Quenza.

Creating a simple D, A, P template using text boxes and sections in Quenza’s Activity builder allows you to access your DAP templates each time you’d like to write therapy notes.

DAP Notes Assessment: An Example

The Assessment section of DAP notes can be a little tricky for newcomers to the format, but the overarching goal here is to offer your clinical interpretation of the data.

Here, you’ll answer key questions such as:[2]

  • According to the data, is my client trying to address their challenge?
  • What progress are they making?
  • Does the data suggest a preliminary diagnosis?
  • What working hypotheses can be drawn from this session?

Another example might look as follows:

“John continues to experience a mild depressive episode and is unsure about continuing with his psychiatrist. Had difficulty coming up with ideas for an action plan when I noted his goal from last session. He showed engagement in brainstorming strategies for finding a more creative job.”

How To Write DAP Case Notes: 7 Tips

DAP notes are simple to write with the right digital templates – here are our tips on formatting the perfect note and recording group sessions in Quenza.

How To Format DAP Notes

To create your first DAP note template, all you need is a blank template in Quenza’s easy-to-use Activity Builder:

Quenza DAP Notes Example Activity
By creating sections and selecting text boxes from your Activity Builder, you can create custom reusable DAP note templates for your Quenza Library.

Here in your Activity builder, you can create and title various sections for each of your Data, Assessment, and Plan headers, plus any additional sections you find helpful.

When you’re done, simply save your DAP note template and open a copy for each session you’d like to record!

Once you’ve got the hang of it, try out these formatting tips to take your notes to the next level:

  1. Play around with custom sub-sections if you feel that might be helpful – you can always edit your templates if you think of ways to improve them
  2. Upload your practice logo to your DAP note templates using Quenza’s White Label feature
  3. If you use a voice recorder, upload your mp3 files to complete your DAP notes
  4. Combine text with check boxes, drop-down menus, or sliding scales for faster note-taking, and of course
  5. Keep it clean, simple, and relevant when you’re documenting your sessions.

A Look At Writing Group DAP Notes

Creating DAP notes for any coaching or therapy groups you work with is just as simple.

You can easily follow the same steps to create helpful group templates as we’ve just seen, or you might want to use the DAP structure in Quenza’s Client Group Notes to store them securely by group:

Quenza DAP Group Notes Example
Store your DAP notes as Client Group Notes in Quenza to keep them organized, secure, and private.

Creating Client Notes for each group not only keeps them in chronological order but also stores them privately so that they are visible only to you – the counselor.

Here, you might want to:

  1. Download your notes as PDFs for your files, or
  2. Time-stamp and date your DAP therapy, psychology, or counseling notes so you can access easily notes from specific sessions in a flash.

3 Helpful Templates For Your Sessions

If you’re looking for a few DAP note templates to help you get started, some of the following might interest you:

  1. This downloadable DAP note walkthrough from Rutgers University provides a few pointers to help you create succinct, but informative notes
  2. Sample Templates provides a few free DAP note templates, and
  3. The Area Substance Abuse Council offers an example and template that may be useful.

Best Online Solution For Writing DAP Notes

The most efficient, effective way to create DAP notes as a mental healthcare provider is to use specialized software, a HIPAA-compliant software solution, to be precise.

Unlike downloadable documents and other files, therapy notes software is specially designed so that you can reuse your templates repeatedly, and store everything you record on a safe, secure, and private platform per industry requirements.

DAP note templates are quick, stress-free, and very simple to create using Quenza, which can save you a great deal of time if you’re regularly creating notes.

Being designed especially for therapists, it is unique in giving you the ability to tailor, refine, and modify your templates whenever you like. With Quenza, you have a HIPAA- and GDPR-compliant platform that also enables you to:

  • Brand your DAP notes with your own practice logo
  • View, edit, and add to your notes from anywhere on a free practitioner or client app
  • Download printable PDF copies of your notes for hard-copy storage, or
  • Share your DAP notes digitally with other healthcare providers in real-time.

6 Unique Features Included in Quenza

If you’re a general or mental healthcare professional, there are more than a few ways Quenza can help you in addition to writing clear, accurate DAP notes efficiently.

Some of the unique Quenza features that you can use to run your practice, grow your business, and help others include:

  1. A Wheel of Life tool. A simple-to-use therapy or coaching tool for creating unique self-assessments
  2. Quenza Chat. Real-time, HIPAA-compliant client chat through your mobile or browser
  3. A Group Coaching or Therapy feature. Run workshops, programs, or e-courses with up to 50 participants at once
  4. A free multilingual client app. Helping you deliver a more personalized coaching or therapy experience in 16+ languages
  5. Custom emails. So you can email clients from your private practice email address, and
  6. Custom brand colors. Helping you promote your business by creating a coaching or patient portal in brand colors!

Final Thoughts

DAP notes can clear up a lot of confusion for mental healthcare providers, especially those in sectors where objective data doesn’t play a large part in a patient’s treatment.

If you regularly make session notes but still don’t have a set format, it’s worth creating a DAP template of your own. It may just help you write much clearer, more helpful documentation.

We hope you enjoyed reading this guide. Don’t forget to begin your 30-day, $1 Quenza trial.

With unlimited access to Quenza’s user-friendly digital tools, you’ll have everything you need to write clearer, more informative DAP notes easily, leaving you free to focus on the client solutions that drive results.


About the author

Catherine specializes in Organizational and Positive Psychology, helping entrepreneurs, clinical psychologists and OD specialists grow their businesses by simplifying their digital journeys.

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