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Where in the world are you based?
I live close to Rome, Italy, but I am fortunate to work all around the Bel Paese. This is an affectionate term for Italy that simply means “beautiful country” and can be traced back to the Middle Ages in the writings of Dante and Petrarch. It is still a popular term today.
What were your areas of psychology/psychotherapy study in Italy?
I’m a licensed psychologist (MD) and psychotherapist (PsyD). My initial academic study was in clinical psychology. After five years at the university, initially focusing on Jungian, I oriented my studies toward brief therapies. I have now extended my studies to include single-session therapy, solution focused therapy, strategic therapy and Ericksonian hypnosis.
You have traveled to the US for additional study. Who did you study with and what did you learn?
I first traveled to the US to study Single-Session Therapy (SST) with Michael Hoyt, in California, at the Mental Research Institute. Dr Hoyt is one of the leading experts in brief therapy having written a number of books. I am fortunate to be able to continue having exchanges with him. I have also traveled to Australia, to the Bouverie Family Center, to learn their Single Session Therapy model.
When and why did you set up the Italian center for Single Session Therapy?
I decided to set up the centre a few months after my travels in the US. I had been studying SST for about a year and I was able to find research, but in Italy there were almost no one talking about it or researching it. My strong interested is in how to help people to achieve the best in less sessions. SST is, clearly, a great opportunity to do that. So, I start the International Centre for Single Session Therapy (ICSST) in Rome with my friend and colleague, Federico Piccirilli, to provide training, research and information about SST. Our website is now receiving interest and we are building a positive reputation. You can find us at https://www.terapiasedutasingola.it/
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What is the concept behind a single session of therapy?
This is truly fascinating. Dr Hoyt told me that when you look at the research, the most common number of sessions in therapy is… zero. People (we) solve our problem mostly without any therapist. It is surprising how many people call to make an appointment and then cancel because they find they are feeling much better! When they do come for therapy, a large number (20-40%, depending on which research you read) only stay for one session. Why? Most of them (40-60%) say that it’s because that single session was helpful. These results continue at follow up for 60-80% of them. So, SST is a method that has emerged from how people use therapy. It is a resource-based method, which helps them to use their strengths to solve their problems, even if the problems are quite complicated. Dr Hoyt says, with a little bit of tongue in cheek, that it only takes one session to resolve someone’s issue – the trouble is that we don’t know which session that will be. Although said with a certain amount of jest, it is true that there is often a breakthrough that makes a sudden shift for the client. The preliminary sessions may well just be establishing the right conditions for the single, effective session.
What areas of neuroscience are of interest to you?
I don’t consider myself an expert of the field, but I’m very interested in the explanations that neuroscience gives as to how psychotherapy make changes in the brain. There are many areas that interest me including brain plasticity; mirror neurons; and the neurological basis of emotions.
If there was one thing you would like to impart to a new psychotherapist, and perhaps a new teacher, what would it be?
I recommend that therapist point to the client’s resources and ask the client what could be the best way to solve their problem. You may be surprised what you find and what the client finds, when you start by exploring the client’s skills and resources, before putting your techniques and theories on them.
What’s ahead for you in the next 12 months?
In October, I will be at the 3rd International Symposium on Single Session Therapy, in Melbourne, Australia, as an invited guest. I will also be at the European Brief Therapy Association’s conference, which will be held in Italy for the first time. The ICSST engages in research into SST and we have just completed a pilot research project that confirms the main results of other research on SST. We are now working on a more rigorous research project. We are working on the English translation of our Italian SST book, which provides the principle and practices of SST in a very clear and straightforward way. I’m working with Michael Hoyt on what we call “the 9 logics in brief therapy”. This is a way to reduce complexity and increase “easiness” in therapy. We hope to have an article out about that soon. Finally, I am pleased to have a chapter in the upcoming book, edited by Hoyt and Bobele titled Creative Therapy in Challenging Situations. I look forward to a challenging, but exciting year ahead.