Why Mood Journals are the Key to Revolutionary Client Care

April 15, 2024

Adherence. Compliance. Persistence. These three words sum up a single common challenge when working with clients: changing habits for the long term is hard. 

Change requires proven accountability tools, like mood journals. In the 1980s, psychologist James W. Pennebaker demonstrated the positive connection between expressive writing and healing. The practice continues to capture attention today. Even the wildly popular neuroscience and health podcast, Huberman Lab, declares journaling a powerful tool for improving mental and physical health. 

Analogue mood insights are hard to share

Mental health professionals didn’t need a podcast to convince them of the power of journaling. They’ve been using mood-tracking journals for years as part of their process. 

Journaling offers a safe space for clients to capture thoughts and feelings, work through therapy exercises, set goals, track habits, and record outcomes. However, it’s difficult to access the insights buried in traditional pen-and-paper mood journals. Luckily, the EHR (electronic health record) offers a solution.

In this article, we’ll unpack the benefits for practitioners and their clients when mood journals are built directly into the EHR. 

You’ll also find real-life examples of improved client care courtesy of EHR-based journaling.

Finally, you’ll get practical advice for implementing your own electronic mood journaling system.

Understanding the power of mood journaling

Mood tracking journals are an effective tool for helping people recognize, understand, and manage their mental and physical health. Journaling isn’t meant to replace professional care; it’s simply a complement to regular treatments. 

  • A daily mood log may help clients notice triggers, patterns, progress, and setbacks. It gives them a framework for naming and processing their thoughts and feelings outside of regular 1:1 sessions.
  • When practitioners have easy access to mood journal entries it can also lead to more targeted care conversations. Knowing how a client is feeling and coping day-to-day lets you jump into 1:1 sessions informed and ready to focus on the most important things. 
  • Note that journals don’t have to be exclusively focused on how to track your mood. For example, a mood journal that tracks factors like nutrient intake, sleep, and activity level can provide a more holistic view of a client’s life. Practitioners can then use the information to make better-informed personalized plans in collaboration with their clients. 

Integration of mood journals in EHR systems

According to The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), EHRs are intended to provide higher quality, safer care for all: 

  • Get accurate, up-to-date, and complete information about patients at the point of care.
  • Enjoy more coordinated and efficient care by enabling quick access to client records.
  • Enhance privacy and security of patient data – whether it’s at rest or being shared with other authorized parties.
  • Promote practitioner productivity and work-life balance.
  • Improve patient-provider communication, promote complete documentation, and allow for accurate, streamlined coding and billing.

If efficient, quality care is the ultimate goal, then it just makes sense to have a client’s mood tracking journal tied to their profile and the other tools used in their care.

Some journaling solutions, like the food and mood journal in Practice Better, increases accountability and streamlines tracking across multiple facets of health: 

  • Setting targets for things like sleep, fitness activity, and water consumption allow you to provide holistic recommendations to improve mental health. 
Screenshot from Practice Better EHR mood journal showing the Add Journal Target function.
  • Custom journal entries let you track anything needed for client care. Commenting on entries encourages accountability and allows you to coach from afar. Automatic notifications ensure clients always see your words of encouragement or guidance.
  • Supplement tracking provides an easy way to assess protocol adherence.
  • Symptom tracking helps you understand how protocols impact clients from day to day.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg.

Benefits for you and your clients

Embedding a mood journal in your EHR offers many benefits for all involved.

Lower the barriers to mood and lifestyle tracking with templates, targets, and a mobile app to record from anywhere.Get clear insights for measuring a client’s progress towards goals. Make data-informed decisions and create more tailored protocols. 
Increase accuracy with less work thanks to integrations. 
For example, Practice Better’s lifestyle journal integrates with Cronometer, Fitbit, and Apple Health. Since it automatically pulls in additional data – like activity level, nutrition, sleep, and more – you get a robust picture of the various factors impacting a client’s mood and mental health. 
Improve assessment and monitoring thanks data-driven insights into daily moods and habits. 
Tap into Integrated wearable health tracker data to discover links between factors like diet, exercise and mood. 
Feel empowered with more active participation in care. Motivate and support clients when you aren’t right in front of them by adding comments or reactions. 
Boost self-awareness and insight into emotional patterns and outcomes for mental well-being. Collaborate more easily with other professionals on your care teams. 

How real practitioners are using mood journaling in EHR systems 

The mood journal is an important care tool for mental health professionals, but they aren’t the only ones taking this approach. Check out the stories of real-life practitioners who are using Practice Better’s Food and Mood Journal to enhance their expert care and improve client retention

Building a network of support

Lexie Belle, LMHC licensed mental health counselor

Lexie owns and operates a group practice in Florida specializing in reproductive mental health for women, perinatal mental health for pregnant and postpartum people. Her team supports the mental health of people struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss.

Lexie’s patients use journals and messaging in the Practice Better portal to seek help and receive much-needed support in their moments of need.

Read Lexie’s story.

Processing trauma through journaling

Sam Getha, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) 

Sam provides psychotherapy via Telehealth across the states of Alaska and Virginia, helping adults who struggle with trauma, depression, and anxiety.

Those in trauma treatment often find it helpful to journal their triggers, emotions, and any tasks needed to keep them on track with their well-being.

The mood journal embedded in Practice Better frees Sam to capture insights, concerns, questions, and wins outside of 1:1 sessions. Sam finds the journal insights help to jump-start discussions in the next session. 

Read Sam’s story

Identifying barriers to change

Josh Gitalis, Clinical Nutritionist and Functional Medicine Practitioner

Josh and his team work with clients to provide evidence-based clinical nutrition and integrative healthcare to clients locally and globally. Josh believes that accountability is a key factor in any lifestyle transformation program.

Practice Better gives Josh insights into each client’s barriers so he can address them as soon as possible and keep clients working effectively towards their goals. 

Read Josh’s story. 

Keeping clients accountable 

Katie Barberi, Holistic Nutritionist

Katie specializes in women’s health, hormones, and autoimmune disorders. Her 1:1 coaching programs involve daily accountability with food and mood journaling through Practice Better. 

The journaling app helps clients make changes on the spot rather than waiting for the next 1:1 session. Katie finds that leaving comments in her clients’ journal entries makes them far more likely to implement the change.

Read Katie’s story.

Tips for implementing a mood journal

There are various mood tracker apps available on the market, but the ideal solution will seamlessly insert a client’s daily mood log into your EHR workflows. This will save you a lot of time and effort tracking inputs and progress in your client notes. 

Here are some other things to look for when you’re considering how to start a mood journal in your practice: 

  • Seek out a solution that’s user-friendly—for both you and your clients. A generic mood-tracking app might not offer the features you need in your clinical practice compared to a purpose-built app or software.
  • Similarly, clients need to be able to use the food and mood journal app easily or they won’t stick with it. 
  • Security is critical. Any mood journal you use with clients needs to be HIPAA compliant and safeguard personal health information (PHI). 
  • Don’t forget about customization and scalability. You’ll want a solution that can accommodate practice growth. You should also be able to use your software the specific way that works for you and your clients. 

For example, a practitioner who includes physical activity targets and supplements in their protocols needs to be able to track those factors in-app, along with the daily mood log.  

Advising clients on how to start a mood journal

With a mood journal integrated into your EHR, it’s a snap for your clients to use. 

Take the time to walk them through tracking their mood and any other food and mood journal templates.

Pro tip: Instead of spending time repeating the same instructions over and over, create a video on how to use the journal and automatically send it to new clients during onboarding.

Once a client is actively journaling, check in, comment, and gently course-correct, as needed, to keep them on track and progressing towards their goals. 

Use mood journals to power up patient success

Pennebaker may have discovered the positive connection between journaling and healing back a few decades ago, but he also acknowledged that “there has to be growth or change in the way people view their experiences.” 

This is where experienced practitioners are key. Clients use mood journals to capture their thoughts, impulses, and feelings. The professionals inspire growth and progress by guiding clients with their expertise. Access to all the rich data captured through the food and mood journal in the Practice Better EHR allows you to easily tailor the right interventions to each client. Every time. 

Practice Better is the complete practice management platform for health and wellness professionals. Streamline your practice and begin your 14-day free trial today.

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