What to Expect During a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Session


What is cognitive behavioral therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a common type of psychotherapy; it is a combination of cognitive therapy, which focuses on moods and thoughts, and behavioral therapy, which focuses on actions and behaviors. It involves learning how to identify and change inaccurate or negative thoughts and behavioral patterns in order to respond to stressful situations in a more effective way.

CBT is an effective treatment for various mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is also beneficial for anyone learning to better manage stressful situations.

What to expect during a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) Session

A therapist helps with identifying negative thought patterns and developing skills to replace them with productive thoughts. As negative thoughts and behaviors that are based on false perceptions are altered, the development of positive coping behaviors emerges.

CBT typically consists of five to 20 sessions in total, although each person will have different needs. The goals of CBT are dependent upon the disorder, symptom severity, and various other factors.

Initial session

The first appointment with a new provider may feel intimidating. However, having a general idea of the structure of these appointments can help a person prepare for their treatment.

The initial appointment will be a bit different from the remaining treatments; however, it provides a great time to ask the therapist any questions about the treatment plan. What to expect at an initial appointment includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Discussion of symptoms and emotions
  • Expected goals
  • Specific difficulties (e.g., difficulty in the workplace or classroom, relationship issues, depression, coping with chronic pain, etc.)
  • Discussion of confidentiality, cost, length of treatment, specifics of the treatment plan, etc.

Since CBT is a very goal-oriented approach, a therapist may ask a person to set goals to work on following the initial appointment. After creating goals, a therapist will guide a person through certain steps to reach them. These steps may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Fostering awareness of thoughts, emotions and beliefs surrounding problems
  • Identifying negative and inaccurate thinking
  • Reshaping thought patterns
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