Single session therapy and Covid-19: the use of SST as a rapid response in emergency contexts

Single session therapy and Covid-19: the use of SST as a rapid response in emergency contexts

With today ‘s article we see how Single Session Therapy can be used in emergency contexts , focusing in particular on the global health emergency caused by the Coronavirus epidemic .

The attention to the topic arises from a proposal put forward by the scholar Dominikus David Biondi Situmorang , an assistant professor at the Department of Guidance and Counseling at Atma Jaya University in Indonesia, who suggested the introduction of TSS as “Rapid Counseling”. in the process of psychological care for people who have had COVID-19 and their family members (Situmorang, 2021).

What is the context in which the proposal was born?

Dominikus David Biondi Situmorang (2021) highlighted that according to  data from all over the world, a large number of COVID-19 patients have been registered every day since the start of the pandemic (WHO, 2020). This resulted in the need for psychological assistance by people and their families (Situmorang, 2020a; Wang et al. , 2020) as the experiences experienced following this experience included: anxiety , fear , depression , stress and delusions of death (Lee & Crunk, 2020; Situmorang, 2020b).



But which figures and which type of intervention could represent a resource in the emergency linked to Covid-19?

The process of psychological assistance should be carried out by consultants, psychologists , psychiatrists , nurses and doctors working in hospitals and in this case the type of conventional psychological intervention , characterized by a long and frequent number of meetings, may not represent the most effective in responding to patients with Covid-19, who instead need immediate psychological help.



What did Situmorang propose in this specific case ?

Situmorang (2021) claims that, just as the production of a “rapid test” to verify the presence or absence of Covid-19 in people was crucial for the detection of the virus (Andrey et al ., 2020), also in the field of mental health It may be useful to use the term  “Rapid Counseling”  to describe the process of psychological assistance provided to people during the pandemic in order to free them

from psychological disorders quickly and accurately.



What would the Rapid Consultation specifically consist of?

The use of the term  Rapid Counseling  could refer to a process of psychological assistance carried out through a single meeting on which the Single Session Therapy method is applied (Talmon, 1990) which Situmorang (2021) proposes integrated with the Solution-Focused approach Brief Therapy (SFBT) (Campbell, 2012). SFBT is an intervention model according to which everyone can construct solutions to the problems they experience (Iveson, 2002). The main techniques of the SFBT model are the “Scaling Questions”  (Strong, Pyle & Sutherland, 2009) and the “Miracle Questions”  (Strong & Pyle, 2009).



Let’s see in more detail the key tools in this type of consultancy?

In implementing Rapid Counseling , counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses and doctors working in hospitals can apply the two techniques mentioned above ( Scaling Questions and Miracle Questions ) typical of SFBT as described below:

Question that scales the problem (Scaling Questions) : it can be an opening or closing question of the interview. For example, at the beginning the operators could ask the question ( On a scale from 1 to 10, on which point of the scale do you place (describing it) your anxiety, fear, depression, stress or delusions of death?) with the aim of helping both the patient and the professionals to evaluate the psychological problems that the person is experiencing, regardless of whether the problem is mild, moderate or severe. Instead, by asking the question at the end of the session it is possible to find out whether the patient has experienced a change in the perception of psychological problems or not. 


Miracle Questions : by asking the miracle question ( If a miracle happens in your life tonight and tomorrow you are free from the psychological problems you are experiencing. How can you say you are happy?) the person will automatically fall into the scenario beyond the problem. Next by asking the question “So, what can you do to feel happy?” the patient will focus on concrete solutions to overcome the problem. The consultants’ task at that point will be to support the solutions identified.




To conclude, today’s article aims to act as a stimulus for all those figures who find themselves working in the field of mental health and who at the same time feel the need to equip themselves with different tools to respond effectively to the needs presented by the people. Emergency situations such as the one determined in the last year and a half by the Covid-19 pandemic have sparked even more debate on mental health and on the need for the importance of intervening quickly in some contexts of serious physical and psychological risk and the SST can be an excellent tool to achieve this goal.  


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




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