What is Time-limited Psychotherapy?
Time-limited psychotherapy refers to a psychosocial interven-tion, usually an individual psychotherapy, of relatively brief du-ration. Many of the defining features of TLPs follow from the fact that these treatments are intensive or compressed. Over a short period of time, the therapist identifies necessarily circumscribed treatment goals, working actively to maintain the treatment focus and preserve the treatment structure. Thus, TLPs are character-ized by 1) specified treatment duration or time limit; 2) narrow treatment focus; 3) rapid and succinct case formulation; 4) struc-tured treatment format; and 5) active therapist role.
Despite these similarities, TLPs comprise a heterogeneous array of treatments used to treat a plethora of conditions over quite variable time periods. “Brief” treatments can last anywhere from a single session to a year, and the therapeutic techniques deployed may range from transference interpretation (in brief psychodynamic psychotherapy) to a fear hierarchy (in behavioral therapy). Brief therapies are not indicated for the management of longstanding character disorders or chronic and persistent men-tal illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Given that (a) not all TLPs are the same and (b) experi-ence in delivering one treatment does not confer expertise in all TLP modalities, it would be overwhelming to attempt mastery of TLPs in general. Thus, a reasoned approach to acquiring “com-petence” in brief interventions might include acquainting oneself with the general principles of TLP, learning the techniques and strategies associated with one evidence-based therapy, and then obtaining clinical training (including expert supervision that in-volves review of audio-recorded or videotaped sessions) in the selected TLP modality. Although standards for “competence” vary across TLP modalities (in some cases, they are not defined at all), true competence is typically obtained after completion of a course in a specific psychotherapy followed by several carefully supervised cases (Markowitz, 2001).