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Kimberly McGrady (LCSW) has a vision of how to help people, and it doesn't involve years of lying on a couch in her office: "I don't want my clients to be dependent on me," she says. "I really want to help people cultivate self-reliance." McGrady, who moved to Asheville from Florida, where she completed her graduate work, offers single session therapy to individuals and couples. The modality is centered around a core idea of short-term help for what psychologists refer to as the "worried well," people who "have their lives together for the most part, but come across something where they need a little guidance," she explains.
"Studies show that about a third of the people that attend one therapy sessions don't come back," she continues. "When they're asked about it, they give various responses, but the majority say, 'I got what I needed in one session,' or, 'I felt heard and validated;' 'I was given instruction and it helped.'"
McGrady believes that not all people need long-term therapy, particularly when acute problems arise. Her therapy practice, based around this idea, offers single appointments to people who want support. She is quick to point out that this style is not for everyone: "It's for things that are more specific and acute, rather than embedded in years of patterning, or trauma, or PTSD," she says. Rather, clients come to her with one or two specific issues. "Maybe they've already recognized a pattern and worked on it," she says, "and they want some in-the-moment help with it. For example, I've worked with women in the pattern of dating the same type of guy and not getting their needs met. Understanding how to turn that around doesn't take six months with good insight and judgment that keep them moving forward."
Therapists have long held sacred the idea that it takes months to form a good relationship with a client, but McGrady mixes that up, offering people choices that can make them feel more comfortable faster. The people that come to see her don't visit a traditional office; instead, they choose the place to meet. McGrady meets her clients at bookstores, coffee shops, and parks, sitting—or strolling—with them as they talk through their issues. "There's a lot of research on the effectiveness of walk and talk therapy," she says. "People get a sense of moving forward psychologically and physically, and being outside in stimulating environment helps people be more creative and positive." And while McGrady certainly thinks of herself as a therapist, her meetings with clients can feel less formal than a typical talk therapy session. "If you're sitting in an office, there's a clearer divide between therapist and patient. I see this as a partnership. I'm here as a support and a guide."
McGrady keeps the conversation focused and structured around solutions to the issues people want to work on, which they detail in their initial appointment request. During appointments, she might help a client create an action plan and map out goals, or she might offer mindfulness-based stress reduction, tools, and feedback. If issues are more chronic, she refers people to therapists who work with clients longer-term. The takeaway from many of her sessions is that people face a lot of self-doubt, and having someone else listen to and support them can turn things around quickly. "I do a lot of reality checks," she says. "I point out that people are being really harsh on themselves, saying they're not worthy or not good enough for a relationship. Those are barriers keeping us from happiness."
McGrady sees a diverse array of clients, from those have never been to therapy before to others who might have gone regularly in the past. She doesn't recommend booking an appointment if you are already in therapy. "Even though therapists' intentions are good, you might get conflicting feedback," she notes. She currently doesn't accept insurance, but she keeps her prices low to make the opportunity for single-session therapy accessible. A 50 minute individual appointment costs $45, an hour and 15 minutes is $75, and two hours costs $115.
In the end, it all comes down to helping people. "I want people to feel better," says McGrady. "It all comes back to all of us. It's akin to the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness. When we give that to others it will always come back. That's at the foundation of this for me."
Could pop up counseling be right for you? Book an appointment on McGrady's website.