CPT Session Outline

Thank you so much for your interest in Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT).

I have sent clients enrollment forms and handouts through the client portal.

For people working on their own, a self-paced version of CPT is described in Self-Help Guide for Reducing Trauma Symptoms.

CPT terms are used below. Here is a glossary of CPT terms.


Please read the contract for engaging in CPT. If it is a fit for you, please sign it. Please complete the additional consents, questionnaires, and assessments.

Handouts and manual

Clients find CPT easier logistically if they have the manual in front of them, either in an electronic or print version.

Although the CPT manual is written for counselors, when we met in my office in-person, I had copies on hand for all of us so we could follow along together. I am sorry I am unable to provide copies for you.

If at all possible, please procure a print version of the manual. Here’s the publisher’s link to the manual. Here’s the Amazon link. You are welcome to purchase the manual from other vendors as well.

Through the client portal, I have provided a .pdf of the needed handouts and some particularly relevant sections of the manual.

Prior to Session 1

  1. Please be open to self-kindness.
  2. Please examine this diagram entitled Approaching vs. Avoiding Reality.
  3. Prior to completing the task in #4, please make a list of 3 activities you find soothing and restorative. Plan time to complete the task in #4, approximately 1 hour, and to complete at least one restorative activity, at least 30 minutes.
  4. Please draft a trauma timeline. Please begin to hypothesize about what might serve as the index trauma. Here is a handout that may be helpful: Preparing a trauma timeline and beginning to determine the index trauma.
  5. Engage in the restorative activities you identified in #3.
  6. Please take and score the PCL-5 Monthly and the PHQ-9 assessments. Copies of these assessments are included in the .pdf of handouts.
  7. Please open an email and entitle it “CPT Session 1.” Identify and list your scores. Please copy and paste this text in quotes into the body of the message: “Today, I learned __________. So far in CPT, I have learned _________. I think what I have learned will be of value to me because it will __________.”
  8. Please save this email in your drafts folder. At the end of each session, you will be asked to take two minutes to reflect on your experience, open this email, back over the underlines, and fill in the blanks. After sharing your insights aloud, you will email your scores and this statement of progress to me.
  9. Please enter your first PCL-5 score on the PCL-5 Score Sheet (Handout 3.1 p. 7 of 7)
  10. Please watch these videos:
    Cognitive Theory
    Recovery and Fight or Flight
    What Are Stuck Points?
    How Do I Identify Stuck Points?
    Type of Emotions

Prior to each subsequent session

  1. Focusing on the index trauma rather than on current stressors, please take and score the PCL-5: Weekly (Handout 3.1).
  2. Please take and score the PHQ-9 (Handout 3.2)
  3. Please be ready to answer the questions in the Check-In/Check-Out Sheet.
  4. Please update your PCL-5 Score Sheet (Handout 3.1 p. 7 of 7) and prepare to display it to discuss.
  5. To “begin with the end in mind” and orient our work during the session, please turn to the homework assignment that will conclude the current session.

Prior to Session 2

  1. Please write an impact statement (Handout 5.3). The handout in the link in #2 may be helpful as you begin to jot down notes, organize your thoughts, and consider areas of your life affected by thoughts and beliefs about the index trauma.
  2. Here are sample notes for selecting the index trauma and writing an impact statement.
  3. After completing an impact statement, begin to become aware of, and track the interrelationship between events, feelings, thoughts, and words/actions. Begin to differentiate between thoughts that are beliefs vs. facts.

As soon as you can, and prior to Session 3, begin to compile a Stuck Point Log (Handout 6.1).

A “Stuck Point” is the CPT term for what is termed in cognitive theory a “cognitive distortion.” From page 95: “A Stuck Point is a thought that you probably formed during or shortly after the trauma about why the trauma happened or what it means about yourself, others, and the world. It serves to keep you stuck in place and stops your recovery and growth.”

Here are helpful readings about Stuck Points and cognitive distortions:

Looking ahead

During Session 2, the ABC Worksheet is introduced (Handout 6.3).

Inside look at an inner dialogue using CPT

Here is a plain language summary of the inner dialogue of a person using cognitive skills to ease emotion centers and activate cognitive centers. Most terms used are in the glossary.

“I am aware of an intense inner state. Let me take back my consciousness. What am I feeling? Which are my primary feelings and which are my secondary feelings? Let me feel my natural, human, primary feelings. My brain is designed to handle them. They will come and they will go. Now, what are my secondary feelings, caused by thoughts? What thoughts am I thinking to cause these feelings? Of those thoughts, which are beliefs? Which are facts? Let me follow the facts. Based on the facts, and my own values and priorities, what would be the most realistic and helpful thing to say or do next – or not say or not do?”

You are encouraged to spend 15-30 minutes per day on CPT homework assignments and/or reading and/or training.

For another view of CPT, here is a session outline from the founders of CPT.


If you will participate in a CPT group, here is our Group Protocol.

Here is the page of links to Zoom groups.

Here is our in-house CPT guide and glossary.

Here is our main CPT page which includes links to self-guided training.

In the CPT Enrichment Group, we practice and deepen insights using our in-house Expanded ABC Worksheet. We also consider relational effectiveness.

Related posts on this site that may be of interest 

Last updated 11/4/21

This page is intended for clients’ use only. This content is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. Consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical and professional advice.