Individual Counseling

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 18, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Need to talk to someone one-on-one?

Humans tend to be naturally social creatures, so talking and communicating with others is often one of the primary methods we have for processing our thoughts. We may not always feel comfortable talking to the people in our lives, though. When we're feeling overwhelmed, our emotions, worries, and stresses can seem like too much to unload on a friend or an acquaintance. That's where talk therapy can help. There are numerous types of counseling available, including marriage counseling (couples counseling), group counseling, and individual counseling. Individual counseling can enable you to speak to someone in confidence about any mental health or personal challenges you’re facing. A licensed therapist can respond to your concerns objectively, offer a comforting word, and give you sound advice to help you live a better life. For your first therapy session, you might find a suitable therapist in your local area, through your insurance database or a referral from another healthcare professional, or online.

Why try one-on-one counseling?

Every day, millions of people may seek the help of therapists for a variety of challenges. Individual counseling is usually the most popular form of therapy used to cope with mental health challenges. The widespread usage and popularity of this form of therapy generally mean that the modern therapist has a vast array of methods and techniques to help you change the way you think and feel for the better.

Meeting with a therapist through individual counseling may allow the therapist to give you custom and specific attention that may not always be possible in a group setting. While group settings can have their merits, especially for people who need a community while they recover from some form of trauma or addiction, individual therapy can be optimized for almost any need. The therapist will generally begin by a session of clinical observation, then work with you to set specific goals and objectives to guide you through treatment. 

How many sessions you will have of individual counseling depends on what you're looking for and why you're seeking therapy, you might attend weekly sessions for a few weeks, several months or even years in some cases. Clients heal at different rates. Timing can be completely dependent on your personal needs, your situation, and the effectiveness of the treatment.

Who can benefit from counseling?

What is individual therapy all about? Individual psychotherapy or personal counseling can be tailored to the specific needs of the individual, which means it can be beneficial to nearly everyone. An individual's current needs will likely dictate the treatment plan, though this could change over the course of therapy. While some may choose to do therapy to address specific mental health concerns, like moderate depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorder, counseling sessions can be for so much more. Counseling services can encompass career counseling, marriage and family issues, or future concerns. Individual counseling session’s treatment goals depend entirely on the individual’s needs. Some individual counseling examples include:

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

  • Individual psychotherapy sessions for managing mental health disorders, with or without the assistance medical treatments

  • Short-term treatment for common life stressors

  • Career counseling

  • PTSD treatments with or without the use of psychotropic drugs (those with are limited by location)

  • Counseling focused on self-actualization

Whether you're coping with grief or psychological trauma, experiencing depression or career dissatisfaction, seeking to improve your general outlook, or simply looking to focus on personal growth, individual therapy can provide some form of healing. Often good therapy extends into different paths of treatment, which leads to fewer relapses in the original issue. Along the way, your therapist will likely identify unhealthy behavioral patterns you may not even be aware of, so therapy can help you grow as a person, too.

Individual therapy can be quite different from talking with a friend or family about your personal problems. While loved ones may offer advice, they're rarely objective and aren't usually trained to evaluate various elements of trauma and pain. This can help you feel safe during your therapy session, so you can build a trusting relationship with your therapist while you figure out who you are and what you want in your life. That's where real change can happen. In fact, the effects of talk therapy can be so profound that evidence suggests it can even affect the structure of the brain.

Common methods for finding one-on-one counseling

For one-on-one counseling to be effective, it can be important that you find a therapist you feel comfortable with. That's why it's not uncommon for the person seeking treatment to switch therapists a few times before landing on one they prefer. In the beginning of the counseling process, it can be advisable to give your therapist a chance and tell them clearly what you need. Then, you might get to know them and their style of therapy. The more comfortable you are having a one on one discussion with your therapist, the more successful your sessions may be.  If you’re interested in counseling, individual counseling may help you address any mental health challenges you’re facing. Below, you'll find three common methods for locating specialists.

Call a local university or large clinic

A university or receptionist at a large clinic can often refer you to specialists in your area. This can be a solid place to start if you're looking for a list of names to consider or are new to an area.

Look for insurance plan databases

Many insurance plan providers maintain easy-to-list databases. A quick search can provide you with a list of names based on location and specialty.

iStock/Prostock-Studio

Get a referral from another health care provider

One of the most effective ways to find help can be to get referrals from other health providers, especially when you need someone with a specific area of expertise. Therefore, you may want to be evaluated by your primary care physician so they can point you in the right direction.

Consider online therapy

Despite the many benefits of individual counseling, many people hesitate to take advantage of this service. Perhaps because of how busy our modern lives have become, it can be too time-consuming to commute to a therapist’s office, even one in your area. 

That’s where online therapy sessions can provide an advantage. With remote therapy services, you can connect with a trained mental health professional from your home or office at a time that works for you. All you usually need is an internet connection. With online therapy, you’re not limited to therapists in your community. You can choose a therapist from all over the United States, which may make it easier to find a therapist with experience in your areas of concern.

In addition, you may be able to connect with a variety of licensed mental health professionals with diverse specialties. There may be many ways to communicate with your therapist from the comfort of your own home, including in-app messaging, phone, and video sessions.

Since the advent of online mental health services, there has been much research regarding their effectiveness. Many studies are yielding encouraging results. In fact, an important meta-analysis found that online teletherapy services can be just as effective as in-person therapy. Online therapy has been shown to improve symptoms of a variety of mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression.

Getty/AnnaStills
Need to talk to someone one-on-one?

Counselor reviews

"Gerry is an excellent therapist! He is easy to talk to and is extremely knowledgeable about many aspects of mental health. I never leave a session without learning something about myself and my behaviors. Gerry is truthful and asks questions that really get to the core of issues that impact my life. I highly recommend choosing Gerry Watson as your therapist!"

"In the short span of 9 months, Shonnie has become like one of my best friends. At first, I was skeptical of doing therapy since I'm very "psychologically healthy". A few challenges in my personal life lead me to try therapy for a month. Now I consider it an important part of my growth as a businessman and leader within my community. Thank you Shonnie for being so helpful during the recent difficulties; I am very lucky to have found you!"

Takeaway

Attending individual counseling sessions can give you the opportunity to receive customized support and guidance from a licensed mental health professional. Therapy goals may involve working through past experiences, learning skills to help you reach your goals, or discovering effective coping mechanisms to alleviate symptoms of mental health disorders. You may be able to find a therapist in your local community, or you can sign up for online therapy. 

Through online counseling sessions at BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed clinical therapist who has experience in your specific areas of concern. You may find that individual counseling provides you with coping skills to move forward with confidence. Take the first step toward getting support and reach out to BetterHelp today.

Receive evidence-based counseling
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started