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Individual Psychotherapy

Understanding Individual Psychotherapy

Individual psychotherapy, also known as individual counseling consists of one-on-one therapeutic counseling. This counseling approach focuses on your childhood, past experiences and current problems. The main goals of individual psychotherapy are to help you understand why you feel and behave the way you do and help you successfully resolve your issues, concerns and problems. Individual psychotherapy also aids in self-growth and self-actualization.

What happens during an individual psychotherapy session?

This approach to therapy can take many shapes and be applied to a wide array of issues such as: depression, anxiety, phobias, personality disorders, adjustment issues, etc. During therapy, your psychotherapist may ask you to share your thoughts, feelings and beliefs in an effort to help you understand how your negative thought processes have influenced your behavior. In addition, one of the main goals of the individual psychotherapist is to provide a safe, secure and supportive environment for you to confront and work through your issues.

Individual psychotherapists can help you confront the obstacles that have been interfering with your mental health and preventing you from enjoying a healthy and fulfilling life. Contrary to popular belief, you may actually enjoy learning more about yourself, your relationships and the world around you. Individual psychotherapy encourages positive thoughts and behaviors so it is not uncommon to experience a newfound sense of peace, empathy, self-esteem, happiness, relief, love and spirituality during and following therapy.

What psychological issues does an individual psychotherapist treat?

Individual psychotherapists treat wide variety of psychological disorders such as: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression (clinical and manic depression), personality disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse, psychosis, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, etc. It is important to note that although individual psychotherapists primarily treat mental health issues, many people who seek treatment do not have a diagnosed mental illness and simply need help with adjustment issues such as divorce problems, stress management, relationship problems, blended family issues, work-related concerns and/or the grieving process.

An individual psychotherapist actively listens to your concerns, provides support, helps you work through your issues and teaches you the coping mechanisms and techniques that you need to reframe your thoughts and change your behaviors.

What type of education, training and experience does an individual psychotherapist need in order to treat people with psychological issues?

Although a number of mental health professionals (clinical psychologists, family psychologists, school psychologists, social workers, etc.) can provide individual psychotherapy to clients, an individual must be licensed and/or certified in psychotherapy in order to be classified as a psychotherapist. The requirements are determined by your state’s licensing board, but most of the time, psychotherapists must have an advanced degree in psychotherapy or a related-field.

In some cases, master-level students may be able to counsel clients under the direct supervision of a licensed psychologist or advanced mental health professional. A licensed marriage and family therapist (M.M.F.T), social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist and/or professional counselor (LPC) may utilize individual psychotherapy techniques during their therapy sessions.

Your state’s educational board determines what is required to be a psychotherapist. Individual psychotherapists may be required to complete continuing education courses, take additional knowledge-based exams and/or complete a certain number clinical hours at an approved social service agency, clinic, hospital psychiatric hospital or mental illness treatment center before being licensed and/or allowed to treat individuals. Fortunately, most health insurance plans either partially or fully cover psychotherapy sessions.


Corey, G. (2008). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy . Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.

Eichler, S. (2009). Beginnings in psychotherapy: A guidebook for new therapists . London: Karnac Books.


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