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Intro to CBT part 2 – What to expect in a session

If you haven’t already read part 1 of this series then please feel free to click on the link below.

Click here for “Intro to CBT (Part 1)“

When you first come in for a session with a CBT therapist, you might be surprised to find it can be quite different from normal counselling/psychotherapy. You might be asked to fill in an intake form or questionnaire that could measure your current levels of Anxiety, Depression etc. This is so there is a baseline to work off and for future reference to see improvement and if those goals are being met. After the intake form/questionnaire the therapist might ask for information regarding how and why you have decided to come for therapy and through the first/second session start planning “SMART” goals together (SMART being – Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound).


The reason for the above is that CBT is very engaged in getting you from where you are to where you want to be in relation to what you work on. An example might be “I would like to reduce my anxiety by 20% in the next two months” or “I would like to be able to interact with more people on a daily basis”. Once we have our goals set out together, we can then focus on how we will get you there. This will include putting together a strategy of what you will work on in sessions and outside of therapy.


Taking the example for “wanting to interact with more people on a daily basis”:


- In therapy we might work on how you perceive fear or anxiety when interacting with people with the hopes of finding thought patterns and beliefs that are having a negative impact on your life.

- Outside of therapy you might be asked to keep a journal and a task of saying hello to the bus driver or shopkeeper where you do your shopping. This is known as task scheduling and helps to start building or improving social skills. The journaling will be looking at how the interactions went with a specific focus on the thoughts and emotions that came up.

With our questionnaire that we gave at the start of therapy, we can now after 5/6 sessions give the same questionnaire and see if an improvement has happened comparing the scores. A lot of the times you would have multiple goals and a variety of strategies in place for each of the goals.

A typical session around 6/7 could look like this:


1. Check in at the start and see how your week was

2. Plan your session together and what you two will be focusing on today

3. Have a look over any work/tasks that were given to be completed outside of therapy

4. Have a look over journaling or other writings that were to be completed

5. Discuss collaboratively the progress and how each of the goals are going and ways to improve (This could include challenging, Socratic questioning and other cognitive techniques)

6. Plan work for the next session and have a debrief 10 mins before the finish of the session.


CBT is often labelled as very goal orientated and can include quite a bit of work from the client inside and outside of therapy. Hopefully I have given a good insight into how a typical session could go and what to expect from your CBT session. If you have any questions or querys please feel free to contact me by email at: Patrick@evolvementalhealth.ie or our team at: info@evolvementalhealth.ie or use our contact us section of our website where we would be happy to answer anything we can.


Stay tuned for part three where we look at some of the techniques used from a cognitive and behavioural perspective.

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