Psychotherapy — What does CBT involve?
Stage 1: Forming an alliance

When you have your first session with your CBT therapist, expect to spend some time getting to know and understand each other. This is Stage 1.

Your therapist will probably explain how CBT works. It should be something like the explanation on this web site. Different therapists explain things in different ways, though, so do not expect it to be exactly the same.

Your therapist will probably ask you questions about your condition. This is so that your therapist can make an assessment of the treatment that you will need. Be specific about the things that affect you most.

Your therapist might ask you what you hope to gain from therapy. It is helpful if you can explain how you would really like your life to be after successful therapy.

What to expect from Stage 1

By the end of the first session, you should have a strong feeling that the therapist is on your side. You should feel positive about working together with your therapist to make your life better. In CBT jargon, working together like this is called a therapeutic alliance. It is an important part of CBT.

If you do not have this strong feeling, consider whether this therapist is right for you. Be sure to mention this at the beginning of your second session. Your CBT therapy might not be very successful if you do not form an alliance early on.

By the end of the first one or two sessions, your therapist usually has a treatment plan in mind. The plan might enable your therapist to estimate how many sessions you will need for treatment. There is no fixed pattern in CBT treatment, though. The plan might change because you improve unexpededly quickly. Or it might change because some new issue emerges and you need to spend extra time to address it.

The next stage is: Stage 2: Understanding your thoughts