What is Single Session Therapy? An introduction

What is Single Session Therapy? An introduction

Terapia a seduta singola

May a single session of therapy be enough for some people?

This is the assumption from which all the studies on Single Session Therapy have proceeded, and all resulted in univocal findings: Yes, one single session of therapy may be more than sufficient.

And not only for some people. But what is Single Session Therapy (SST)?


Single Session Therapy is not a theoretical model

First, SST is not a univocal theoretical model. In other words, it is not a stand-alone psychological approach, such as psychoanalysis, cognitive-behavioural therapy or systemic-relational therapy.

SST is rather a framework, a way to conduct therapy and counselling aimed at maximizing the efficacy of every session of each type of psychotherapy.



Single Session Therapy does not necessary last only one session

As Hoyt and Talmon (2014b) explained, one of the greatest misunderstandings is to think that doing SST always means conducting only one treatment session. This is a misconception.

Doing SST means working with the aim of getting the most out of every single session of therapy, which implies that –yes- every single session can potentially be the last one, then that the therapy can last only a single session.

Furthermore, if considering that all the studies unanimously show that the most frequent number of sessions in psychotherapy is 1 (20-50% of cases according to the different studies – Hoyt & Talmon, 2014a), the importance of getting the most out of every session become clear.

During the last 30 years, studies on SST focused on researching and deepening those factors that may enhance the effects of every single therapeutic encounter. Therefore – once again -, SST is not a therapeutic approach: every form of psychotherapy can incorporate the aspects of Single Session Therapy.

This is what happens in practice. Therapists who use the logics, principles and guidelines typical of SST in their clinical practice, come from different approaches, which can greatly differ from each other.



May a Single Session be enough for some people?

Returning to the initial question, Yes.

In this respect, Moshe Talmon (1986) noticed the high drop-out rates existing in the psychotherapy service where he used to work (the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, one of the biggest healthcare organisations of the United States) and tried to understand the reasons behind this trend.

To this aim, 200 of the patients seen only once were reached by phone, and the answer they gave was surprising: 78% of them claimed to have benefited from that single session and not returned to therapy for this reason (Talmon, 1990).

This assumption was later confirmed by the first research in SST – directed by Michael Hoyt and carried out together with Robert Rosenbaum and Moshe Talmon, who formed the research group. Findings showed that, of 60 patients, 58% of them believed not to need additional therapeutic sessions (Hoyt, Talmon & Rosembaum, 1990). Over the years, these finding were confirmed in further research studies worldwide.

To name but one, a longitudinal 8-year follow-up study conducted in Australia on more than 100’000 patients, revealed that 42% of the sample believed a single session of therapy to be enough.


Flavio Cannistrà
Psychologist, Psychotherapist
Founder Italian Center for
Single Session Therapy

Bibliographical references

Hoyt, M.F. & Talmon, M. (eds.) (2014a). Capturing the Moment. Single Session Therapy and Walk-In Services. Bancyfelin, UK: Crown House.
Hoyt, M.F. & Talmon, M. (2014b). Editors’ Introduction: Single Session Therapy and Walk-In Services. In M.F. Hoyt & M. Talmon (eds.) (2014a), op. cit., pp. 2-26.
Hoyt, M.F., Talmon, M. & Rosenbaum, R. (1990). Sixty attemps for planned single session therapy, manoscritto non pubblicato.
Talmon, M. (1990). Single Session Therapy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass (Tr. it. Psicoterapia a seduta singola. Milano: Erickson).
Weir, S., Wills, M., Young, J. & Perlesz, A. (2008). The implementation of Single Session Work in community healt. Brunswick, Australia: The Bouverie Centre, La Trobe University.

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Angelica Giannetti

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