Everyone’s therapy will be somewhat different, however there are some general principles which are usually followed, no matter what the client’s particular problem is.
The first session (or sometimes the first two) is usually taken up with assessment. This is where I will build up a clear picture of your problem, its effects on your life and on you personally, and any relevant history. I may ask a lot of questions in assessment sessions, but you only need to disclose as much information as you feel comfortable with at this point. I may also ask you to complete some questionnaires too; these will also help developing a clear picture of your issue.
In the following sessions I’ll explain something about how CBT works, and how some of the techniques might specifically help with your problem. I also might explain some of the established facts about how our brains and bodies work, and how this might be relevant to the symptoms that are typically seen in anxiety and/or depression. This ‘psycho-education’ can be very helpful in understanding what happens when, for example, we are in a particular situation which triggers a panic attack. Fairly early on, a treatment plan will be discussed and agreed upon between us; this plan will set achievable goals within a realistic time period. All decisions about treatments and interventions will be arrived at collaboratively, through discussion and explanation where necessary.
CBT is not just about talking; an important part of the treatment is to put into practice some of the ideas and techniques discussed in the therapy sessions in the ‘real world’. Planning your homework assignments will always be arrived at collaboratively through discussion, and I will only ask you to do things you are comfortable with. An example homework assignment for someone who suffers from social anxiety might be to talk to two new people in their everyday life. Homework can make a real difference to the success of your therapy, as it allows you to put into practice what you’ve learned.
Length of Treatment
This naturally varies somewhat, depending on the client and the nature of the problem, and to some extent there is no such thing as a ‘standard’ course of therapy, however many problems can be effectively addressed in 10-20 sessions. The likely length of your therapy will be something that will be discussed fairly early on, and will be included in the treatment plan.