Talk therapy is one of the fundamental methods to diagnose and treat people with mental, emotional, and social disorders. It’s also the type of treatment the general public is most familiar with.
What is individual counseling
Individual counseling is when a professional deals with a patient on a one-on-one basis. It allows the therapist and the patient to focus on one another and the topic at hand.
It may sound like it’s the most effective method to treat or diagnose a patient since individual counseling techniques are a more intimate setting to establish a bond and trust to move forward, but it is not always the case.
There are people who are not comfortable opening up to strangers, professional or not. Group and Peer-to-peer sessions are alternative approaches to get them to open up.
Advantages of individual counseling
Apart from the obvious advantage of having the full attention of both parties in a one-on-one session. There are other advantages to individual counseling.
- Confidentiality – Group sessions are conducted with other patients with similar ailments. By showing patients that they are not alone in their predicament, it allows them to support each other and speed up the healing process.
- Treatment schedule – Depending on the severity of each case, the frequency of sessions will have an impact on whether the treatment will succeed. Scheduling with a single patient is simpler than coordinating with a group.
- Intensive feedback – Therapists are trained to choose their words when communicating with a patient. Some people respond well to sugarcoated fluff while others prefer the ugly truth.
How to do individual counseling
Most therapy sessions are conducted by licensed Psychiatrists and Psychologists. But not all sessions are conducted by professionals, individual counseling can also be done by volunteers. The (Military) Veterans Association, for example, employ a lot of them to treat veterans and servicemen with PTSD.
If you’re interested in starting a volunteer group to help a particular cause, but don’t know how to do it effectively here are some tips.
- Pay attention – Laser-focus attention. Nothing annoys a patient more than a doodling therapist or someone who keeps looking at their phones. If you can’t resist to use your phones, use it to record the session.
- Use a “safe place” – It’s what therapist call their office. It’s just a private room where you can conduct sessions. Doing it on Starbucks will not provide the right atmosphere.
- Let them do all the talking – Talk therapy lets the patient vent their feelings by discussing their issues. It is not a lecture or consultation. Resist the temptation of talking a lot, unless asked a direct question.
- Be a friend – You are not a Police Interrogator. Even if both objectives are the same, the method to get at the whole truth of the story shouldn’t.
Effective Talk therapy is based on trust while criminal investigations are the exact opposite. So be a friend and develop bonds, not a case.
- Be discreet – If you are handling talk therapy sessions, it is still necessary to act like a professional. You may not be able to recommend medications, but that doesn’t mean you forgo professional ethics.
Be careful with your wording to prevent offending your patient and of course, keep all sessions confidential.
Characteristics of individual counseling
Speaking of individual counseling, there are many things that differentiate it from group sessions and a private chat between friends. There is a clear objective of the topic and the sessions themselves. There are times that conversations sway and derail for conversation sake, but in the end, it will still need to go back to its original purpose.
It is hard to say how many sessions it should take since each case is unique. There can be similarities, but they are never exactly the same. The patient’s background, emotional quotient, personal circumstances, and other factors have infinite possibilities.
It may be difficult to determine the initial required number of sessions. But sessions should not last more than an hour. A lot can be achieved by a long talk, but more often than not the core of the topic can be discussed in 30 minutes. It is also important that only a few issues are tackled to give both parties time to absorb and digest the conversation.
It used to be standard practice for a therapist to take notes, after all, when dealing with multiple patients over a few years it would be hard to remember the details of each one. But modern therapy now frowns upon the practice.
A lot of patients feel uncomfortable when a counselor writes something and as a defensive mechanism become guarded with what they say.
When the patient starts to feel they need to watch what they say, they lie. It is counterproductive to the treatment as a whole.
Individual counseling is a medical procedure. It has to be handled with professionalism and care. Helping someone suffering from a mental, social, or psychological problem is noble and rewarding, but handling it wrong can lead to unintended and severe consequences.
Where can people find individual counseling sessions
Local Schools and Universities commonly have organizations that can provide individual counseling on issues such as suicide, bullying, depression, domestic violence, and the like. A Facebook or Google search of “individual counseling near me” can yield a few dozen good results.
It is important to note that while searching, you consider the reason why you need counseling.
A lot of professionals are specialists who handle a specific kind of problem. It would also increase the chance of a breakthrough by working with a specialist than a general practitioner.
Most specialists chose a particular problem because they have vested interests in that specific case. Volunteers are especially interested. They are volunteering their time because they are advocates in reducing the damage caused by the ailment. Individual Counseling with volunteers are also free of charge, so money shouldn’t be an issue.
Individual counseling with professionals has its advantages. They have the training, education, and experience to clinically assess a patient and know how best to move forward.