What to expect in a therapy session

Every therapy session is similarly structured. I’ll start by checking in with how you feel, and then you can choose which of your priorities you’d like to work on.

In our first session, we’ll start by learning about where you’re at, what brought you to therapy, and where you’d like to get to. We can then start to develop some goals for your therapy, and make a plan for how you’re going to get there.

My goal in every session is to help you feel better at the end of it, and in the upcoming week.

During the session there will be moments when I’d like to make notes, and may ask you to do the same. It’s important to me to learn about the way you talk about your experiences, as it helps to see the cognitive patterns and may lead to discovering ‘cognitive errors’ that make your life harder. Writing things down helps us not to miss anything important.

Together we will be figuring out ways for you to cope better with challenging situations. These can be very concrete actions that I’d like you to practice on your own. Having it written down helps you not to forget. The aim is to help you recognise and evaluate unhelpful thoughts that trigger challenging behaviours or mental states. Hopefully you’ll be able to start replacing maladaptive thoughts and behaviours with more constructive ones.

Many of the techniques I’ll use are based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but I draw from a range of psychotherapeutic disciplines. You can read more about my approach here.

Depending on your condition, I may ask you to fill in questionnaires to get a more measurable sense of your progress, or to assess whether you meet diagnostic criteria for certain mental health disorders. Ideally you can do these questionnaires in your own time, so that I can review them before the session, and so that we can maximise the time that we spend talking.

By the end of each session we will come up with an action plan, a term that is used in cognitive behavioural therapy for the work you’ll do by yourself outside of the session. In order to see changes, you will have to take some action between the sessions. That time is very precious, as most of the work of therapy is done in your daily life.

Structure helps you to develop healthier habits and this should be fair for the work we do together. However, session structure is not rigid and we can adjust it to your needs.

The frequency of sessions will vary depending on your situation, but typically we’ll try to have sessions once a week. If you would initially benefit from more support, then we can try to have more frequent sessions. Alternatively, you may just be seeking a regular monthly check-in, in which case less frequent sessions may be more appropriate. We’ll discuss the best option for you in our first session.

Further reading