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Setting the Agenda in session

A frequent question I’m asked by clinicians who are not cognitive therapists is why we set agendas toward the beginning of sessions with patients. They often think that doing so will result in their missing out on important information. I tell them that we’ve found the opposite to be generally true.


We ask patients, “What problems do you want my help in solving today?” and guide them into naming the problems (as opposed to giving us a full description at that moment). Then we ask them to prioritize the problems and let us know roughly about how much of the session they’d like to devote to each one. When clinicians don’t set agendas, they deprive the patient of the opportunity to think through what is most important to them to spend time on in session.

-Judith S. Beck, Ph.D.