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What does brief therapy mean?

Colourful bottles in a line - brief therapyAt the initial meeting a specific number of counselling sessions are agreed upon between counsellor and client. Sometimes this could be as little as 6 or 8 sessions, but often clients opt for 12 or 16 sessions. This means the ending of the work is defined from the beginning.

At the beginning of the work the client will choose a theme or specific experience they wish to focus on. During the sessions this focus will be addressed in an active and dynamic way, looking at the client’s present situation, their past and also how the focus surfaces in the relationship with the counsellor.

The fact that the ending of the work is defined from the start means that loss and separation have to be addressed. These are issues that can underlie personal difficulties. Working actively with loss and separation  can be painful, but also of great benefit to the client, as it can lead to a healthy experience of grief and mourning.

What happens at the end of a course of brief therapy?

Clients tend to respond in different ways.

  • Some clients feel the sessions have given them a really good experience of counselling and how counselling works. They also feel they understand themselves better and are happy with the changes they have achieved. They go away satisfied with the experience of brief therapy and they know, should they wish to, they can engage in another course of brief therapy in the future.


  • Closed door in garden - Brief counselling - Frome counselling practiceSome clients feel satisfied with what they have achieved in the counselling, but also feel quite vulnerable and affected by the ending of the counselling relationship. These clients are best helped by being offered a follow up session after a certain period of time, in order to review their situation and to find out if in the meantime issues have arisen that still need addressing.


  • Some clients feel the brief contract has been helpful, but they have become aware of underlying, deeper emotional issues. These clients often ask to be referred for more open ended counselling with another practitioner or an agency. If this is an option they may also choose to remain with their current counsellor. However if this happens, a new contract has to be negotiated and it is helpful for there to be a break between the brief therapy and more open ended counselling, because the new counselling contract will be a different experience, with new expectations and obligations.