What is Individual Therapy?

Sheri Cyprus

Individual therapy refers to therapy sessions with one client and one therapist. Individual sessions with a therapist average about 45 minutes to one hour long. An alternative to group therapy, individual therapy is offered in many different types or branches of psychology. Psychology is the science of understanding human behavior, thought, emotion and perception. Therapy strives to help people better understand themselves and their problems in order to cope with the demands of their daily lives.

Individual therapy sessions generally last about 45 minutes to one hour long.
Individual therapy sessions generally last about 45 minutes to one hour long.

Cognitive behavioral therapy examines thoughts, feelings and behaviors and the relationships and patterns between them. In individual cognitive behavioral therapy, the therapist works with the client to set goals for coping with problems in the client's life. This may involve replacing negative thought patterns with positive ones or the goal may be steps to take to face a specific fear, such as flying in an airplane.

Some therapy sessions are one-on-one.
Some therapy sessions are one-on-one.

Psychodynamic or psychoanalytic therapies strive for personal growth through insight into the subconscious as well as the conscious mind. The therapist uses techniques such as word association to help reveal feelings and wishes that may add insight into the client's actions and conscious thoughts. Since the focus in this type of therapy is on the mind and inner workings of the individual, psychoanalytic therapies are traditionally and typically done on an individual rather than group therapy basis.

People might write in a journal as part of an individual therapy program.
People might write in a journal as part of an individual therapy program.

Whereas in group therapies the clients listen to others' problems and breakthroughs, people in individual therapy are focused only on their own situation. Both types of therapy may be helpful to patients, depending on their problem as well as their therapeutic preference. Personal growth can be an outcome of both individual and group therapy.

People who are constantly on edge may find individual therapy beneficial.
People who are constantly on edge may find individual therapy beneficial.

In some group therapy cases, hearing about the experiences of others who are experiencing a similar problem can provide helpful insight that allows a therapy client to think about his or her own experiences in a different way. Yet, individual therapy may be more beneficial for a client who is likely to be distracted from focusing on changing his or her own behavior to create a healthier and more peaceful situation in his or her life. The decision to choose either individual therapy or group therapy is an important one that should be made carefully.

Individual therapy can help people work through anger issues.
Individual therapy can help people work through anger issues.

A combination of both techniques may be best for a therapy client. A good thing for therapy clients to keep in mind before making appointments with individual or group therapists is that group sessions may not be as flexible in their session times. Work, school and other schedules of the whole group must be taken into consideration.

Individual therapy may help someone who is looking to quit certain harmful behaviors.
Individual therapy may help someone who is looking to quit certain harmful behaviors.

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Discussion Comments


Sunshine31-You know I heard that there is also online therapy available.

Many therapists in efforts to reach more people many therapist have started offering consultations over the internet.

There is a company called Headworks and another one called ITherapy that offer free sessions as well as online libraries in case you want information about your condition.

They use a web cam when they provide the therapy so you do get to talk to someone face to face. It really is a great concept that will surely help a lot of people especially those that are immobile and unable to leave their homes that are most likely to be depressed.

These people can also take comfort in talking to another person about their issues.


BrickBack- Individual therapy activities can involve journaling. The therapist might suggest that the patient keep a log of their feelings especially when a destructive feeling is arising and what was their reaction to the feelings.

They can also have the patient listen to the tapes of the session or read a particular book that focuses on the session at hand.

Sometimes when using cognitive behavior therapy, a therapist may use modeling or cognitive rehearsals in order to retrain the patient to seek a different choice when experiencing a problematic situation.

The therapist might role play with the patient in order to help them understand what an alternative course of action might be.


SurfNturf-Group therapy is typically more effective than individual therapy for cases involving addictions.

People suffering from various addictions are often isolated which makes the addiction worse. Working in a group therapy vs. individual therapy yields better results because the addict needs to hear the stories that other people share so that they understand the impact on their actions through other stories and can seek comfort in knowing that they are not alone in their despair.

Both of these issues make group therapy a preferred method of therapy for those suffering from addiction.

For example, a person suffering from a weight problem that participates in the group therapy will find comfort in knowing that many of the members of the group also suffer from the same triggers and emotional problems.

This supportive environment allows the patients suffering from the addiction to discuss different ways of coping with their affliction.


Individual therapy techniques can include hypnotherapy, core belief psychotherapy, inner child therapy, Gestalt techniques, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

The individual therapy activities really depend on the patient’s problems and their personality. A therapist will seek the best method or methods that will help the patient the most.

For example, in using Gestalt techniques the therapist might show a picture of something that could have multiple interpretations.

Gestalt involves the study of visual perception and these findings can give a therapist insight on the status of the patient.

Trauma therapy and anger management therapy are all therapies that would function best in an individual setting. Here individual therapy vs. family therapy is not a consideration because individual therapy is the preferred method of treatment.

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