DAP Notes: What They Are and How to Write Them

online DAP note feature on Yocale software

Do you struggle with writing progress notes in a timely manner? Are you drowning in paperwork?

If so, you’re like many other therapists out there.

Whether you struggle with what to write or with perfectionism (and the fear that you might not be able to recall certain details!), the good news is that DAP notes may be the answer to finally mastering your progress notes.

Similar to the standard SOAP note framework, DAP progress notes are another framework for approaching progress notes. Both offer a way to organize information.

DAP progress notes are also a bit simpler than SOAP notes and arguably more appropriate for the mental health field, which is why they’re becoming increasingly popular. In fact, some even say that DAP notes may entirely replace SOAP notes over time for this exact reason. 

In this blog post, we’ll discuss what DAP notes are along with tips for writing DAP progress notes!

What Are DAP Notes?

What Does DAP Stand for in Progress Notes?

DAP is an acronym that provides a framework for structuring progress notes. DAP stands for the following:


These frameworks are helpful in making sure you don’t miss anything while simultaneously helping to keep notes concise. 

Sometimes DAP notes are also referred to as “DARP notes” with the R representing “response.”

Because DAP notes refer to a way to write progress notes (and not psychotherapy, private, process or session notes), it’s important to remember that these notes form part of the client’s official record. As such, they should always be concise. 

Read More: Best Mental Health Software

What Should Be Included in a DAP Note? (How to Write a DAP)

Allow us to break down the concept of what goes into DAP progress notes a little bit further:

Data: This section outlines what happened during your session – what you heard and what you observed. 

Unlike SOAP notes, which include separate sections for subjective and objective data, DAP progress notes combine them into one. 

This means that the Data section will include subjective statements made by the client as well as more objective data like the things you were able to physically see in the session as it relates to the client’s appearance, mood or behavior.

However, you’ll notice that the objective data that you would typically write here, such as “The client appeared jittery,” still contains some level of subjectivity, which is why many say that DAP notes are more suitable because they combine the subjective and objective sections.

Here is an example of what one might write in this section: “The client presented as flustered in the session but was able to successfully practice techniques.”

While this section doesn’t need to be more than a few sentences in length, it’s still important to remember to provide enough context for the reader to understand what took place during the session.

One of the best ways to wrap up this section is to ask yourself “What did I observe”?

Assessment: This section refers to your personal assessment of the session in relation to the data that you’ve collected above and the overall goals and treatment plan. Some good questions to ask yourself include:

  • Was progress made or not made?
  • Does the treatment plan need to be changed in any way as a result of these outcomes?

(Response: This section is an extension of the Assessment section. It describes the client’s response to the assessment). 

Plan: This section outlines the next steps that will occur between now and the next session. In other words, it doesn’t outline the client’s entire treatment plan – it’s only meant to outline immediate next steps. 

Items to include in this section include resources or homework that you’ve assigned, the date of the next session or even things that you as the therapist might need to do as well. 

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DAP Notes Vs SOAP Notes

The difference between the two is that SOAP notes separate the subjective and objective sections.

SOAP notes are typically the industry-standard format or template for writing progress notes, but DAP notes are becoming increasingly common. 

SOAP stands for the following:

Subjective – a client’s subjective opinions or beliefs 

Objective – quantifiable data like test results 

Assessment – an interpretation of the subjective and objective information above

Plan – the next steps for future sessions

The issue with this, and the reason why DAP notes are becoming more common, is that SOAP notes come from traditional healthcare or medical settings where it’s very easy to differentiate subjective information from objective information. For instance, it’s really easy to mention heart rate results but objective data only really comes from actual psychology assessments, which are often rarer. 

As such, it’s more difficult for mental health professionals to differentiate the two. That’s why DAP notes combine these two sections into one and why DAP notes are gaining favor over SOAP notes. 

Example of a DAP Progress Note

DAP note sample
Image: Example of how to write DAP notes (click to enlarge)

Tips for Writing DAP Notes

If you struggle with writing progress notes, here are some tips that might help you:

1. Remember the Purpose of the DAP Progress Note 

One of the biggest mistakes therapists make is they tend to write more than what they really need to. Remember: progress notes shouldn’t take more than five minutes! And some say they shouldn’t take more than two minutes. 

One of the most helpful things to remember is that progress notes are not supposed to be a diary of the client’s life. They are merely meant to serve as a record that the treatment occurred. 

And for legal reasons, this means they should always be concise. 

That said, your progress notes should contain enough information to provide enough context, but remember that they are mostly used for insurance purposes so they don’t (and shouldn’t be) overly detailed. 

2. Create Skeletons Within Your DAP Progress Note

Although the DAP note provides a standardized format to follow, it can still be helpful to create skeletons (or starter sentences) within these sections to help the note writing process even further. 

For instance, you might write: “The client appeared to be minimally/moderately/actively engaged…”

3. Ask to See Samples from Your Co-Workers

If you’re struggling with what to write, consider asking to see samples from your co-workers. 

From there, you can create your own list of clinical language that you can refer to whenever you struggle to write your DAP progress notes. 

4. Modify the Note to Fit Your Needs

In some cases, you may find that the DAP note doesn’t fit your needs. In most cases, it’s okay to modify the note to fit your specific needs. 

For example, some therapists like to include a “Resources” section in their notes. 

Ask yourself what you need as a therapist as well as what other treatment providers might need. 

Whatever the case may be, spend time thinking about what makes the most sense for you and then create your note accordingly. 

And that leads us perfectly into our next tip: consider using practice management software.

5. Consider Practice Management Software

Med spa software or a mental health practice management software is a great tool for writing DAP progress notes (or any kind of therapy note, including psychotherapy or private notes). 

There are a few reasons for this:

  • Create custom notes with checkboxes and other fields so you can spend less writing
  • Insert commonly used text with a click (this is great for those who struggle with coming up with clinical terms to describe what you did)
  • Automatically file your notes within each client’s record – no backing up or filing necessary
  • Write and view your notes (and clinical records!) from anywhere 
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6. Try to Get Them Done As Soon As Possible

Another tip is to try to finish your progress notes as soon as possible to prevent them from piling up.

If you let them pile up, your progress notes will become even more overwhelming, and that’s definitely something you want to avoid!

7. Check Out These Resources 

The following resources come highly recommended by therapists when it comes to writing DAP progress notes:

Wrapping it Up

If you’re struggling with writing therapy notes, remember that learning to master DAP progress notes takes time. Eventually, it will all come naturally. In the meantime, use DAP notes to help provide a framework but don’t hesitate to customize your notes as you see fit. 

Further Reading:

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