Individual Counselling: One-On-One Talk Therapy

By Sarah Fader

Updated January 10, 2019

Reviewer Kristen Hardin


Individual counseling is exactly what it sounds like. It is one individual working one on one with a counselor or therapist. It is the most common type of therapy. In individual therapy sessions, the person will meet with his or her therapist and focus on the goals of the individual seeking help. The great thing about individual therapy is the individual is able to have a safe environment to talk about hard things and get unbiased, objective feedback and suggestions. Couples and family therapy are different because there are many other people, thoughts, and feelings in the room and the therapist spends time helping everyone communicate and work better together. In individual therapy, the therapist will help the individual set goals and create objectives to help them achieve those goals and it is generally documented in a treatment plan, which is like a road map for how to be successful with therapy goals. Objectives are important because many times, the person seeking therapy is likely to know what his goals are, but doesn't know the steps to take to achieve them. That is where the therapist is very helpful and will create objectives, or steps, to help the individual meet his or her goals.

Individual therapy is very different than talking a friend or family member. Both friends and family members can offer great advice, but the problem is it is hard for them to stay objective. They may think they know exactly what is best for you and they could be wrong. They also aren't trained to work with people and help them achieve their goals and heal from past trauma and pain. It also isn't confidential. You might confide in your sister, only to find out that she told your parents and that could be damaging.

Who can Benefit from Individual Counseling?

The reasons for utilizing individual counseling are general. That is, anyone can benefit from it regardless of their purposes. It can be from coping with grief, handling depression, psychological trauma, career dissatisfaction or even to learn more about oneself and how to increase personal happiness and satisfaction. You do not need a serious illness or a major crisis to see a therapist for individual counseling. In fact, the sooner you go, the easier it will be and likely the less sessions you will need. It is kind of like if you feel like you are getting sick, don't wait until you have to go to the emergency room, go see your primary doctor.


When You Work One-on-one

Depending on what you are looking for and why you are seeking counseling in the first place, you can have anywhere from 1 session (though generally at least 5 sessions), to weekly sessions for months or even years in some cases. It is completely dependent on your individuals needs and what you want to do.


Individual counseling focuses on the well-being of the individual, which is whatever the individual requires at that moment and this is likely to change throughout the course of treatment. The therapist is also likely to see things that you may not see or things you may have viewed as "just the way you are" even if you don't like those things. The therapist can help identify unhealthy behavior patterns you may not even be aware of and help you live a more productive life.

You will be building a relationship with your therapist as you figure out who you are and what you want in your life through teamwork, communication, and expression. The therapist is a trained professional but he is she is not an expert in your life. You are the expert and together you and your therapist are a team and will work together to find solutions and help you achieve your goals. In the first days of therapy, the therapist was likely to be an authoritative, all knowing figure, but with time that has changed and it is a better for the client and the therapist. You want to learn how to be your best self and learn the skills necessary to lead a productive life, not have someone just tell you what to do.

You want to find a therapist that you trust and with whom you feel comfortable. Do not get discouraged if the first therapist you try does not work out. Look for another one. There are many, many counselors with different backgrounds and specialties. There are thousands of therapists on BetterHelp that you can get matched with and the great thing is, if it does not work out with the first one, it's easy to be matched with another. One extremely important thing to remember, is give your therapist a chance. It may take a few sessions to find a good flow. It will be harder on you if you give up after one session and search for another. Feel free to tell your therapist exactly what you are looking for. He or she will be able to tell you if your needs are a good fit for their expertise and experience. Also, if you find something isn't working, tell your therapist! They want to know. Set you and them up for success and do not be afraid to say if there is something that isn't effective for you.

In conclusion

Individual counseling is an effective way for many people to solve problems, set and achieve goals and heal from past trauma, addiction, and other issues. It is not just for those with serious mental illness although it is extremely important for those individuals as well. Most insurances cover individual sessions, but you may have to meet your deductible before it is affordable. The good news is that BetterHelp is an affordable way to get quality individual counseling. There are many benefits to choosing BetterHelp in addition to the affordability factor. You can use a variety of mediums to communicate with your counselor: messaging (similar to emails, but is all done on the BetterHelp platform), live chat, video sessions and phone sessions. You will have far greater access to your counselor than if you choose a traditional face to face counselor who will have their own schedule and office hours which means you could have to take time off work or family obligations. With BetterHelp, you can get quality individual counseling in the comfort of your own home, or have phone calls with your counselor during your commute home from work. You can also send a quick message to your counselor as a reminder of something you want to discuss at the next session, or something that you need help with immediately that you do not want to have to wait until the next scheduled session. Whatever method you choose, just remember that individual counseling is an effective way to improve your quality of life.

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