It’s your first day of individual therapy. As you walk into the office, a smiling, friendly therapist greets you and invites you to sit down in a comfortable chair or couch. The therapist casually sits down across from you and starts a conversation.
While every therapist has a unique way of working with clients, your new therapist may begin by telling you about their background and what to expect during your sessions. They may also ask questions about your life experiences, relationships and any current struggles or areas in which you’d like to see change. Over the course of your therapy, your therapist will help you set goals and build skills that can help in you in areas ranging from addiction to mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, mood disorders and more.
Licensed individual therapists, you will find, are very different from the stereotypical film version of a therapist who sits formally behind a desk, silently scribbling notes as a client lies on a bench and talks. Instead, your therapist will be a guiding partner who helps you to create positive change in your life, develop or sustain good habits and learn new and constructive patterns of thinking.
What to Expect in Individual Therapy
In individual therapy, it’s typical for one client and one therapist to work together in weekly 45-minute to one-hour sessions over a sustained period of time, typically at least 16 weeks. This ongoing, one-on-one therapeutic relationship is designed to help a client make long-lasting, positive changes in their life. With the therapist’s support and gentle guidance, clients are encouraged to speak freely during sessions about their current life struggles, fears and emotions.
To help clients feel safe discussing their intimate personal events, thoughts and feelings, all individual therapy sessions are private and confidential. Additionally, depending on their specific training and the client’s needs, the therapist may employ one or more methods of therapy. Potential methods include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and EMDR, and some areas of focus may include addiction recovery, improving relationships, emotional regulation and processing trauma.
Structure of Individual Therapy
When a client first begins individual therapy, the therapist will dedicate time to getting to know as much about the client as possible. The therapist may ask questions about the client’s mental and physical health histories, family members and other close relationships, job history, significant life events and more.
The therapist also asks about the areas in which the client has concerns or struggles and hopes to improve. The therapist will explain their treatment methods and counseling style, and the new client can ask any questions that come to mind.
Because it’s important that the client feels comfortable with the therapist, the first one or two therapy sessions are also good times for the client to decide if the therapist’s personality, communication style, and areas of expertise feel like a good match. If not, the therapist may be able to provide the client with recommendations for a therapist who may be a better fit.
Once the therapist has learned about the client’s needs and the client feels comfortable progressing with therapy, the two will create a plan that can include setting treatment goals, session frequency, and how they’ll track the client’s progress.
Often in sessions, while the therapist may prompt the client and ask questions, the client will do most of the talking. The therapist may take opportunities to challenge the client’s negative thoughts and give the client the space to feel and express their emotions in a safe environment. Because new situations are likely to arise within the client’s life as therapy progresses, sessions are also typically flexible to allow clients to discuss their most pressing events and struggles.
Over time, sessions may also include any of the following:
- Practicing grounding, breath and mindfulness exercises
- Completing homework such as journaling and worksheet assignments
- Practicing positive self-talk
- Learning to set boundaries
- Strengthening relationships
- Finding healthy, creative outlets to express emotions
- Developing alternative coping skills to drug addictions or other self-defeating behaviors
Methods of One-on-One Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a method of talk therapy that explores the connections between a client’s thoughts and actions. In CBT, a therapist dedicates time to helping clients uncover and examine any negative thoughts they may have that, in turn, negatively affect their behaviors and the way they interact with the world.
For instance, a person may make a mistake at work or not get the promotion they were hoping for. If negative, self-defeating thoughts arise such as “I’m no good” or “I don’t deserve that, anyway,” arise, so may feelings of sadness or anger. In an attempt to escape from these feelings, a person may turn to food, alcohol or drugs.
Through CBT, a trained therapist uses functional analysis and skills training to help clients recognize and then reframe thoughts like these, making way for more positive feelings and healthier behaviors.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Through dialectical behavioral therapy, therapists help clients use mindfulness and other techniques to better understand and regulate their emotions, cope with traumatic events and improve their relationships. Therapists use DBT in one-on-one therapy by helping clients identify harmful behaviors and learn new problem-solving skills to replace these harmful behaviors with positive, productive ones.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) is sometimes integrated with individual therapy as a way to help clients quickly heal from past traumatic events and better cope with current difficulties. Therapists use a combination of external stimuli and an eight-phase approach where clients focus on specific memories of trauma, process those memories and begin to replace negative feelings with positive beliefs. Additionally, an article in The Permanente Journal states that out of 10 studies, seven reported EMDR as a faster effective treatment option for trauma than trauma-focused CBT.
The Benefits of Individual Counseling
While clients can connect with and learn from others who share similar experiences in group counseling, individual counseling gives clients focused, one-on-one attention from their therapist.
These are some of individual counseling’s many benefits:
- One-on-one therapy sessions are private. While you may not always feel comfortable or have time in group therapy to talk about certain thoughts, feelings or experiences, individual counseling sessions may give you the comfort, freedom and space to do so.
- Individual psychotherapy is confidential. Therapists are bound to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws of confidentiality, with the only possible exceptions being state laws that determine when a therapist must report a client’s neglect of a child or elder or serious intent to harm themselves or others.
- It’s all about you. With more time to focus solely on you and your needs than in a group therapy session, the therapist can tailor your treatment plan specifically to you.
- You can develop a closer relationship with your therapist than you would in a group therapy setting. This can also foster a deeper sense of trust towards your therapist.
Individual Counseling at FHE Health
Individual counseling is an important part of FHE Health’s comprehensive addiction treatment program, a vital component of inpatient and outpatient treatment in the program’s continuum of care. Additionally, FHE provides individual counseling as part of our mental health services track, through which clients can receive treatment for anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD and more.
Individual therapy at FHE can combine with group therapy and our holistic care services such as acupuncture and massage. Our therapists can create personalized treatment strategies to guide you or a loved one through mental health struggles, the addiction rehabilitation and recovery process or a combination of both.
If you or a loved one is seeking individual counseling services, either through inpatient residential or outpatient services, please let us know. To contact us and learn more, complete our simple online form or give us a call at (833) 596-3502.