Eastside Family Center: where SST meets people’s needs

Eastside Family Center: where SST meets people’s needs

How can Single Session Therapy be integrated into healthcare facilities that deal with psychological well-being and mental health? What advantages and / or news can TSS bring?

There are many examples that we could cite to answer the questions presented here.

Today, however, we will focus on the  (EFC) in Calgary (Canada), where the implementation due to TSS dates back to 1990, bringing about 2,200 annual accesses to walk-in services.

In the structure we will talk about, the Walk-in Single Session Therapy is realized.

The so-called “classic” Single Session Therapy differs from this above all for the pre-session phase, in which the first information is collected and / or the person is asked to perform particular tasks. In the services with direct access (walk-in) there is no information whatsoever, given the very characteristic of the service, if not very short access questionnaires.

In today’s article, however, we will focus on the overlaps, that is, on the possibilities (and innovations) that Single Session Therapy can provide in the context of services that deal with psychological well-being.

How the Eastside Family Center was born

In the 1990s, the Calgary community, in agreement with the political authorities, opened a discussion on how to address the growing need for mental health services, especially for low-income sections of the population. We can therefore say that the birth of walk-ins is partly due to this factor, at least for the EFC.

The question that needed to be satisfied essentially concerned the possibility of quickly accessing services, without too much bureaucracy or waiting lists, which usually separate a client from the first appointment with a therapist. The Walk-in logic, together with the Single Session Therapy, perfectly meets this need.

The numbers of annual accesses (cited previously) confirm what has just been said, allowing the Eastside Family Center to establish itself as the first point of reference in Canada for mental health services based on “direct” access.

Satisfaction and effectiveness of the Single Session

Welcoming such a large number of people has allowed the researchers present in the center to obtain a large number of data, both on immediate customer satisfaction and on the maintenance (or not) of the latter over time. Furthermore, ad hoc tools for evaluations and control were used, such as the Session Rating Scales (Duncan et al., 2003).

From the many publications present (Miller, 2008; Lawson, McElheran & Alive, 2006; Miller & Slive, 2004) it is clear that the reception model based on a single session is highly satisfactory for EFC clients.

Furthermore, half of the interventions do not need other appointments (effectiveness).

 What are the services?

We provide no-charge, walk-in, single-session counseling to individuals, couples and families.
No appointment is necessary.

This is the sentence that you can find on the Eastside Family Center website (here). It basically summarizes what is done, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, by a team of experts, ready to welcome and act immediately on the problems and difficulties brought by the people who log in.

The health facility is therefore able to accommodate people, at any time of the week, who have mental problems, work, family or relational difficulties, without the need for an appointment (with direct access).

Some might think of a stressful situation for the therapist, given the lack of information, if not a short questionnaire filled out by the client before entering the room, and given the only session done in half of the cases. In reality, exactly the opposite happens (Slive, McElheran & Lawson, 2008).

In fact, we have seen how the therapeutic activity within the walk-in is highly rewarding for the staff. Let’s not forget that customers who access without an appointment do so, in the vast majority of cases, because they are highly motivated, effectively canceling the possibility of a missed appointment. Greater motivation translates into greater effectiveness, which in turn reverberates in the quality of the service, its authority and its dissemination.

Other services: focused counseling and online therapy

In addition to the walk-in Single Session Therapy, at the Eastside Family Center you can find other services, such as Focused Counseling, or therapy sessions, with the same professional, aimed above all at young people and families, where you can receive appointments promptly, without waiting lists.

Furthermore, with the development of new technologies, the doors of the web and online therapy have opened, with consultations via email, chat or video calls.

Both of these latter activities, together with the walk-in, are carried out thanks to qualified personnel who use short or single session intervention models, so as to be able to respond quickly and effectively in completely new “settings”, but extremely in step with the times.

Below is a video summarizing the EFC’s 25 years of service. If you are interested in understanding how to implement Single Session Therapy in your facility, you can contact us for a first meeting via Skype.



Pier Paolo D’Alia


Italian Center team

for Single Session Therapy


Bibliographical references

Duncan, B., Miller, S., Sparks, J., Claud, D., Reyenolds, L., Brown, J. & Johnson, L. (2003). The Session rating scale: preliminary psychometric property of a “working” alliance measure. Journal of Brief Therapy, 3 (1), 3-12.

Lawson, A., McElheran, N. & Alive, A. (2006). Why clients return to a single session walk-in counseling service (Unpublished manuscript). Calgary, Alberta: Woods Homes Eastside Family Center.

Miller, J. K. (2008). Walk-in single-session team therapy: A study of client satisfaction. Journal of Systemic Therapy, 27 (3), 78-94.

Miller, J. K. & Slive, A. (2004). Breaking down the barriers to clinical service delivery: Walk-in family therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 30, 95-105.

Slive, A. & Bobele, M. (2011). When One Hour is All You Have. Phoenix: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen.

Slive, A., McElheran, N. & Lawson, A. (2008). How brief does it get? Walk-in single-session therapy. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 27, 5-22.

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Rosita Del Medico

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