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What is a counseling intake form and why is it important?

It's a questionairre for new clients to fill out before their first appointment. The intake form is used to gather key information about the client, including personal details, medical history, reasons for seeking therapy, and any other relevant factors that could impact their treatment.

Using an effective questionnaire is important to get the relationship off to the best start. It lets therapists come well-prepared for the first session with a client, and helps flag any serious concerns that need urgent attention. 

Here's what we cover:

  • The Purpose of a Client Intake Form

  • Key information to include in the form

  • Gathering personal and medical history 

  • Therapy intake form best practices

  • Simple software to create customized therapy intake form templates for your therapy practice. 

Let’s get to it. 

Counseling Client Intake Form For New Clients

Learn the best practices and tips for creating counseling intake forms.


Understanding the Purpose of a Client Intake Form

A client or patient intake form isn’t just some administrative hoop to jump through. It’s a crucial tool in getting relationships with potential clients started on the right footing. 

The point is not to get every conceivable piece of background information from a client - you don’t want to overwhelm them and add to what is already potentially a daunting experience. Likewise, the intake form doesn’t replace the first in-person consult.  

Rather, a good intake form for counseling allows you to pave the way to a productive first consult by starting the process of getting you and your client on the same page. 

In short, the main purpose is to gather the essential information that will help you understand why this individual is coming to you and how you can start helping them. 

A well-designed intake form benefits you both because: 

  • It allows you, the therapist, to prepare thoughtfully for the first session.

  • The form can help identify any potential red flags or areas that may require immediate attention.

  • It provides a written record of the client's initial state, which can be useful for tracking progress over time.

  • It streamlines the intake process and saves valuable time for you and your client in the initial intake session.

By gathering key intake information about a client's background, needs, and goals upfront, you can set the stage for more focused and productive therapy sessions. 


Key Information Included in a Counseling Intake Form

So what exactly should you include in your counseling or therapy form? 

Let’s look at specifics with a checklist of questions you can adapt to your practice and patients. 

Therapy intake questions

The first part of the form includes all the essential information you need for your patient file, such as biographical and contact details, and personal and medical history. 

Example question checklist: 

Full name

Preferred names

Date of birth




Marital status

Contact numbers

Email Address

Residential address


Employment details

Next of kin / emergency contact details

Primary care provider

Insurance information 

Billing / account payer details

Reason for seeking treatment or reason for referral

Medical history (physical & mental conditions, treatments)

Current symptoms / treatments

History or current use of substances (drugs, alcohol)

Goal(s) for the counseling sessions 

The next part of the form should include questions specific to your type of practice and the type of background information you need to collect to get started.

For example, a marriage and family therapist would likely focus on questions abound relationships and family history such as:


  • Current living situation

  • Details about spouse or partner and relationship 

  • Details about children and relationship with them

  • Relationship with parents and siblings

  • History of mental health issues

  • History of abuse or trauma

  • Any other relational issues or family history that could be relevant

The specifics of intake form questions for other types of practices such as psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy will obviously be different in content and focus. You will have a good idea of what you need from clients to get the conversation started.

If you’re looking for an easy way to set up custom digital intake forms, check out Client Manager’s white label intake form software.


Gathering Personal and Medical History through the Intake Form

One of the most important aspects of counseling and therapy intake is gathering a comprehensive picture of the client's personal and medical history.


This can help inform your counseling approach and identify any potential risk factors or areas that may need special attention.

The Patient Medical History Form can be a separate intake form, or simply a specific section in your general intake form. Either way, it will go into some detail about the client's physical health, medications, and any past medical treatments. 

This section or separate form should cover areas like:

  • Current medications and dosages

  • Allergies or adverse reactions to medications

  • Chronic health conditions

  • Past surgeries or hospitalizations

  • Family history of medical conditions

  • Lifestyle factors (eg. diet, exercise, sleep habits)

Having this information on hand can help therapists coordinate with other healthcare providers if needed and ensure that the client's treatment plan takes their overall health into account.


Therapy Client Intake Form Best Practices

Starting therapy can feel a bit daunting, uncomfortable or even scary for new clients.


A good counseling form is a useful tool for gathering information, but should be carefully designed in a way that helps, not hinders, the trust-building process. 

Here are some best practices to make your intake form as effective as possible:

Customize the form to your practice

While online templates and pdfs can provide a decent starting point, it's important to tailor the questions to gather the information most relevant to your specific practice and counseling approach.

Keep it concise

Even though it's important to gather all the necessary information, try to keep the form as brief and easy to complete as possible. Break it up into clear sections and use simple language, providing extra explanations where appropriate.

Avoid overly sensitive questions

Save highly sensitive or potentially triggering questions for in-person discussion rather than the intake form.

Offer multiple choice options

For questions that have a limited set of possible answers (e.g., marital status), provide checkboxes or multiple choice options to make the form quicker to fill out.

Allow for open-ended responses

For more complex questions (eg. reasons for seeking therapy), provide space for clients to answer in their own words.

Check legal requirements where you’re based

Specifically when it comes to what patient information you’re allowed to collect, what you can do with it, and specifics for treatment consent, make sure you know what’s legal in your neck of the woods.

Get consent for information sharing

Include a section on confidentiality and make sure clients understand how their information will be used and protected. If you plan to share any client information with other parties or service providers, include a section or separate consent form for clients to provide signed consent.

Use secure online forms 

Few things would be worse for your reputation than a client discovering that their sensitive information has been lost or leaked. Ensure your clients’ information is safe by only using secure digital forms and software.

Update forms regularly

Review and update your forms annually or as needed to reflect changes in your practice or client needs.


Simple Software To Create Counseling Client Intake Forms

Managing new client intake and ensuring your intake forms are ideally fit to purpose can be time-consuming, especially for busy counseling practices. 


That's where simple, cost-effective software solutions can help streamline the process, making it simple, secure and convenient for clients, and easier for you to manage.  

The key is to use software that integrates seamlessly with your existing workflow and gives you the flexibility and customization your practice needs.

With ClientManager’s white label onboarding software, you can:

  • Create or customize intake form templates in minutes with our user-friendly interface. 

  • Send forms using a simple, secure link and allow clients to fill them out securely online, from the comfort of home.

  • Allow clients and service providers to add digital signatures to forms. 

  • Set up automated reminders for clients to complete their forms before their first appointment.

With more convenient and effective client intake strategies in place, you'll be well-equipped to provide the highest quality care and support to every individual who walks through your door.

Ready to upgrade your client intake process this year? 

We'd love it if you tried ClientManager free for 7 days.

Clients tell us they love the interface, user experience, and simplicity.

Here’s to you getting every client relationship off to a great start 😊
Thanks again,
​Kyle & CM Team

Onboard & manage your clients with ease.

Take control of your business. Save time and money - and actually enjoy the process, with ClientManager.


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