What to expect at your first cognitive behavioural therapy appointment

A lot of clients get nervous about their first CBT appointment and do not know what to expect. First appointments may vary a little from person to person, but here is an idea of the kind of things you might expect in your first CBT appointment.

  1. You will meet your therapist and they will introduce themselves, ask for your preferred name and help you to feel at ease. They may also introduce a little bit about what CBT is and the way that the sessions will be. You do not need to know anything about CBT before you begin your therapy and your therapist should explain it in an easy-to-understand way.


  1. Your therapist will talk to you about confidentiality, the number of sessions you may work towards, how often your sessions will be, how long they will last, how to cancel appointments and what happens if you miss an appointment.


  1. Your therapist will usually have the information you gave at your initial screening appointment but may ask you a little more about the main problem you would like some help with and about you and your circumstances. This is not to get you to ‘tell your story all over again’, but to help you and your therapist reach an understanding of how you will work together and what you will focus on within the sessions.


  1. Your therapist may also ask you to think of some positive goals so that you have something you are working towards. This can help you to connect with something important to you or to work towards something you would like to do if you no longer had the problem.


  1. Your therapist may talk to you about ‘homework’. Homework is an integral part of CBT and after each session you will think with your therapist about how you can apply the things you have done in the session to your day-to-day life. After your first appointment, you may be asked to keep a monitoring diary or to read some information/handouts relevant to your problem.


  1. You will do the same questionnaires you completed at your first appointment. These will be asked at every appointment to help you and your therapist keep track of your progress. You may sometimes be asked to do an additional questionnaire more specific to your problem, however, this will vary from client to client.


  1. Your therapist will check with you if you are at any risk to yourself or from anyone else. This is something we ask every client so that we can help you to stay safe.


  1. You will make your next appointment with your therapist.

Your therapist will go at a pace that suits you and the above points are a guide only. You may do more or less than this in your first appointment and that is OK. You can also ask questions and express any concerns about therapy at any time in your appointment. Your therapist wants to work with you as a together to help with your recovery. While your therapist can offer ideas about what has helped others with similar problems in the past, they also know that you are the expert in your problem and how it affects you, and you should both be playing an active role in therapy together.