Areas of expertise

Single Session Therapy

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An image of the logo of Making the Most of Every Encounter series

Despite its name, Single Session Therapy (SST) or Single Session Work (SSW) is best conceptualised as a process rather than an event that assists workers to make the most of the first, and what may be the only, session for clients. The process includes: initial phone contact between counsellor/intake worker and client/s, and/or the completion of a pre-session questionnaire; one longer than normal face-to-face session; a follow-up phone call booked in by the counsellor at the end of the session, which functions both as a clinical contact and a means to determine future treatment or referral options (Talmon, 1993).

Empirical findings from a range of counselling contexts reveal the most common (modal) number of sessions is one, and that many clients find this one encounter sufficient. As it is difficult to predict which clients will attend for one session and which clients will attend ongoing sessions, SST encourages workers to:

  • actively find a focus for the session
  • check in to ensure the conversation is on track
  • be responsive to what clients want and share thoughts or ideas with them
  • allow for the possibility that one session may be enough
  • decide on the next steps together with the client/s during the follow-up phone call

The SST approach is appealing to clients because it targets their key concerns. It is attractive to managers because it can address waiting lists and make services more accessible; and it is embraced by workers committed to client led practice. SST has a range of applications and can be utilised by services which primarily work with individuals to engage family members in the ‘treatment’ process (see Single Session Family Consultations).


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