How to introduce a single session therapy

How to introduce a single session therapy

Imagine that you are a Walk-In therapist offering a Single Session Therapy service without an appointment . Surely you will find yourself faced with the possibility of welcoming people who will turn to you for advice, expecting to solve their problem or achieve their goal in the shortest possible time.

At this point it will be of fundamental importance to set up the interview in such a way that the psychologist and the client can immediately make the most of the time available to them.

The aim of this article, therefore, will be to focus on the way to introduce Single Session Therapy and to maximize the counseling    session from the very first moment .


What happens when a person arrives at a Walk-In / Single Session Therapy (WI / SST) service?

In our One Session Center , for example, the person who decides to contact the service will arrive without having had a previous contact with the professional, except to receive information on how the service itself works. Therefore the psychologist will find himself in front of a person of whom he will have no news.

Once arrived, the client will fill out a short pre-session questionnaire in which he will express his request and in less than an hour he will start his session. 

The focus of the single session will be on what the client wants to achieve the most at that particular moment . Once the interview is over, the person together with the therapist will decide if that meeting will have been sufficient or if they want to have others.


So what should be the mental attitude of the therapist who will welcome the client to set up a TSS in a Walk-In service?

A first fundamental aspect that the Walk-In therapist will have to keep in mind in order to approach a TSS will be to consider each session as complete in itself . This means that every encounter, as well as in a longer-lasting therapeutic process, will have to be characterized by an initial phase , a central phase and a concluding phase .

Furthermore, to get the most out of every single interview, he will have to think about psychotherapy in an alternative way. To manage a successful Single Session Therapy, in fact, one’s conviction regarding the effectiveness of the brief therapy and the client’s resources will be fundamental.

According to several scholars, in fact, the therapist’s expectations regarding how rapidly clients can change are communicated both explicitly and implicitly (Hunsley, Aubry, Verstervelt and Vito, 1999; Scamardo, Bobele and Biever, 2004; Hoyt, 2009).


Once the therapist’s mental attitude has been defined, then what will be the most effective way to introduce SST with the client?

In order for a SST to be introduced effectively, the therapist will need to take three basic steps in the initial phase of the interview: 

  1. the first step will be to get in touch with the person in order to immediately establish a therapeutic alliance . This can be done by getting to know the client better in the aspects of his life (eg: family, work, education), thus communicating interest in him.
  2. the second step will be to direct the client towards the TSS / Walk-in, explaining the functioning of the session and one’s own approach. In this phase, for example, the therapist can say that for some clients a single session may be sufficient, while for others others may be necessary, without this representing a better condition than the other.
  3. the third step will concern the definition of the problem / objective to be achieved through the formulation of some key questions such as “What would you like to achieve today?”, “Why did you decide to come here today?” or “What will he tell her if her time has been well spent when she gets out of here?

 In these questions, the word “today” will represent, for example, the key word to orient the person’s idea towards the single session.



Introducing a TSS in an effective way will inevitably determine the progress of the entire session, therefore taking care of the initial phase of the interview will allow the therapist to immediately direct the client towards the definition of the objective of that moment and subsequently of the resources necessary to achieve it.

To achieve this, the therapist will have to adopt a certain mental and therapy attitude, considering TSS as a lonely pearl (Bobele & Slive, 2018). The pearl as a solution to an oyster problem, in fact, in order to form it will go through several phases (initial, intermediate, final) before being completed. The TSS as well as the pearl can therefore represent a unique therapeutic moment in itself , completing a complete therapeutic process as if there were no other sessions available. 




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




Hoyt, MF, Bobele, M., Slive, A., Young, J., Talmon, M. (2018). Single – Session Therapy by Walk -In or Appointment : Administrative, Clinical, and Supervisory Aspects of One – at- a – Time Services . New York: Routledge.

Hoyt, MF, & Talmon, M. (2014). Capturing the Moment: Single Session Therapy and Walk-In Services . Crown House Pub.

Slive, A., & Bobele, M. (2011). When One Hour is All You Have: Effective Therapy for Walk-in Clients . Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen.


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