Brief overview of the main research in single session therapy

Brief overview of the main research in single session therapy

2017 09 21 Ricerca in terapia Seduta Singola

From the discovery of Single Session Therapy in the 1980s – with the first studies of M. Talmon, MF Hoyt and R. Rosenbaum at the Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California (Talmon, 1990) – to date, research on Session Therapy Single have expanded, going through different stages.

SST has developed over the years, finding spaces of application in different contexts (public and private), with different therapeutic approaches and in multiple areas of intervention (mental health, families, emergency, work) to the point that a continuous and systematic research and verification of results to affirm its usefulness and effectiveness as a method of intervention.

The aim of this article, therefore, will be to provide a brief review of some recent research carried out internationally on SST which highlights its usefulness with respect to other forms of prolonged treatment or with respect to specific areas of treatment.


3 types of Single Session Therapy

Before proceeding with the review of the most recent investigations it is important to remember that from the first studies conducted by the group of Talmon, Hoyt and Rosenbaum and by other important scholars (Kogan, 1957a, 1957b, 1957c; Brandt, 1965; Baekeland & Lundwall, 1975; Spoerl , 1975; Koss, 1979; Pekarik, 1992a, 1992b; Kaffman, 1995; Bloom, 1975, 2001;) in which we started from the analysis of the droup outs (for further details see article), the research planned its objective and has broadened the spectrum of his investigation, verifying the effectiveness of this method of intervention with respect to the procedure, the problems with which it is used, the type of patients and the intervention setting.

With regard to the procedural aspect, Talmon (1990) classified 3 types of Single Session Therapy, thus offering an important direction of investigation:

  • planned SST, in which the therapist sets up a single meeting with the client from the very beginning;
  • unscheduled SST, which occurs when at the beginning or at the end of the consultation the therapist and the client decide together that the objectives have been achieved and no further sessions are necessary;
  • SST as a result of the premature interruption of treatment by the client who cancels or does not show up for the appointment, defined in most cases as drop-out.

With respect to these surveys, we invite the reader to deepen the article 3 types of Single Session Therapy, while below we will deal with the first two categories.


The planned SST research

From the initial investigations carried out on follow-up interviews of therapies of a single scheduled session, it emerged that after only one session it was possible to obtain improvements and achieve one’s goals. In support of this claim we find the follow-up interview analyzes conducted by Talmon (1990) and his team of clients who had received a single scheduled treatment and the verification study of this investigation conducted by Kaffman (1995). To learn more, see the article The first research in Single Session Therapy.

Subsequently, other research has also shown that a single scheduled therapy session can be as effective as long and costly interventions (Baer, ​​Marlatt, Kivlahan, Fromme, and Larimer, 1992).

Bloom in his meta-analysis found that a single intervention could be as effective as long-term psychotherapy, and according to the author the results of planned short-term psychotherapy and unlimited-time therapy are generally the same (Bloom, 1997 ).

Some more recent research on brief therapy has also found that between 50 and 70% of clients show positive improvement after attending one or two sessions (Barkham et al, 2006; Cahill et al., 2003). See the article The advantages of short therapies: the best results are obtained at the beginning.

According to other researches, SST turns out to be useful and effective in the treatment of specific problems (e.g. specific phobias, PTSD, childhood and adolescent problems, sleep disorders, anxiety problems, etc .; on the subject we have written several articles, here are some of them: for some structures / services; in natural disasters; for specific problems) in specific areas of intervention (e.g. family, couple and individual therapy) and in working with certain categories of people (e.g. children and adolescents, adults, workers, etc. – we wrote an article for the declination of TSS with particular categories of users) (Oest, 1989; Lokshin, Lindgren, Wweinberger & Koviach, 1991; Meanwhile, Campbell, 1999; Coverly, Garralda, Bowman, 1995 ).

Single Session Therapy can be used for both direct and indirect intervention. For example, in recent studies with families it was found that after a single scheduled session, family members of children with behavioral problems have very positive reactions to the treatment, they feel less stressed and more capable of dealing with the behavioral difficulties of their own. children; moreover, the level of satisfaction is high and individual consultations are considered useful or quite useful (Sommers – Flanagan, 2007; Goodman and Happel, 2007; Perkins, 2006).


Further results from the “Unscheduled” SST

Hoyt (2009) noted that it is common for psychotherapists to observe clients finishing therapy as if it were an “early renounce”. But there is more and more evidence to suggest that clients are satisfied with the outcome of a session and don’t need to return.

Among the main reasons why clients choose to finish therapy earlier, often after only one session, in the first place is “having solved the problem”; follow the external variables that prevent access to treatment and dissatisfaction with treatment, and more (Barret, Chua, Crits-Cristoph, Gibbons & Thompson, 2008; Pekarik, 1992a).

Single session therapy Finally, the relationship between therapy length, outcome and client satisfaction has been explored in some research on short therapy (Pekarik 1992b). From these investigations it was concluded that a client’s expectation of therapy directly affects its length or duration (Battino, 2007).



Based on this brief overview of some of the investigations recently conducted on Single Session Therapy, it can be concluded that this method of intervention can be considered an efficient and effective first form of treatment that can be applied as an alternative to longer and longer treatments. expensive in different settings, with different problems and with different people.

Not only.

As studies show, in many cases (between 60 and 80%) a single session is also the only one necessary. In addition, in our studies at the Italian Center for Single Session Therapy we are observing that the idea that one session could be sufficient brings the person closer to the treatment which, if in a session he could not solve his problem, is spontaneously led to ask for subsequent consultations.


Angelica Giannetti

Psicologa, Psicoterapeuta

Team dell’Italian Center

for Single Session Therapy




Barkham, M., Connell, J., A., Stiles, W., Miles, J., Margison, F., Evans, C., & Melor-Clark, J. (2006). Dose-effect relations and responsive regulation of treatment duration: The good enough level. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74(1), 160.

Barrett, M. S., Chua, W., Crist-Christoph, P., Gibbons, M. B., Casiano, D. & Thompson, D. (2008). Early withdrawal from mental health treatment: Implications for psychotherapy practice. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 45(2), 247-267.

Battino, R. (2006). Expectation: Principles and practice of very brief therapy. Conyemporary Hypnosis, 24(1), 19-29.

Bloom, B. L. (2001). Focused single-session psychotherapy: A review of the clinical and research literature. Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention, 1(1), 75-86.

Cahill, J., Barkham, M., Hardy, G., Reese, A., Shapiro, D.A., Stile, W.B. &Macaskill, N. (2003). Ouctomes of patients completing and not completing cognitive therapy for depression. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 42, 133-143.

Campbell, A. (1999). Single Session Interventions: An example of clinical research in practice. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 20(4). 183-194.

Coverley, C. T., Garrald, M. E. & Bowman, F. (1995). Psychiatric intervention in primary care for mothers whose schoolchildren have psychiatric disorder. British Journal of General Practice, 45, 235-237.

Goodman, D. & Happell, B. (2006). The efficacyof family intervention in adolescent health. The internetional Journal of Psychiatric Nursing Research, 12, 1364 – 1377.

Hoyt, M. F., Rosenbaum, R., & Talmon, M. (1990). Effective single-session therapy: Step-by-step guidelines. In M. Talmon, op. cit., pp. 43-60.

Hoyt, M. F. (2009). Brief Psycotherapies: Principles and practices. Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Turcker & Thiesen, Inc..

Kaffman, M. (1995). Brief therapy in the Israeli kibbutz. Contemporary Family Therapy, 17(4), 449-468. doi:10.1007/BF02249356

Kogan, L. S. (1957a). The short-term case in a family agency. Social Casework, 38, 231-238.

Kogan, L. S. (1957b). The short-term case in a family agency. Social Casework, 38, 296-302.

Kogan, L. S. (1957c). The short-term case in a family agency. Social Casework, 38, 366-374.

Koss, M. P. (1979). Length of psychotherapy for clients seen in private practice. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 47(1), 210-212.

Lokshin, B., Lindgren, S., Weinberg, J. & Koviach, J. (1991). Ouctome of habit cough in children with a brief session of suggestion therapy. Annals of Allergy, 67, 579-582.

Oest, L. G. (1989). One-session treatment for specific phobias. Behavior Research and Therapy, 7, 1-7.

Pekarik, G. (1992a). Relationship of clients’ reasons for dropping out of treatment to outcome and satisfaction. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 48, 91-98.

Pekarik, G. (1992b). Posttreatment adjustment of clients who drop out early vs. late in treatment. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 48, 379-387.

Perkins, R. (2006). The effectiveness of one session of therapy using a single-session therapy approach for children and adolescents with mental health problems. The British Psychological Society, Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice,79, 215-227.

Perkins, R. & Scarlett, G. (2008). The effectiveness of single session therapy in child and  adolescent mental health. part 2: An 18-month follow-up study. Psychology and Psychotherapy, 81(Pt 2), 143.

Slive, A. & Bobele, M. (2011). When one hour is all you have. Effective therapy for walk-in clients. Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen. Società Italiana di Psichiatria (2013). Salute mentale in rete per abbattere “il muro” (rassegna stampa).

Sommers-Flanagan, J. (2007). Single-Session Consultations for Parents: A Preliminary Investigation. The Family Journal: Counselling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 15, 1, 24‐29.

Spoerl, O. H. (1975). Single session psychotherapy. Diseases of the Nervous System, 36, 283-285.

Talmon, M. (1990). Single-Session Therapy. San Francisco: Jossey Bass (Tr. it. Psicoterapia a seduta singola. Trento: Erickson, 1996).

Subscribe now and stay updated with important Single Session Therapy news and the next SST Symposium (in Italy)!

Rosita Del Medico

I commenti sono chiusi.