10 general principles to start practicing Single Session Therapy

10 general principles to start practicing Single Session Therapy

You may be wondering how to integrate Single Session Therapy into your professional practice.

We have already answered that, regardless of the therapeutic approach followed, the use of TSS is possible for all therapistsBut, in practice, how can this be done?

Obviously in an article it is difficult to summarize all the points and explain how to develop them pragmatically, but we will try to give you an initial overview, promising then to return to the different points later. 

How to integrate TSS into professional practice 

SST is a seemingly revolutionary approach. Apparently because in reality it is firmly attached to a theory of change based on the observation of how change occurs spontaneously in people’s lives (as well as in therapeutic contexts) and on the observation of how people have the resources to change.

However, its success rate makes it surprisingly effective, to the point that the hardest thing to do is to understand the assumptions that allow it to be integrated: without them, any technique, any practice, any guideline will be useless. 

So let’s go step by step. 

Here are 10 General Principles that the clinician must deal with in order to apply Single Session Therapy successfully.  

General Principles of Single Session Therapy 

As mentioned, in the 30 years of SST studies, research, theory and above all practice have developed. The General Principles set out below date back to 1990, by Rosenbaum, Hoyt & Talmon. As the Italian Center for Single Session Therapy, in the next few articles we will also talk about the evolution in recent years, what are the most effective and efficient practices today and the declinations that we have seen to be most useful in the Italian context

But already from these first Principles we can draw important information.

 In their first research, the authors conducted meetings on 60 people (the research then continued on 58), between the ages of 8 and 80, with heterogeneous diagnoses.  The sessions, beyond the therapist called to lead them, all began with a Key Question aimed at specifying that you want to work on the problem brought by trying to find a solution in a single work session, while keeping the door open for any future appointments.

Hoyt and colleagues videotaped the sessions held with the consent of the clients. 

Even according to their own style and according to their own therapeutic orientation (different for each of the three authors), they also characterized each meeting with a Final Question, which referred to the client the choice of taking another appointment or not. All subjects received telephone follow-up from 2 months to 2 years, after the last therapy session. 

The results were that 34 of 54 people (58.6%) decided that a Single Session was sufficient.During the telephone follow-ups, the results showed that most of the people interviewed reported significant improvements over the original problems (88%), as well as in areas of functioning related to the problem (65%). As you probably already know, subsequent studies, even on much larger samples (up to 100,000 people), confirm these data. 

 General Principles and Guidelines 

Just from this research and from the careful observation of the video recordings made, the authors defined 10 General Principles to be considered for the implementation of a Single Therapy Session. Let’s see them quickly:

1-      Expect change: If you believe that there can be no change in a single session, for sure it will

2-      Conceive each encounter as a whole, as an episode in itself complete and not as only the first piece of a necessarily longer path

3-      Don’t rush and try to be brilliant

4-      Emphasize the person’s abilities and strengths, rather than focusing on the pathology

5-      Life, not therapy, is the great teacher: remember that in a classic setting, with one session per week, the person will spend 1 hour with you and 167 hours out there!

6-      More is not necessarily better. Less is often more!

7-      Big problems don’t always require big solutions: clients with serious problems are often looking for practical help rather than eager to explore the deepest corners of their psyche

8-      The essence of therapy is “helping clients to help themselves”, and not “satisfying the therapist’s need to be necessary”

9-      Many people have limited resources (time or money) and these should be preserved and respected

10-  End the session in a way that allows the client to have useful implications, opening up new possibilities.

As mentioned, these principles must be deepened and its recent developments must be taken into account.

In our workshops on Single Session Therapy we take up precisely these evolutions and deepen these and other principles with targeted exercises.However, many ideas and concepts expressed here remain basic and certainly help the clinician who wants to begin integrating SST into his own practice. 


Federico Piccirilli & Flavio Cannistrà
Psychologist, psychotherapists

Co-Founder e Founder dell’Italian Center
for Single Session Therapy







Hoyt, M.F. & Talmon, M. (eds.) (2014a). Single Session Therapy and Walk-In Services. Bancyfelin, UK: Crown House (in traduzione).

Hoyt, M.F. & Talmon, M. (2014b). Editors’ Introduction: Single Session Therapy and Walk-In Services. In M.F. Hoyt & M. Talmon (eds.) (2014a), op. cit., pp. 2-26.

Slive, A. & Bobele, M. (2014). One Session at a time: When you have a Whole Hour. In M.F. Hoyt & M. Talmon (eds.) (2014), op. cit., pp. 95-119.

Rosenbaum, R., Hoyt, M.F. & Talmon, M. (1990). The Challenge of Single-Session Therapies: Creativing Pivotal Moments. In R.A. Wells & V.J. Giannetti (eds), Hanbook of the Brief Psychotherapies, New York-London: Plenum Press, pp. 165-189.

Talmon, M. (1990). Single Session Therapy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass (Tr. it. Psicoterapia a seduta singola. Milano: Erickson).


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