Individual counseling is often the foundation of an effective substance abuse or co-occurring disorders treatment plan. It’s a great starting place for healing work to occur across problematic issues and provides a forum for regular check-ins to ensure that the patient is constantly moving forward toward identified treatment goals.
According to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, decades of research and studies have shown that psychotherapy is highly effective, providing therapeutic benefit and progress to between 75 and 80 percent of patients who take part. In fact, it can do more than just provide benefits for mental and emotional health; according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, individual counseling even benefits a patient’s physical fitness and overall health.
What Happens at an Individual Therapy Session?
Individual therapy sessions usually last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and take place in the therapist’s office or a therapy room. In some cases, sessions are scheduled weekly but in other cases, it may be more effective to increase the number of sessions per week. During the session, patients sit facing the therapist, often in a comfortable chair or couch. Depending upon the type of therapy, the discussion may be led by the patient or by the therapist. Everything that is said in the context of a therapy session between therapist and patient is completely confidential unless the patient talks about hurting herself or others.
What Is the Goal of Individual Counseling?
Depending upon the issues facing the patient, the goals of individual therapy will vary and change. Through discussion with a mental health professional, the patient can begin to work through issues of underlying current or past trauma, work on key interpersonal relationships, shift perspective to improve quality of life, and develop and work toward mental health and emotional treatment goals.
What Types of Individual Counseling Are Available?
There are a number of different types of counseling or psychotherapy that can be effective in the treatment of drug and alcohol abuse and co-occurring disorders. These include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). When negative or unhealthy views, beliefs or perspectives are creating problems, CBT can help patients to come up with positive replacements.
- Dialectical behavior therapy. Patients learn how to better manage stress and emotions in order to improve quality of life.
- Interpersonal therapy. The focus in interpersonal therapy is on improving important relationships and the ability to relate positively with others.
- Psychodynamic therapy. Patients can learn how to increase their awareness of unconscious thoughts or behaviors that may be hurting them.
Who Is Qualified to Be a Personal Therapist?
A number of different highly educated mental health treatment professionals are qualified to be therapists. Some specialize in the treatment of a specific disorder while others specialize in a certain type of therapy. Those qualified to provide individual counseling include:
- Licensed professional counselors (LPC)
- Psychiatrists (MD or DO)
- Psychologists (PhD or PsyD)
- Psychiatric nurse (APRN)
How Can Patients Get the Most Out of Individual Counseling?
Patients can improve their experience in individual counseling a number of different ways, including:
- Asking questions
- Speaking up if feeling uncomfortable or unsure
- Choosing a therapist that is easy to talk to
- Opening up as much as possible but being patient with oneself if that doesn’t come easily
- Attending all appointments and arriving on time
- Doing any “homework” agreed upon during the therapy session