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Therapy – in the sense that it will help clients improve some aspect of the lives or experience – need not be a complicated business. By ‘therapy’ I mean talk-therapy, counselling and psychotherapy.

Single Session Therapy (SST) is a research-based approach that is effective in responding to clients’ needs where they only want the support of a therapist for a brief period. It enables them to focus on an issue and to use their own resources to tackle a situation or solve a problem.

The therapist or counsellor uses the same set of skills they were trained in, but with a slightly different mind-set. Single-session conversations tend to be highly focused to target the problem or issue the client wants help with. Follow-up studies show that up to three-quarters of clients are satisfied with the single session outcome.

What is particularly appealing about SST is that it can be practised by therapists from different approaches, making it of general appeal.

SST aims to get to the heart of a particular issue or problem during one discussion. It’s an approach which is used extensively in crisis or emergency situations but it is also valuable is less urgent settings.

Single session therapy is invaluable in emergency settings, but it is also increasingly popular among people with busy lives. 

Some clients don’t want to commit to repeated sessions, others say that a single session whenever they want one gives them a greater sense of control. Modern life may seem so busy that for many people it is easier to book one session at a time, rather than committing to a series of weekly sessions. 

There is consistent and growing evidence that a single therapeutic conversation can be as effective as more conventional, longer-term psychotherapies. 

As professionals have caught on too this many have become persuaded of the benefits of a single session. Rather than seeing such brief interventions as a poor substitute for ‘proper’ (long-term) therapy or counselling, they have discovered that SST attracts some clients precisely because one session is all they want at that time.

What’s important is not how long the therapy lasts but how effective it is, in the eyes of the client, in getting their needs met. 

How popular is it?

From my experience with my clients, about a third will see me for just one session. About half of those will repeat, sometimes often months or even years later. It is routine for me to discuss my clients’ preferences and expectations at the outset, and it can happen that a client who initially requests a single session then opts, during the conversation, for further sessions because they feel it will benefit them.

Therapy should always be client-led, with the duration of therapy agreed based to what the client wants. Discussions about the number of sessions should be informed by that, with the input of the therapist based on their knowledge of the process, and experience.

What’s important is not how long the therapy lasts but how effective it is, in the eyes of the client, in getting their needs met.

Contact me if you’d like to know more about Single Session Therapy

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Barry Winbolt is a Personal Consultant, brief therapist and writer. He lives in Seaford, South East England, and works with clients worldwide via Skype. He is committed to sharing his knowledge and experience through his writing, training and personal consulting practice. His driving idea is to show how easy it is to improve emotional wellbeing and to sweep away the doubts and uncertainties that often prevent people from sorting out the things that trouble them.

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