Individual Therapy

Learning Objectives

  • Define and give examples of individual therapy

Once a person seeks treatment, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, he has an intake done to assess his clinical needs. An intake is the therapist’s first meeting with the client. The therapist gathers specific information to address the client’s immediate needs, such as the presenting problem, the client’s support system, and insurance status. The therapist informs the client about confidentiality, fees, and what to expect in treatment. Confidentiality means the therapist cannot disclose confidential communications to any third party unless mandated or permitted by law to do so. During the intake, the therapist and client will work together to discuss treatment goals. Then a treatment plan will be formulated, usually with specific measurable objectives. Also, the therapist and client will discuss how treatment success will be measured and the estimated length of treatment. There are several different modalities of treatment (Figure 1): Individual therapy, family therapy, couples therapy, and group therapy are the most common.

Two photographs are shown. Photograph A depicts two people in conversation. Photograph B depicts a large group of people sitting in a circle on the beach.

Figure 1. Therapy may occur (a) one-on-one between a therapist and client, or (b) in a group setting. (credit a: modification of work by Connor Ashleigh, AusAID/Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

Individual Therapy

In individual therapy, also known as individual psychotherapy or individual counseling, the client and clinician meet one-on-one (usually from 45 minutes to 1 hour). These meetings typically occur weekly or every other week, and sessions are conducted in a confidential and caring environment (Figure 2). The clinician will work with clients to help them explore their feelings, work through life challenges, identify aspects of themselves and their lives that they wish to change, and set goals to help them work towards these changes. A client might see a clinician for only a few sessions, or the client may attend individual therapy sessions for a year or longer. The amount of time spent in therapy depends on the needs of the client as well as her personal goals.

Glossary

confidentiality: therapist cannot disclose confidential communications to any third party, unless mandated or permitted by law
couples therapy: two people in an intimate relationship, such as husband and wife, who are having difficulties and are trying to resolve them with therapy
family therapy: special form of group therapy consisting of one or more families
group therapy: treatment modality in which 5–10 people with the same issue or concern meet together with a trained clinician
individual therapy: treatment modality in which the client and clinician meet one-on-one
intake: therapist’s first meeting with the client in which the therapist gathers specific information to address the client’s immediate needs
strategic family therapy: therapist guides the therapy sessions and develops treatment plans for each family member for specific problems that can addressed in a short amount of time
structural family therapy: therapist examines and discusses with the family the boundaries and structure of the family: who makes the rules, who sleeps in the bed with whom, how decisions are made, and what are the boundaries within the family