Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said it best: “The journey of a thousand miles begins first with a single step”.
Studies have found that most (70-80%) people who attend one counselling or psychotherapy session feel as though that single session was sufficient in helping them with the problem they came in for. On follow-up, majority of people also report that “ripple effects” occurred with other issues they didn’t directly work on.
Single Session Therapy (SST) is not so much a “therapy” as it is as much an approach to therapy.
This approach has been referred to as a conscious effort on the therapist and clients behalves to try and come to an agreeable solution for the issue the client has come in for. After the session, the
client goes away to implement the plan to see what happens.
One session, however, does not mean only one. It means, just one… for now. More help is available if needed (this is a sub-type of SST that is considered as One-At-A-Time Therapy [OAATT]).
One of the main reasons psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors and other mental health clinicians (and clinics, e.g. Headspace, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service [CAMHS] in Australia and worldwide) is due to its ability to reduce or practically eliminate extensive waitlists.
The APS released some statistics in February 2022 saying that Australian citizens were having to wait, on average, 3 to 6 months to see a psychologist (mainly because 71% of psychologist were
declining taking on new clients), and that psychology as a workforce are only at 35% of the government target. Meaning, there are too many people who want to see a psychologist than than there are psychologists to be able to realistically see them.
So, if most clients find one session sufficient (not be confused with curative - which long term therapy does not guarantee either!), getting someone in for one session (at least, for now) sooner,
rather than (much) later makes sense.
As practitioners, if the research says that the most likely number of times a client is going to attend is once, then why not utilise this knowledge to make the most of the first, and potentially, only encounter we will have.
But is one session really worth it?
Well, SST is for you if you have a specific issue that can be tackled in a focussed way and you want to deal with it as quickly as possible. The key objective of SST is to help you get unstuck and move on with your life as quickly as possible.
It is certainly not implying that “one session will ‘fix’ or ‘cure’ you”. It is a service delivery option that is designed to get you the help at the time of your perceived need, rather than being based on practitioner availability.
And it could be the first step in the right direction for you.
- New York: Routledge
- Talmon, M. (1990). Single Session Therapy: Maximising the Effect of the First (and Often Only) Therapeutic Encounter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-32/november-2019/it-forced-me-think-different-ways- about-single-session-therapy