As Ringo Starr once sang, we can all get by with a little help from our friends. But, this past year, COVID-19 separated us from our friends and family. So, what do you do when you need help but your friends/family are unable to be with you and support you? Or when the help you need goes beyond the experience/abilities of your loved ones?

Here’s where individual therapy can help! No matter what you’re experiencing, chances are there’s a form of individual therapy to help you overcome your mental health struggles. And make no mistake, most of us need some help from time to time. Per the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 1 in 5 adults experiences mental health issues at any given time.

Keep reading to learn what individual counseling is, how it can help, what to expect from it, and some different individual therapy techniques to help you.

What is Individual Therapy?

Individual therapy (aka psychotherapy, talk therapy, or individual counseling) is a form of therapy in which the client is treated one-on-one with a therapist. Talk therapy encourages open and honest dialogue about issues that cause distress. Individual therapy is the most popular form of therapy.  It allows the therapist and client to focus on each other, build rapport, and work together to solve the client’s issues.

Like other forms of therapy, individual therapy sessions don’t make problems disappear. Still, it can equip you with the tools needed to cope with them more appropriately. Typically, individual therapy addresses common issues like:

  • Extreme emotions (like sadness or anger)
  • Recent trauma
  • Substance abuse
  • Problems at work
  • Loss of enjoyment of activities
  • Strained family and/or personal relationships
  • Concern from friends or family
  • Anxiety/Stress
  • Food/Eating Issues
  • Sexuality

What are Common Goals of Therapy? / How Can Individual Counseling Help?

Individual therapy aims to inspire change and improve the quality of your life through self-awareness and self-exploration. Talk therapy encourages an open and honest dialogue about the issues causing you distress. Individual therapy can also:

  • Help you improve communication skills
  • Build your sense of empowerment
  • Empower you to develop new insights regarding your life
  • Learn how to make healthier choices
  • Develop coping strategies to manage distress
  • Learn to have difficult conversations
  • Help you gain more empathy
  • Improve your physical health too
  • Help you manage symptoms of mental health issues
  • Allow you to facilitate lifestyle changes better

What to Expect from Individual Therapy?

During individual counseling, your counselor will encourage an open and honest dialogue about issues that cause distress. Typical individual therapy sessions last from 45 – 60 minutes. The frequency and length of sessions is primarily dependent upon:

  • The mental health condition addressed and its severity
  • The amount of time the person in therapy has had the issues
  • How much the issue affects day-to-day life
  • The amount of distress the issue causes
  • How quickly the person in therapy improves
  • Financial limitations

The first individual therapy session is about gathering information. Your therapist will talk to you about your past physical, mental, and emotional health. But remember, it can take a few sessions for a therapist to properly understand the specific issues that brought you to therapy. Additionally, you should use your first session to determine if your therapist’s style is a good fit for your needs.

Finding a therapist, you’re comfortable with is absolutely essential to a successful treatment. So, make sure you’re evaluating your therapist, and their fit with your personality, especially in the first few sessions.

Types of Individual Therapy?

There are many types of individual counseling. Your therapist will determine which type of individual therapy works best for you, based on your specific situation and needs. Note, no technique is perfect for everyone. It’s up to your therapist to determine which solution is best for you.

Here are a few (but not all) of the most common types of individual therapy:

1.) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a relatively short-term form of therapy. It focuses on the way an individual thinks and behaves to improve the way they feel. CBT has been found to be useful in treating mood disorders, substance abuse disorders, and sleep disorders.

2.) Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy focuses on building new skills to ease difficulties caused by mental health issues. In DBT the therapist helps you build mindfulness, improve distress tolerance, boost interpersonal effectiveness, and improve emotional regulation.

3.) Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a type of individual therapy typically used to help treat trauma and related disorders. Using bilateral stimulation, the therapist helps you process and remove blockages both psychologically and physically. You can learn more about EMDR here.

4.) Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is a version of CBT that encourages the practices of mindfulness and meditation. This technique helps you familiarize yourself with states of mind surrounding difficulties, disorders, and contentment.

5.) Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing is a relatively new therapeutic technique. This form of therapy focuses on building motivation to spark change. Motivational Interviewing has been effective in treating addiction and substance use disorders.

6.) Psychodynamic Therapy

Unlike other techniques like CBT and DBT, Psychodynamic Therapy isn’t solution-oriented. Instead, the goal of Psychodynamic Therapy is to have you see patterns of thoughts and behaviors more clearly.

7.) Solution-Focused Therapy

The name of Solution-Focused Therapy says it all. In Solution-Focused Therapy, the therapist works to help you assess how you have solved problems in the past, what exceptions to the problem may be present, and how you can move forward.

8.) Existential Therapy

Existential Therapy offers a holistic approach to individual therapy. This form of therapy doesn’t just focus on your past but seeks to look at the whole of your experiences without judgment.

9.) Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

Interpersonal Psychotherapy uses a uniquely structured model to treat mental health issues. IPT is designed to help people address current concerns and improve interpersonal relationships.  

10.) Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy teaches mindfulness skills to help you live and behave in ways consistent with your personal values while developing psychological flexibility.

Which Type of Individual Therapy is Right for You?

As with any other form of therapy, you must understand your individual mental health challenges are specific to yourself. So, your counselor must provide individualized treatment based on your particular challenges and attributes. Still, no matter your treatment plan, individual therapy has a history of effectiveness. According to the American Psychological Association, about 75% of people who participated in talk therapy experience some kind of benefit.

If you’re interested in individual counseling but don’t know where to start or have further questions, contact a Compassionate Minds therapist today. Our team of licensed experts is equipped to help you through a range of mental health issues. Plus, at Compassionate Minds, we work with each of our patients to create an individual treatment plan that works best for you at a time that’s most convenient for you.

About the Author Marti Finkel

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