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Single session therapy explained

Mark Howe.JPGMS-UK Counsellor Mark Howe introduces single session therapy – could it be right for you?

Last year MS-UK piloted single session therapy (SST) as a different way of working with clients who register for the counselling service.

As the name suggests, SST is a one-off session with a member of the MS-UK Counselling team, all of whom are registered with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). Our usual counselling service is a course of six sessions.

The single session lasts a maximum of 1.5 hours. Prior to the session, you specify an issue you would like to work on. Then, the counsellor and you work together as a team to explore the issue and identify a plan of action, which you can put into place immediately after the session comes to an end. This is designed to either resolve the issue, or support you in reducing its impact, thus making it easier to live with.

The concept

Although this a new service for us here at MS-UK, the concept itself is not new. One of the first therapists who practised SST was Sigmund Freud. It is reported that the pioneer of long-term psychoanalysis carried out two well-known single-session treatments in 1893. Renowned therapists such as Alfred Adler, Milton Erickson and Albert Ellis pioneered the use of single therapy sessions. It wasn’t until 1990, however that the field of SST became an established technique.

In its modern day form, SST is a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or a solution-focused concept. CBT was developed in the 1960s by Aaron Beck, with solution-focused therapy being developed in America during the 1980s by Steve De Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg. Modern day SST is a product of both of these approaches, with Windy Dryden being perhaps the best known promotor of SST.

To date, MS-UK have had a number of clients taking part in the SST pilot. Feedback from those of you who have engaged with the single session has been positive and encouraging. Clients are encouraged to be honest and open with the counsellor they are working with in order to get the most from the experience. Personally, as a member of the MS-UK Counselling team, I have been surprised by how much can be achieved in an hour and a half if the client is motivated to make change. I think it is fair to say SST is not for everyone, but for those clients who can connect and engage, the rewards are impressive.

Could you benefit?

To register, please go to our webpage If possible, we would ask that a suggested donation of £25, or an amount of your choosing, is made in advance for the session to enable us to continue this work and provide support where it is needed most.