What Happens During a Therapy Session?

What Happens During a Therapy Session? 

by Kellee McCoy, LPC from Argenta Counseling in North Little Rock

By far the most frequent question patients have before beginning therapy is about what they should expect during their therapy sessions. If you’re wondering about this, we’ve included some of the basic information below, but please don’t hesitate to reach out to the GetTherapy.com team at 1-888-Therapy to find out more or schedule a session with one of our caring clinicians. 

To answer some of the common questions about therapy sessions, we’ve partnered with Kelle McCoy, LPC of Argenta Counseling in North Little Rock to provide answers to some of the most common questions we hear from people just starting to explore the idea of counseling. 

Therapy Styles & Methods 

There are more than 200 specific forms of counseling or therapy for behavioral health conditions, but some of the most common include:

Behavioral therapy – rather than focusing on supporting your emotional needs, this form of therapy is geared toward making changes in the things you do and ways you respond to others. One common use of behavioral therapy is to help young people with ADHD and other behavior concerns learn to redirect energy toward more productive outlets, but there are numerous uses for this strategy.

Supportive therapy – is likely the form of therapy that most people think of. The goal is to provide support and encouragement for you as you handle specific issues or work through challenging situations. 

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) – this form of therapy is a short-term, goal-oriented treatment to help you change negative thought and behavior patterns. It can be effective in addressing a number of concerns, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance abuse, insomnia, and relationship problems. There are several subtypes of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, such as Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. 

Parent-child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) – for children ages 2 to 7 and their parents, this form of therapy is geared toward modeling and coaching effective parenting strategies for those families struggling with children who exhibit disruptive behavior patterns. Rather than simply discussing parenting techniques, parents will actually practice these strategies in sessions until they achieve a level of mastery.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) – is a therapy strategy based on a scientifically researched study of adult love and the bonding process. EFT is designed to address distress in adult intimate relationships, but it can also be used in family therapy to help improve connection and emotional attachment.

Psychoanalysisa system of psychological theory and therapy that aims to treat mental disorders by investigating the interaction of conscious and unconscious elements in the mind and bringing repressed fears and conflicts into the conscious mind by techniques such as dream interpretation and free association. This is the stereotype of therapy often seen on television. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing  (EMDR) - is a form of psychotherapy for treating traumatic stress in which the person being treated is asked to recall distressing images while generating one type of bilateral sensory input, such as side-to-side eye movements or hand tapping.

Your First Session

The first meeting with your new clinician is very important. It is often called an intake evaluation or diagnostic evaluation. During this session, your clinician will ask you many questions with the goals of understanding your specific struggles and providing an accurate diagnosis. Then, you partner with your clinician to make a plan for your ongoing sessions, including collaboratively developing a list of goals and potential therapy strategies. 

There is another important goal for these therapy sessions. You should consider the intake session as an opportunity to determine whether or not you will feel comfortable working with this clinician. We recommend taking a few minutes to read our “How to Find a Great Therapist” blog before scheduling your first session to improve your chances of finding the right clinician, but you should never hesitate to let your clinician know if you’re not feeling comfortable. In many cases, you can work together to resolve your concerns, but when that isn’t possible, we can help you find the right clinician who will help you feel comfortable and able to achieve your goals.

Ongoing Therapy Sessions

Think of your continuing therapy sessions as problem-solving opportunities. Every session is different, but in most cases, the clinician will open the session by asking you to discuss what’s been happening in your life. How you’ve felt and what you’ve done since your last appointment with a focus on addressing the areas that you’re struggling with and goals you set at the beginning of therapy. Then, the clinician can answer any questions you have and provide assistance as necessary to guide you to achieve your goals. Your clinician will use their experience and training to help you understand, confront, and resolve life’s daily struggles. 

One thing many people worry about is their clinician’s note-taking. They assume the clinician is thinking or writing something negative, or if the clinician doesn’t take notes, people worry they don’t care. Some clinicians take notes during sessions and others don’t. It’s a personal preference. Note taking allows some clinicians to focus as well as track and review your thoughts. They are in no way judgments, criticisms, or anything you should be worried about. 

As you get closer to the end of the session, your clinician will let you know it’s time to start moving towards a concluding point. In some cases, you may get “homework.” These assignments are to guide you to challenge your behavior and make positive steps toward reaching your goals. At the next session, your clinician will likely ask you about your homework, and in this way, the work of therapy continues seamlessly from session to session. 



Licensed Professional Counselor, LPC