Single-session therapy and psychotherapy

Single-session therapy and psychotherapy

“ Everything will be fine in the end. And if it doesn’t go well, it means it’s not the end!”

We want to start this article , letting ourselves be guided by these words attributed to John Lennon , which encourage us to look to the future with the hope of a final yet to be built!


With today’s article , in fact, we will address the issue of recognizing SST as a form of psychotherapy , a point on which clarity has been made over time , but which at the same time is once again being debated.

An example of how some issues can come back to the fore is well described in a 2019 article published in the Journal of Systemic Therapies entitled Recognizing Single-Session Therapy as psychotherapy , in which the authors Karen Young and Joseph Jebreen reported on a controversy that arose in Ontario , following the establishment of a new Regulatory College for psychotherapists, which had begun to not recognize the hours of Single-Session Therapy carried out by some professionals who wished to become psychotherapists as therapy.


But getting back to us, can Single Session Therapy be considered psychotherapy?

The answer is yes!

To answer this question with greater conviction , let ‘s start from a recent milestone that has moved the end of TSS beyond its recognition as a therapy , making us imagine other horizons such as that of its greater diffusion and use in the field of mental health .



But what goal is it?  

TSS has been officially included among the various forms of therapy existing in the world, finding a place in the Dictionary of the American Psychological Association  , the translation of which is provided below: 

Single Session Therapy (SST)

Therapy ending after one session, usually by choice of the client, but also as indicated by the type of treatment (e.g. Ericksonian psychotherapy, brief solution-focused therapy). Some clients claim that an hour’s worth of therapy is enough to discontinue treatment, although some therapists believe this statement represents an escape to health or temporary relief from symptoms. Preparing for the session (e.g. by phone) increases the likelihood that the single therapy session will be successful.



But as in a climb where you slowly reach the top, what other stages have marked the pace of this journey?

Let’s see the key points that can define SST as a form of psychotherapy :

  • Both history and current practice demonstrate that rapid change is not only possible , but also common (Bobele & Slive, 2014; Budman & Gurman, 1988): many therapists have seen clients for only one therapy session since Freud (Bloom, 1981, 1992; Hoyt, Bobele, Slive, Young, & Talmon, 2018; Sproel, 1975).


  • Beyond traditional theoretical biases , evidence shows that there is no direct correlation between the severity and duration of a problem and the duration of effective treatment (Hoyt et al. , 2018; Hoyt, Rosenbaum, & Talmon, 1992; Talmon, 1990). Furthermore, current research does not support the thought that therapy success is equated with its duration rather than its quality (Hoyt & Talmon, 2018; Duvall, Young, & Kayes-Burden, 2012; Slive & Bobele, 2011).


  • TSS is an approach in which the therapist and sometimes the client expect from the outset that it will be just one meeting Based on this vision, the therapist will make the most of the session in terms of therapeutic impact .


  • The specific therapeutic approach used in TSS can vary and could include methods such as solution-focused interviewing, narrative, cognitive-behavioral, motivational, and other therapies (Hoyt & Talmon, 2018; K. Young, Dick, Herring, & Lee, 2008). The shared mindset when applying TSS is the expectation that somehow change (of thought, feeling, action) is always possible. The conversation is centered around competencies : The therapist and client discover together knowledge, skills, values ​​and commitments that will be described and amplified to create the possibility for change, concluding the session in such a way as to identify post-session progress.


  • TSS can be delivered, by quick access in a walk-in service , in person , by telephone or on virtual platforms .


  • In SST, the therapeutic relationship is considered essential and is a strong predictor of successful outcome (Lambert, 1992; Lambert & Bergin, 1994). During his training what therapists are taught is how to “make” a relationship , as the latter is not considered a thing, but a practice (Young & Jebreen, 2019).




Finally, in order to be considered as such, psychotherapy must not refer to its duration (Rosenbaum, 2008), but rather to the therapeutic moments it manages to create to allow the client to change. This can happen in one or more than one session. A more important task however, once its potential has been recognized, is that of its greater diffusion to allow more people to take advantage of it in the significant moments of their lives. For many people, SST will be sufficient (Talmon, 1990), leaving the possibility of long-term treatment to those who want or need it most.


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




Cannistrà, F., & Piccirilli, F. (2018). Single Session Therapy: Principles and Practices . Florence: Giunti Editore.

Bloom, B. L. (1992). Bloom’s focused single-session therapy. In Planned short-term psychotherapy:

A clinical handbook (2nd ed., pp. 97–121). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Bloom, B. L. (1981). Focused single-session therapy: Initial development and evaluation. In S. H. Budman (Ed.), Forms of brief therapy (pp. 167–216). New York, NY: Guilford.

Bobele, M., & Slive, A. (2014). One session at a time: When you have a whole hour. In M. F. Hoyt & M. Talmon (Eds.), Capturing the moment: Single session therapy and walk-in services (pp. 95–120). Bethel, CT: Crown House.

Budman, S. H., & Gurman, A. (1988). Theory and practice of brief therapy. New York, NY: Guilford.

Duncan, B. L., & Miller, S. D. (2000). The heroic client: Doing client-directed, outcomeoriented therapy. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Duvall, J., Young, K., & Kayes-Burden, A. (2012). No more, no less: Brief mental health services for children and youth.

Hoyt, M., Bobele, M., Slive, A., Young, J., & Talmon, M. (2018). Single-session therapy by walk-in or appointment: Administrative, clinical, and supervisory aspects of one-ata- time services. New York, NY: Routledge.

Hoyt, M. F., Rosenbaum, R., & Talmon, M. (1992). Planned single-session psychotherapy. In S. H. Budman, M. F. Hoyt, & S. Friedman (Eds.), The first session in brief therapy (pp. 59–86). New York, NY: Guilford.

Hoyt, M. F., & Talmon, M. (Eds.). (2014). Capturing the moment: Single session therapy and walk-in services. Bethel, CT: Crown House.

Hoyt, M.F., & Talmon, M. (2018). Preface [Preface]. In F. Cannistrà & F. Piccirilli, Single session therapy. Principles and practices [Single-session therapy. Principles and practices] (pp. 9–14). Florence, Italy: Giunti.

Lambert, M. (1992). Psychotherapy outcome research. In J. C. Norcross & M. R. Goldfried (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy integration (pp. 94–129). New York, NY: Basic Books.

Lambert, M. J., & Bergin, A. E. (1994). The effectiveness of psychotherapy. In S. Bergin & L. Garfield (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change (pp. 143–189).

Rosenbaum, R. (2008). Psychotherapy is not short or long. Monitor on Psychology, 39(7), 4–8.

Slive, A., & Bobele, M. (Eds.). (2011). When one hour is all you have: Effective therapy for walk-in clients. Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker, & Theisen.

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

Young, K., Dick, M., Herring, K., & Lee, J. (2008). From waiting lists to walk-in: Stories from a walk-in therapy clinic. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 27(1), 67–83.

Young, K.& Jebreen, J. (2019). Recognizing Single-Session Therapy as psychotherapy, Journal of Systemic Therapies, 38(4), 31–44.


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Rosita Del Medico

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