How to conduct an SST with the family the guidelines of the Bouverie Centre

How to conduct an SST with the family the guidelines of the Bouverie Centre

A frequent question when it comes to Single Session Therapy is whether this method can be applied to all areas of intervention, one of these is that which concerns work with families .

 Although family work is recognized as important and precious, still today in many cases it is considered as a complex intervention which requires specific preparation , a long time and many resources to be carried out . These beliefs often turn into real obstacles for both professionals and people who ask for help, refusing to offer or ask for services suited to the needs of families.  

 Is it possible to overcome these barriers?

In today ‘s article we will share the guidelines for carrying out a single-session family intervention defined by the Bouvery Center in Australia , with the intention of showing how it is possible to overcome the obstacles described above and guide professionals in setting up an intervention short-lived family.


What is Single Session Family Consultation (SSFC)?

Single Session Family Consultation (SSFC) is a limited, structured process that involves meeting with a client and their family and focuses on achieving realistic goals and negotiations . It was developed by combining family counseling with single-session therapy (Jewell et al., 2012; Talmon, 2012; Wynne, 1994).


Now let’s see the guidelines for conducting a Single Session Family Consultation?

Although each SSFC is considered to be complete in itself, it is important that the meeting is not reduced to single face-to-face contact with the family, but that pre- and post-session contacts are also included in the process . In this sense, the meeting with the family includes the following steps:


  1. Convocation of family members
  2. Session management
  3. Follow up process


  1. Convocation of family members

At this stage it is essential to address all the preparatory elements of the SSFC process, such as:

  • explain the SSFC to both the client and family members and prepare them for the session;
  • check who will participate in the session, how it will take place and what will be discussed.

In proposing an SSFC to the client, it is important to inform the client of the reasons for involving family members , explore the pros and cons of an SSFC, and give a realistic account of what typically occurs in a session. At the same time it is essential to prepare the family members , having first negotiated with the client which family member will be contacted and how this should be done to avoid that the call for family members becomes sudden.


  1. Conducting a family counseling session for a single session

There are four phases in an SSFC session:

  • Openness : it is essential to present the role of the therapist and welcome all members separately, connecting with each of them; introduce the general purpose of the session and describe the process (e.g. explain what will happen in the session, what the important issues might be, the duration and what possible outcomes).


  • Scoping: It’s important to listen to each person to find out what they want out of the session. It’s often helpful to ask permission to write down these preferences so you can give them back to the family after hearing. To make the session worthwhile you need to focus on one or two issues and where possible, encourage the selection of topics that impact everyone in attendance or on which all family members can contribute.


  • Answer: The main activities in this phase depend on the issue that the family and the therapist have decided to focus on. Of fundamental importance is listening to and recognizing the difficulties of the family, investigating and reflecting on existing strategies and strengths . Assume a position of genuine interest and curiosity, even if you don’t agree with what is being said.


  • Closing: This phase of the session can be used to clarify what has been discovered or realized and what may require further action. Reaching an agreement on what happens next is key , including arrangements for telephone follow-up with family. This part of the meeting includes sharing feedback with the whole family in a transparent way.


  1. Follow up process

The follow-up phone call to the family after the session is the final part of the process . The objectives of the follow-up are threefold : to ask everyone what they think and feel about the issues discussed; check if there are any questions or concerns arising from the session; think together about the needs of the client and the family.



Because there is significant research indicating that working with families with a member with mental health issues can both improve outcomes for the individual client and decrease stress for family members (Carr, 2009a, 2009b) , offering a brief family intervention can represent a valid opportunity to overcome those obstacles which have often seen professionals and family members give up adequate forms of help, expanding the therapist’s range of action and making the service more accessible to the client.


Angelica Giannetti
Team Psychotherapist of the Italian Center
for Single Session Therapy




Carr, A. (2009a). The effectiveness of family therapy and systemic interventions for adult-focused problems. Journal of Family Therapy(31), 46-74.

Carr, A. (2009b). The effectiveness of family therapy and systemic interventions for child-focused problems. Journal of Family Therapy, 31(1), 3-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6427.2008.00451.x

Jewell, TC, Smith, AM, Hoh, B., Ladd, S., Evinger, J., Lamberti, JS, . . . Salerno, A. J. (2012). Consumer centered family consultation: New York State’s recent efforts to include families and consumers as partners in recovery. American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 15(1), 44-60.

Talmon, M. (2012). When less is more: Lessons from 25 years of attempting to maximize the effect of each (and often only) therapeutic encounter. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 33(1), 6-14. doi: 10.1017/aft.2012.2

Wynne, L. (1994). The rationale for consultation with the families of schizophrenic patients. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 90, 125-132.

Young, J., Riess, C., & O’Hanlon, B. (1998). Get Together FaST Training and Service Development Initiative, Adult Mental Health. Melbourne: The Bouverie Centre, La Trobe University.


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