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  • What is a Counseling Intake

    What the heck is an intake for counseling. 

    An intake refers the the first paperwork you start when you want to talk to a counselor. 

    If you’ve ever gone to counseling or the doctor really, you have done this kind of paperwork at the beginning. 

    What is in this paperwork? 

    Here is a list of the main things that should be in there. 




    Company policies 

    Release of information 

    Client – therapist agreement 

    Consents to treat. 

    I will break down each one of these. 

    Demographics – 

    This is the basics about you. This will be used to build your chart and bill your insurance. So you want to put the information they have on file for you. If you are seeing your provider online then you will want to let them know if you are at a different address physically during sessions, this is for safety. This is the start of getting to know you. We are required to ask for this stuff. 

    Insurance – 

    This only matters if you are using insurance benefits for pay for your services. The numbers on your card go here. Usually in the same order as the card even if they sometimes call it things. You will want to upload a picture of the front and the back of the card. One number off and you could be denied payment for the service, so it’s important to check that you put the right numbers. 

    This form can be called many things. Commonly “Notice of privacy practices”. It will say something about HIPAA. Basically this tells you when and who we can talk to about you and for what purpose. Billing your insurance is the main one. We are asked for most of your demographics on each medical claim submitted to them. At times during training of your provider and others, your information may be accessed for teaching purposes. Most counseling agencies provide ongoing training of their providers and reviewing their cases is a big part of that. If you are being treated by a solo practice or a supervisor this may not be the case. You should know who your counselor is training under and consulting with on your treatment. This form should also tell you that you have a right to see your entire chart, including making copies. You also have the right to restrict your account. This is common if you know someone that works at the facility. When I was an intern, my mom mentioned she went to counseling at the same agency, different location but I still had her account restricted so there was never a question. 

    Lastly, this form should tell you what constitutes a legal emergency In your state. In the event of an emergency, your provider needs to get you help and may not have time for you to sign for permission. The state law determines what’s an emergency. 

    Company policies- 

    Also called “practice policies” or acknowledgement. This is the policies and procedures of the individual agency. What services they provide and the fees for services should be found here. Also if they charge a no-show fee. Insurances do not cover this so it would be a responsibility of the client. This might be very detailed or it might be the necessities. It’s up to the individual how much they want to include here. 

    Release of information – 

    This is you giving them permission to talk to someone about specific things you approve. This should not be prefilled out or have all the boxes checked. You will check what you want them to discuss and with whom. This is commonly used for your primary care, psychiatrist or previous therapist but it can also be used for having joint sessions with a spouse or family member as part of your treatment. You can also revoke a release at any time for any reason. 

    Client – Therapist agreement. – 

    This can be a separate document or a part of the practice policies. This is what you’re agreeing to by coming to therapy. This will discuss the risks and benefits of therapy. Below is an example of mine. 

    You have taken a very positive step by deciding to seek therapy. The outcome of your treatment depends largely on your willingness to engage in this process, which may, at times, result in considerable discomfort. Remembering unpleasant events and becoming aware of feelings attached to those events can bring on strong feelings of anger, depression, anxiety, etc. There are no miracle cures. I cannot promise that your behavior or circumstance will change. I can promise to support you and do my very best to understand you and your repeating patterns, as well as to help you clarify what it is that you want for yourself.

    Most go on to discuss the same things as the policies. The fees, services and confidentiality. 

    Consents to treat- 

    This is another repetition of your privacy as it relates to treatment. If you are seeing your provider online, it will discuss the specific risks of online therapy. There can be much more technical issues with online therapy that are out of your control and your providers. Your provider should tell you what to do if this happens. I tell my clients that if we are interrupted, I will call them on the number on file. So there’s no confusions. If for some reason that is not available, I advise them to reschedule on the online portal. I had the power completely go out in the middle of the session. We already had a plan and the client knew I would be calling her momentarily. 

    Some therapists add symptom rating scales after their intake documents. As a client, by the time I get to this part, I’m just checking boxes and signing it. As a therapist, I use these scales to track your progress. I don’t like self-check out so I don’t do that to clients. 

    This seems like a lot of paperwork

    But it doesn’t have to be. Our program will walk you through it and you sign electronically so there is no printing and signing and mailing or anything like that. It should take no more than 5 minutes. The longest part is finding your insurance or credit card. Making the decision to talk to someone is the hard part but the rest should be easy. 

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