Single-session therapy for the treatment of depression and anxiety in children

Single-session therapy for the treatment of depression and anxiety in children

Can Single Session Therapy be considered a valid alternative for intervention with children?

In today’s article we will answer this question, referring to the experience reported by researcher Jessica Schleider , who has been using Single Session Therapy for some time to treat depression and anxiety with children .

Before going into the subject, however, let’s see what are currently the critical aspects of mental health care for children and adolescents!

The picture that was taken with respect to the state of the art of mental health services for children and adolescents to which we will refer in this article will concern the context of the United States , however some themes presented may also unite other parts of the world.


What phenomenon are we facing?

According to research conducted on the US healthcare system , it appears to be failing to accommodate the true number of young people who could benefit from a mental health intervention, even as more and more children and adolescents struggle with depression , anxiety and other psychological obstacles.  


What are the reasons for this phenomenon?

There are several reasons why the supply of mental health professionals falls short:

  1. Stigma still represents a major obstacle , limiting access to care. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association , nearly 1 in 5 people in the United States have a mental health problem, but not everyone is seeking help . For those who manage to overcome this barrier, mental health services are not always available .
  2. Treatments can be expensive and time-consuming : psychotherapy courses can last for months or years and the costs are not always covered by insurance. These factors are exacerbated if there are even serious conditions of poverty.


In this panorama, what is the figure for children and adolescents?

Compared to the world of children and adolescents , it is estimated that 25% of people under the age of 18 suffer from a psychological problem (Kazdin, 2018) Furthermore, there has been an increase in the number of adolescents with depression, anxiety and suicide, of whom only a third receive help (Merikangas, Egli, Burstein, Swendsen, Avenevoli, Caso, et al., 2011).


What alternative solutions can be put in place to address these problems?

Jessica Schleider , researcher and manager of the Lab for Scalable Mental Health at Stony Brook University in New York , is trying to answer these questions, proposing alternative intervention solutions and able to fill the gaps presented as soon as possible.


What does Dr. Schleider propose?

Schleider offers online brief therapy modules that are radically different from ordinary psychotherapy. Sessions from cognitive behavioral therapy last about 30 minutes each and are  available online  for free so young patients can try them out and watch them be assessed.


When can they be used?

Schleider says the sessions can be used when a child is on a waiting list for a one-on-one appointment with a therapist. Or they could be used by pediatricians when a child is showing signs of depression. 


 What intervention objectives do they pursue?

The first of three online sessions tackles the topic of depression , teaching children that the feelings they have are temporary. The second delves into self-hatred and being kind to yourself , while the third deals with mood management. 


 What is their effectiveness?

Schleider carries out continuous research with the aim of investigating how each single part of the complete treatment package achieves the result and with which problems it is most effective, even if encouraging results emerged from a pilot study  with 96 participants in 2018 , which demonstrated how a 30-minute session reduced the depression and anxiety of the experimental group compared to the control group.  



In the United States and around the world, the vast majority of children and adolescents in need of mental health services currently receive no treatment. While many barriers exist, one key point appears to be related to the dominant model of providing psychological interventions. This model, which only includes individual and in-person treatment, with a qualified mental health professional provided in a clinical setting, no longer seems to respond on its own to the needs expressed by the population , especially that of minors . These difficulties therefore lead to the need to identify new models for the provision of psychological services such as the one proposed by Dr. Schleider who, with the simple use of an intervention method such as TSS and the application of technological supports, makes it possible to resize the treatment and make it more accessible to children and adolescents.


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



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Resnick, B. (2019). Teens are increasingly depressed, anxious, and suicidal. How can we help? There are good research-backed solutions to prevent suicide among young people. Vox from

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