What is “Individual Therapy”: Term Explained

The increasing appreciation for mental health and the awareness of mental health conditions made therapy a recognized health practice. Some therapies are conducted in groups where people are encouraged to share their emotions and experiences. However, there are also individual therapies.

Individual therapy refers to the one-on-one professional counseling and relationship between a patient and a therapist. This individualized mode of therapy allows the therapist to focus on the needs of the patient and build a professional and trusting relationship.

Focus on the Individual

Individual therapy focuses on the individual’s mental health and well-being. The type of therapy may vary depending on the type of mental health problem and the condition of the individual.

Usually, individual therapy lasts up to one hour. The length of therapy usually depends on the severity of the patient’s mental health condition. Patients with a chronic and complex mental health condition may take years before the therapy makes a significant effect.

Some therapists may combine several types of therapy for a more individualized program. Cognitive Therapy helps in guiding a patient’s emotions and helps change radical and irrational thoughts. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy aims to translate this understanding of emotions into motivation to change and improve behavior. Relaxation and Exercise Therapy uses kinetic and meditative movements to calm the mind and body. 

There are specific therapies within these sub-branches of psychological therapy. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is best used for people coping with stress. Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) is for patients who want to improve their capabilities to build meaningful and lasting relationships. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is for people who want to understand the connection between their thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. Lastly, Psychodynamic Therapy is for people who want to dig deep into their unconscious self.

Children and teenagers are often less trusting and accommodating to psychological therapies. Usually, they need to have their parents around until they trust their therapist fully. Play therapy is one of the most effective forms of therapy for children. This allows them to have a psychological retreat where they can restore their emotional health. It is also a way for the therapists to assess the child’s mental health condition.

All these therapies are intended to equip the patient with the necessary psychological tools to strengthen and improve their mental fortitude and their quality of life.

An individualized form of therapy where an integrated mix among the different types of therapy can best help a patient overcome their mental and behavioral hurdles. A weekly follow-up to the patient after completing the series of therapies can also help in transitioning to independence.

Promoting Positive Self-Perception

Individual therapy can help people who have consistent negative thoughts and emotions which translate into aggressive and destructive behavior. Constant experience of these types of thoughts and emotions can often cause interference in daily life.

Individual therapy can help promote positive emotion and outlook and treat mental health conditions such as anxiety, stress, and anger problems. It can also help relieve eating disorders and substance addiction.

Many of the types of therapies under individual therapy are evidence-based and can be even more effective in the long run compared with psychotropic medication. However, relapse is still possible for people with worse kinds of anxiety and depression.

Individual therapy can help a patient better understand his/herself and learn to understand the root of thoughts and emotions. This allows having a more effective and robust coping mechanism for symptom management which can lead to lifestyle changes.

Successful individual therapy can help in changing deeply embedded behavioral patterns and allow better expression of inner thoughts. This can eventually lead the person to lead a healthier and more productive life.

Compared with group therapy, individual therapy provides greater confidentiality for information disclosed to the therapists. Also, it is more thorough and lengthier and can be tailored to the needs of the individual. It also improves the communication skills and the willingness of the patient to disclose information in a safe and secure environment.

Emphasizing Personal Strength

In Greek, psychotherapy relates to “soul” and “healing”. The prominent psychologist Sigmund Freud created psychotherapy as a “talking cure” by creating confidence and strength within the individual to handle difficult personal issues and set and reach personal milestones and goals.

Aside from emphasizing the individual’s strength, individual therapy also helps equip patients with the necessary skills for managing symptoms. It also helps the patient enhance communication skills and build an internal thought structure and pattern to avoid negative thoughts and actions.

This, however, requires patients to constantly communicate truthfully with the therapist. It also requires the patient to follow the instructions of the therapists to avoid relapse.

The primary goal of individual therapy is to encourage the patient to develop strategies for reorganizing life goals, priorities, and expectations. This also encourages identifying internal motivating factors and strengths and promotion of meaningful personal goals that can drive away irrational self-expectations and internal sources of stress and disappointment.

Building A Professional Relationship

Licensed therapists have many different titles depending on the state laws. Some of these titles include licensed professional counselor (LPC), licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), and licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT). Psychologists and psychiatrists are also allowed to offer therapy services.

An advantage of individual therapy is the professional relationship built between the patient and the therapist. This relationship prevents disclosure of sensitive information through the confidentiality agreement. However, the limits of confidentiality are also included in this agreement. This means that therapists are allowed to disclose information to the authorities if there is an immediate danger to the patient and others. 

Furthermore, the professional relationship between the patient and the therapist allows the latter to provide an objective assessment to the patient. This strong therapeutic communication and alliance between the therapist and the patient significantly help in building trust for sharing information.

Final Thoughts

Individual therapy is best for reserved patients who are unwilling to disclose sensitive personal information to a group of people. It allows the patient to have a safe space where he/she can share information freely without fear of judgment. Usually, people start with individual therapy to gain the courage before sharing information with people with similar conditions.