Single Session Therapy

The aim of single session therapy (SST) is to meet the client’s need in one session, and in an effective and timely manner. It’s not about restricting clients to only one session or attempting to squash a multi-session therapy into a single appointment. SST has proved so successful that therapists trained in the model sometimes apply it to sessions within regular weekly therapies as well. Clients feel that they’ve got what they wanted from the session and they also know that more help is available should they need it. The space between sessions may be weeks, months, or longer.

First and foremost, SST is for people who just like the idea of having a single session of therapy. Why shouldn’t you be able to consult a mental health professional in this way? You do it with physical health issues, and you can do it with mental health too. It puts the power in the hands of the client when they feel ready to take responsibility for actioning what they get from the session.

Why would you want only one session?

The classic situation is when you want a focused session on one issue, and you feel able to then put into action what you’ve gained from that session without needing to see a therapist regularly. However, there are many other reasons a person might consider SST. Here are just a few examples:

My approach to SST . . .

  • Help at the point of need: an appointment can usually be arranged within a few days
  • Three contacts: initial phone call, therapy session, follow-up call
  • Focused on what the client wants to address and the client’s goal
  • You leave the session with tailored resources and a plan of action
  • More help is available if needed
  • Person-centred, integrative, relational and non-judgmental
  • Major influences include: Windy Dryden, C.R. Rogers, C.G. Jung, psychodynamics, trauma theory, the evidence base from research and clinical practice

A try-out session?

You’re warmly invited to contact Karen if you’d like a pre-assessment session on Zoom. This is a full-length session where we can just chat and continue the conversation we started on the phone. There’s no obligation attached to this.

 

Help at the point of need

Emergency or crisis therapy: Something unexpected has happened and you want to see someone as soon as possible. If you’re experiencing self-harming, suicidal ideation and/or psychosis, please see the resources here.

Waiting list therapy: It’s not uncommon that a person is put on an organisation’s waiting list for therapy but wants some short-term support until they can be seen by the service they’ve been referred to.

Resourcing the client

Resourcing is another important aspect of the SST model, so if you know you need some help or support but you’re not quite sure what or how to get it, SST may be able to help.

 

Occasional sessions

As the idea of mental health as well as physical health becomes more understood and appreciated, more people are looking to incorporate therapy into their lives in some way. But not everyone wants or needs the traditional format of regular weekly sessions. For those who would like an occasional session on an ad-hoc basis, SST could be just what you’re looking for.

Logistical reasons

If a client is constrained by time, finances or other logistical reasons, a single session might provide enough relief from a problem for the client to feel that they’ve got their needs met.

What happens in single session therapy?

In SST there are actually three points of contact, not just one. These are the initial telephone call to ascertain if SST could meet the client’s need, the therapy session itself, and the follow-up call.

Initial phone call

In response to your initial contact, and as with all potential new clients, the therapist will arrange to call you for an informal chat. If you decide to go ahead, the therapist will send you a questionnaire so you can provide the basic background information that’s going to help make the session focused and efficient. The questionnaire is also a part of the therapeutic process for the client. It helps you reflect on what you want from the session and on the context around it.

Therapy session

The therapy session itself will focus on what you want to address. Once the focus and the goal of the session have been agreed, the therapist will seek to keep the session on track and moving towards that goal. If you want to address more than one thing, then perhaps another single session in due course might be appropriate. It’s hoped that you will leave the session with a greater insight and understanding of the issue, feeling “met” and better resourced than when you arrived, and with a plan of action of some kind that you feel empowered to take forward in the days and weeks after the session.

Follow-up call

The follow-up call will be at an agreed time a few weeks or months later to check in with you about how you are and how things are progressing following your consultation. If you’d like some more input from the therapist, this is the time to discuss it and potentially book a second session. Alternatively, you’re welcome to return at a later date to book another session if you wish, which could be on the same or a different issue. You always know that more help is available if you need it.

More ways to use single session therapy

SST has been applied to just about everything in mental health at some time, but here are some more ideas to illustrate the scope of a single session:

  • Difficulties with negative emotions or emotional dysregulation.
  • Relationship problems at home or at work.
  • Bringing more structure or organisation into your life.
  • For personal development.
  • Periodic preventative mental health care.
  • Life crisis management when something unexpected has happened.
  • Addressing something early so as to prevent more serious problems later.
  • Adjusting to a new or changed situation, or some new information about something.
  • Developing better self-discipline, e.g. with exercise, eating habits, study or work habits.
  • Feeling stuck, procrastination, self-sabotage.
  • Would you appreciate some professional input on an issue or situation, another pair of eyes on it, to talk something through?
  • Life dilemmas, making an important decision.

Can you do EMDR in a single session?

Intensive EMDR is an established model that may employ one or more single sessions of a couple of hours each. Alternatively it may be a series of shorter sessions done once or twice a day for several days that are closely spaced together. If you might be interested in intensive EMDR treatment, please contact me and I’d be happy to discuss it with you.

Clients feel that they’ve got what they wanted from the session and they also know that more help is available should they need it (Dryden, 2024).

It’s a highly client-centred way of working, and as Prof. Windy Dryden observes, “the expertise of the therapist when allied to the expertise of the client can be a potent force for good” (Dryden, 2020, p. 283).

Make an Enquiry

If you would like more information about psychological therapy and how we may be able to work together to address your concerns,
you are warmly invited to call, email, or message me through the form on the Contact page.

07801 273768 / info@karenjwilliams.co.uk

 

References

Dryden, W. (2020). Single-session one-at-a-time therapy: A personal approach. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 41(3), 283-301.

Dryden, W. (2024). About one-plus therapy (also known as single-session therapy). https://www.windydryden.com/oneplus-therapy.