As social workers and counselors, we have so much to document. I often find new things I could be documenting and wondering where to draw the line. With that comes many different documentation tools: your own or maybe software used in your district. While we can’t document everything all in one place, many use their daily planner as a documentation hub for social work or counseling. There are a few ways you can do this, and I’ve outlined them below! I’ve also included how to choose the right planner for you as well as how to assemble it.
Choosing a Planner
There are many different types of planners out there. Paper or digital? Generic or custom? When deciding what to buy, it might help to consider your current documentation methods. Do you have a preference?
Custom planners are a great option if you want something more tailored to your role. They usually offer add-on pages, several cover choices, and can be edited. Many on Teachers Pay Teachers include free yearly updates as well, meaning you pay for it once and re-download to print each year.
Assembling a Custom Planner
You can assemble a custom planner in a few ways. There are some that you order through a listing and some that you print yourself. Most custom planners on Teachers Pay Teachers are print yourself. With that comes other options: printing on your own or printing through an office supply store. I prefer to do a combination of both. I like to print the main planner and bonus pages at school and have them bound at Office Depot. Printing it at school saves money and allows me to place bonus pages exactly where I want them in my planner. When I bring everything to Office Depot I pay for binding, a clear frosted cover, and a black regency page. I also save the cover page I want to a USB drive and have them print it in color on cardstock.
As of July 2021, pricing for those items was:
- Frosted Cover Page: $0.49
- Cover Page on Cardstock: $0.18
- Black Regency Page: $0.69
- Binding: $4.39
If you prefer to print the whole planner at an office supply store, save the main file and add-on pages to your USB along with the cover page. When I did this in 2020 at Office Depot I paid $25.80. This included the planner, add-on pages, cover page, frosted cover page, black regency page, and binding.
Custom planners usually offer add-on or bonus pages. They feature different documentation tools, logs, idea lists, or other fun organizers. Bonus pages are great because they help make the planner specific to social workers or counselors. They also start to make your planner more of a documentation hub. You can add your own documentation tools too, and keep everything in a 3-ring binder instead of binding as a planner.
5 Things That Don’t Belong in Your Planner
Documenting almost everything in one place sounds great, right? But in my opinion, anything that is truly confidential should be documented somewhere else. Consider how a planner is used. It’s usually meant to go with you wherever you go: your office, staff meetings, IEP/parent meetings, classrooms, workshops and PD conferences, etc. Now, what if you left it while you went to the bathroom? Or you were paged for a crisis and had to leave a meeting? Or …it got lost? I know you’re thinking, “Don’t say that! That would be horrible!” (Or maybe you’re thinking I’m being paranoid haha). But those things CAN happen, and knowing anything that’s in there is easily accessible makes me uncomfortable. Anything confidential should be kept in a locked filing cabinet in your office or in a notebook that doesn’t exist (something to consider too, a planner will be more known to exist).
5 things that don’t belong in your planner:
- Your personal session notes or observations
- A full list of your caseload and reasons they are seeing you
- Behavior logs! I cringe at the thought of this being included. You guys, this is so inappropriate. Documenting a behavior or crisis incident is usually very detailed and personal, and that information should be kept in a more confidential place
- Parent communication log (same reasons as behavior log)
- Anything else that is confidential or something you wouldn’t want just anyone to read
I hope you found this post helpful and feel more prepared to choose the right planner! Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments if there is anything else you would like to know about using a daily planner in social work or counseling!
Looking for other documentation tools? You might find this post about data tracking helpful.