Anatomy of a Therapy Session

What happens during a therapy session?

The things we talk about in each therapy session will likely change from session to session, but the general structure of therapy will remain relatively similar. Each session has four phases that often seamlessly blend together. Some sessions will include all of these phases and some sessions will only include some of them. Likewise, the time we spend in each phase is going to vary depending on the work we have to do. However, the goal of every single session is for us to develop an action plan for the next week. Below is a description of the four phases.

Anatomy of a Therapy Session


At the beginning of our session, we will greet each other and collaboratively decide on our topic for the day. Ideally, we will choose a topic that directly links up with your overall treatment goals. We will also chat about the things you noticed when doing your action plan from the following session.


Once we have our topic of the day, I will likely ask you several questions about it. The purpose of these questions is to put the topic in context and to identify our treatment targets and goals for the session.


During this phase, we will address our treatment targets and work toward our session goals, especially the goal of developing your weekly action plan. This will include a mixture of learning new skills, perspective taking, in-session exercises, and collaborative investigation.

Action Plan

One goal of each session will be to develop an action plan for the next week. The key to a useful action plan is designing a behavioral experiment. Behavioral experiments involve trying something new to see if a new behavior has the potential to decrease your suffering and/or increase your opportunities to flourish.