19 Minutes

By THE BALANCE
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Mental health disorders are a serious issue that the majority of the population on earth is a victim of. People may go into psychotherapy in search of a solution, while others opt to go to a psychiatrist for treatment with medication. In this article, we will be discussing what a mental health counselor is and how the job is done. We will also be discussing the types of mental health counseling as well as the benefits of mental health counseling.

What is the role of a mental health counselor; where can I find a mental health counselor; Can mental health counselors diagnose? These questions will all be answered in this article, but before we get into it, what is mental health? Let’s discuss what mental health is first. 

Inpatient Mental Health Rehab Center

When talking about mental health, there is mostly a misunderstanding about what it is and who is affected by it. First of all, mental health and mental health disorder are not the same. Everyone has mental health. It does not come and go; it is within us all constantly throughout the time we are alive.

It is just like the idea of physical health, except, unlike physical health, we cannot take some tests to see how healthy we are mentally, and we are not always able to see from the outside when we are in bad mental health. It is a very personal, individual sense of who we are and how we feel.

Mental health is mostly used with the terms emotional health and well-being interchangeably. The mental state of an individual is certainly a key part of his/her overall well-being. It refers to the way in which a person is aware of his/her own abilities and how well he/she copes with the highs and lows of life.

If we are physically not well, for example, with a cold, it might go away on its own in about a week. However, the same cannot be said if we are not well mentally. Good mental health can be kept with self-care but, if we experience an issue, it will almost never go away on its own. We will probably need further help, like, say, through talking therapies such as mental health counseling. 

The human brain consists of 1-2 billion neurons, each with 5-10,000 connections. That makes the brain, which weighs about 2-4 pounds, hugely interconnected. As a matter of fact, these numbers are just estimates because, obviously, attempting to count these cells individually in your brain is really difficult. Due to all of these neurons and connections working together, the final result becomes you. Your personality, your memories, your thoughts, and your experiences are all stored in your brain.

Keeping this in mind, it is not hard to see how something could get wrongly wired, creating a problem. The good thing is that there are quite a few groups of people that can help correct the problem, ranging from those who only focus on the neurons to those who lean towards preventative measures. One of these groups focuses on both using preventative measures and fixing the problem; in other words, they are trying to keep the wires from crossing in the first place and attempting to untangle them once they do. This is known as mental health counseling, which is defined as a person performing therapy with a client that combines traditional psychotherapy and problem solving with the hope of changing the problem or issue.

What is depression Counselling?

A question that is brought up a lot is, “What is the difference between groups who do counseling and groups who do therapy?” The similarities are more than the differences between these two. Many people try to split them along different lines, but the biggest difference between the two has to do with how severe the issue is and what their overall purpose is.

Counseling is focused on natural stresses and issues with life, for example, depression, grief, and the need to talk to someone. That, however, doesn’t mean counselors may not deal with more difficult problems, but that mostly is the domain of psychologists. Psychologists mostly conduct therapy that focuses on extreme psychological problems, like personality disorders, schizophrenia, and serious mental disorders. 

Mental health counseling may be called psychotherapy (to an extent) and is also referred to as talk therapy at times. It may be used either by itself or with medicines to treat mental issues. During a psychotherapy session, you talk to a doctor or a licensed mental health care expert to point out and change troubling thoughts.

Psychotherapy can be used to treat a wide range of mental issues, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Addictions
  • Schizophrenia
  • Personality disorders.

Psychotherapy can help you:

  • Figure out the behaviors, emotions, and ideas that could be behind your issues and how to change them;
  • Point out the life events, such as sickness, divorce, or childhood trauma that could be at the root of your issues;
  • Take back a sense of control and pleasure in life;
  • Learn good ways to address issues;
  • Understand how to work with others to resolve conflicts. 

At times psychotherapy can be an effective first treatment for mental problems. But for a lot of people, a combination of mental health counseling and medication could work best. 

Counseling Formats

Counseling can be given in a variety of formats, including: 

  • Individual. This involves only you and your Counselor.
  • Group. You and others get counseled together. Everyone shares their experiences and understands that others feel the same way and have also gone through similar experiences.
  • Marital/couples. This helps you and your spouse or partner figure out what changes in communication and attitudes can be helpful and what can be done together. This type of counseling or therapy can also be helpful for a couple that is struggling with certain parts of their relationship.
  • Family. Because family is an important part of the team that is helpful in getting you better, it is helpful for your family members to understand what you are going through at times, how they can manage their emotions, and what they may do to help.

Types of Counseling

There are a few approaches that mental health counselors can attempt to provide therapy. After talking with you about your issue, your therapist will decide which technique to use. 

The different approaches used are as follows:

1)  Psychodynamic Therapy:

Psychodynamic therapy is based on the presumption that you have emotional issues because of unsolved and generally unconscious conflicts which often initiate from childhood. The goal of this kind of therapy is for you to better manage and understand these feelings by opening up about the experiences. This type of therapy is done over a period of at least a few months. However, it can last longer, potentially years, in some cases. 

2)  Interpersonal Therapy:

Interpersonal therapy is focused on your behavior and interactions with family and friends. The aim of this therapy is to enhance your communication skills and enhance self-esteem in a small period of time. It mostly takes 3 to 4 months and works well for depression induced by mourning, relationship conflicts, major life events, and social isolation.

Interpersonal therapy and psychodynamic therapy help you resolve mental disorders caused by:

  • Grief or Loss;
  • Conflicts in relationships;
  • Role transitions, for example, becoming a parent or a caregiver.

3)  Cognitive-behavioral therapy:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps individuals with mental disorders identify and change incorrect perceptions that they might have of the world around them or even of themselves. The therapist helps individuals learn new ways of thinking by turning their focus to both the “wrong” and “right” assumptions they make about themselves and others.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is recommended for people: 

  • Who think and behave in ways that trigger and perpetuate mental sickness;
  • Who is a victim of depression or anxiety disorders as the only treatment or, according to how severe it is, along with the treatment and antidepressant medication;
  • Who refuse to take or are not able to take antidepressant medicines;
  • Of all ages who may have mental disorders that cause disability, suffering, or interpersonal problems.

4)  Dialectical behavior therapy:

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a kind of cognitive-behavioral therapy used for patients that are at high risk or difficult to treat. The term “dialectical” comes from the theory that bringing together two opposites in therapy, that is, acceptance and change, will bring better results than either of them alone. DBT may change your unhealthy behaviors such as self-harm and lying by keeping daily diaries, individual and group therapy, and phone coaching.

In the beginning, DBT was constructed to help people with suicidal risks and borderline personality issues. But it has been embraced for other mental health issues that threaten a person’s safety, work, relationships, and emotional well-being.

Comprehensive DBT is focused on four ways to improve life skills: 

  • Tolerance distress. Feeling strong emotions like anger without an impulse reaction or using self-harm or substance abuse to lower distress.
  • Emotion regulation. It is recognizing, adjusting, and labeling emotions.
  • Mindfulness. Self-awareness and becoming more aware of others and alert to the present moment.
  • Interpersonal effectiveness. It is understanding the conflict and interacting accordingly. 

5)  Supportive Therapy:

Your therapist coaches you on how to understand managing your anxiety and unhealthy thoughts by yourself. This technique helps boost your self-esteem.

Complementary and alternative forms of therapy may also help. You can use them combined with regular psychotherapy. 

  • Animal-assisted therapy. Dogs, cats, and other animals may help relax anxiety, depression and bring calmness.
  • Art and music therapy. This allows you to express and process your sadness or other feelings. 

Empirically Proven Benefits of Mental Health Counseling

In the past, the misinterpretation of Freudian speculation has tainted the modern understanding of the benefits of mental health counseling. There are a lot of benefits that some people may not realize because of the stigma around psychoanalytical techniques of counseling.

While people can make a diagnosis or psycho-pharmaceutical intervention, an extreme amount of those diagnosed do not get the counseling that can help them to flourish. New regions of counseling have grown in the past decade with the help of technology. Online counseling, for example, offers individuals instant access, but not much empirical data has been gathered as to the profits of this access. Some individuals facing anxiety have found computer counseling interactions helpful in ways such as being more knowing about internal processes.

To meet the empirical criteria of the American Psychological Association, a task force was created to focus on effective interventions in the `90s. With this came the movement called the empirically validated treatment. When coming up with scientific validity for interventions, seven principles were pushed forward to aid in the classifications. 

  1. When evaluating intervention outcomes, a level of clarity must be considered. Gathering proof of the efficacy of interventions may then be put in categories from a broad categorization to a rather more specific and refined one.
  2. The level of specificity may not be held back to a diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This point enables doctors to consider the person in treatment as a whole, rather than giving interventions based only on the disorder they are fixing.
  3. Scientific evidence must be determined completely, as all studies will face hardships.
  4. Relative vs. Absolute efficacy must be presented.
  5. Causal attributions for specific ingredients shall be made only if the proof is persuasive. This will highlight usual factors in comparison to particular claims of unique components of an intervention bringing the desired outcome.
  6. Outcomes should be looked at broadly. One intervention for stress shall affect all other aspects of life.
  7. Regions will present differences in outcomes and shall be assessed along with choice freedom.

These principles are needed to understand that practitioners must always consider the broader picture of a patient. Having a science perspective that is interconnected with the personal approach and specified understanding of unique experiences is important for outcomes to be effective and desirable. While an intervention could work well with one patient, another could find it completely incorrect and unhelpful to their situation.

Knowing that the American Psychological Association has groups in place to show how proof is collected justifies that people in the field are getting information that is applicable. Here are some benefits that have been put together as benefits of counseling across modalities: 

  1. Interpersonal communication skills increased;
  2. Interpersonal relationships improved;
  3. Depressive symptoms decreased;
  4. Anxiety symptoms decreased;
  5. Pharmaceutical interventions reduced;
  6. Quality of life improved;
  7. Behavioral contribution to well-being clarified;
  8. Suicidal thoughts reduced;
  9. Emotional self-regulation improved;
  10. Substance abuse reduced.

Benefits of Counseling in School

It is expected of children to maintain great academic results, interact well with peers, and take part in extracurricular activities. Children are currently under more pressure than the generations before them. New challenges and interactions have come to face them, which include technological advancements, whose effects are still undergoing rigorous scientific study. When a parent sends his/her child off to school, it could be unnerving knowing that the child is facing such pressure without the parent being able to help at all times. Counseling in schools offers a great resource to fight the pressures of being a child in the world today. School counselors have a wide variety of challenges and, in certain cases, heartbreaking surroundings where a child’s ability to thrive is way too limited.

Counseling in schools has the following benefits: 

  1. Communication improvements;
  2. Facilitation for peer groups;
  3. Emotional exploration support;
  4. Advocacy for suspected neglect or abuse;
  5. Attention and academic achievement improvements;
  6. Anger and behavioral outbursts were reduced.

Benefits of Marriage and Couples Counseling

With rates of divorce climbing and domestic violence cases wreaking havoc on society, the marriage and couples counseling benefits may not have been more required. Quite a lot of people enter their unions with a soft mentality of a “happily ever after.” What they fail to realize and get to know is that life is not stress-free, and if a couple cannot handle such stress together properly, it could not end very well.

Shifting perspective in counseling marriages is a vital benefit. Skilled, evidence-based providers have to attempt to shift a perspective from pointing fingers to a broader responsive and cooperative view. Dysfunctional reactivity patterns in couples bring out ill feelings and do not allow intimacy to occur. Behavior and the decision of how a couple interacts is a shift that can be very helpful in counseling couples. Interactions that are dysfunctional can at times lead to violent behavior and other potential dangers. Counselors could help the relationship improve by reducing the occurrence of such behaviors.

Emotional avoidance is another area where marriage counseling can be beneficial. With a good counselor, marriages can become better by reducing this avoidance. Couples who can speak about what they’re feeling with one another effectively allow intimacy to enhance. It is critical to have communication in a relationship. Without being able to properly talk to each other, poor habits in communication may occur between the couple, which creates more conflict, further ruining the bond of marriage. Counseling helps couples learn how exactly they will be able to communicate better.

Counseling in couples also makes room for focusing on the relationship’s strengths. In every relationship, a couple has great chemistry in certain things. Couples who are able to highlight what works well and try to build other areas that are lacking build strong resilience. Relationship counseling can enhance well-being in a couple themselves, along with the people that surround them, including their children. 

Benefits of Group Counseling

Above fifty clinical studies have shown the efficacy of group counseling. Participants find benefits that somehow surpass the benefits of individual counseling. Group therapy exceeds the standards of efficacy for a lot of psychological disorders by a long way. Inside the analysis listed above, a particularly positive outcome in participants with depressive symptoms was more dignified than others. As we know that belonging and interactive support is significant in improving the overall well-being of individuals, this suggests that group therapy could offer almost the same kind of benefit.

These are some benefits reportedly gained via group therapy:

  1. Communication and social skills improved;
  2. Network support and social encouragement;
  3. Healthy behaviors relatability and improvement;
  4. Perspective due to diversity in group dynamics enhanced;
  5. Affording to give care;
  6. Safe space to develop assertiveness;
  7. Correct boundaries through self-insight.

Benefits of Family Counseling

A Family is a special unit of emotion. Parents and children have their well-being coiled up together. They may have each other’s backs when things are going well and can struggle to support one another when conflicts start to arise. Whenever a family member struggles, the whole unit struggles. Correct communication can lead to improvements in a family’s interaction with one another. Created family resilience can be helped and nurtured through counseling.

Emotions in families that require counseling are mostly raw and felt deeply. Sessions of counseling can help families in processing bad feelings in an attempt to make new pathways for the family to connect. Familial counseling allows comfortable spaces for every family member to have his/her feel listened to and their requirements met. Climbing healthcare costs has shown new flashes into the efficiency of treatment for mental health. In an analysis, familial counseling was seen to be greatly effective and an efficient way to cure mental health disorders.

Counseling being delivered in a group setting is most cost-effective, and I have known that it also gives increased family cohesion makes it a scientifically backed approach to treatment for a lot of mental health issues. More empathy helps relationships in the family to get better. Each member of a family’s ability to take the emotional presentation of another family member allows them to understand each other more and be able to connect with each other more as well. When you are in your teens, empathy does not usually come easily. Talking about this in family counseling can be beneficial.

Depression Rehab for Teens

Reduction of conflict and improved anger management may be a benefit of family counseling. Family counseling is used to fight a huge range of psychological issues. With help, families can navigate diagnoses and receive proof-based approaches toward each other in a safe surrounding effectively. Improvement in perceived family support is also a benefit of familial counseling. Family members could believe that they are each other’s support from their own perspectives, but when the messages are not perceived right, dysfunction may arise. A supported surrounding where each person can highlight exact and nicely-laid boundaries can lead to better understanding and interconnection. 

Benefits of Work Counseling

A stronger focus on well-being at work has started ever since positive psychology was introduced. With well-being, free expression of negative emotions also comes, which can become an area of problems for people who are at jobs to navigate. There are many benefits of counseling at work. Self-improvement is highly beneficial and is a growing industry, mostly in corporations. There are uncountable businesses enhancing work environments using mindfulness and well-being awareness. Human resources departments also offer support for employees.

Career counseling does not only offer personal development but also improves dynamics and teamwork in groups. A cohesive team environment is more profitable and, altogether, a much better environment for workers. It may also create some space for increased purpose, which could result in better work engagement.

What is Substance abuse counseling?

Improved self-efficacy and a sense of agency is a very important side effect of work counseling. Creating a secure and supportive surrounding where constructing aims and achievements are possible. Improved employee connections in a workplace, in turn, improves the overall well-being too. Resolving interpersonal misunderstandings at the workplace is a strong benefit of work counseling. A lot of people that work together will most probably experience interpersonal conflict. Having work counselors there to step in and support these conflicts can help office spaces become more efficient. 

Benefits of Counseling for Depression and Anxiety

Firstly, counseling may improve communication of negative emotions, which helps elevate an individual’s mood. Allowing individuals to explore their negative emotions and let them out in a safe surrounding allows them to express things that might not be accepted by someone very well who is not a licensed counselor.

A lot of patients find that once they start to explore, more stuff is revealed about the presenting depression or anxiety. With an environment safe to start expressing and exploring their negative emotions, practitioners may then begin teaching their clients techniques and strategies to manage their emotions in everyday life, helping to further remove symptoms of depression and anxiety. To reach this goal, a lot of practitioners will assign exercises and psychoeducational interventions to take home that clients need to engage with between their therapy sessions.

Secondly, research has shown that reduced anxiety and depressive symptoms are obvious ineffective counseling. The extreme decrease in symptoms is the biggest reason clients initially go into a counseling space. The correlation between the omission of symptoms and progress in other areas is required to note. Thirdly, skills for coping are a benefit of entering into counseling for depression and anxiety for the long term. Creating a plan to fight the extremely negative emotions that accompany these issues allows many individuals a way to constantly decrease symptoms. Some individuals have reported that they may also decrease medication with the enhancement of coping skills.

Fourthly, progress in interpersonal relationships is interwoven with reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety through therapy. Effective counselors may help their patients become better at boundary setting and other types of self-expression. These improvements can lead to increased growth in other regions of personal development. Lastly, when allowed interventions in positive psychology, progress in well-being can also be a benefit of counseling for anxiety and depression. By adding celebrations and gratitude of what is working nicely, patients may enhance naturally occurring levels of dopamine and serotonin. Once again, patients may be reminded to practice gratitude regularly with the help of take-home exercises.

There are a lot of different types of treatments in counseling for anxiety and depression. As treatment will be different for each person, some individuals have benefitted by lowering symptoms so much so that they no longer need counseling. Sometimes, omission of symptoms is also possible.

Twenty-six percent of adults in the United States of America receive some sort of diagnosis for a mental health disorder. These statistics show the prevalence and the severity of mental health disorders, alongside the need for mental health counselors. These individuals are licensed professionals and are trained to deal with a plethora of mental health disorders.

The role of a mental health counselor, in simplest terms, is to treat mental illness – emotional life challenges included. More specifically, mental health counselors provide therapy to clients and help them deal with issues like trauma, emotional disturbances, and other mental disorders. They coach their patients/clients with the end goal of modifying their maladaptive behaviors into useful ones. Their therapy sessions teach them to redirect their emotions elsewhere in a way that is not damaging to them. They also teach the clients how to manage their stress exhibited from all kinds of stressors. The behavior-changing process takes place through counseling using psychotherapy (talk therapy). Here, the problem is identified and worked on, and later coping strategies are devised, which aid in the improvement of one’s behavior and the quality of one’s life overall. 

Mental health counselors deal with dozens of issues such as:

  1. Substance abuse and addictions
  2. Depression and anxiety
  3. Physical/sexual abuse
  4. Relationship problems
  5. Self-harm / suicidal intentions
  6. Eating disorders
  7. Adjustment disorders
  8. Dementia
  9. Phobias and fears
  10. Anger management
  11. Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  12. Deep grief

These are only a few of the struggles that mental health counselors help to remedy. Counselors usually specify in one of these domains to treat the client more specifically and accurately. Whatever the issue, their job is to guide a client to a healthier, happier, and better life, using the power of therapy and support.

To become a mental health counselor, you need a master’s degree in psychology and/or counseling, as well as having sufficient experience in clinical work. After this, they must become licensed, which is only possible after passing a special type of examination. Mental health counselors do not have one particular domain of work; instead, they work in a wide variety of settings. The following are settings where a mental health counselor can be employed:

  1. Schools, colleges, and universities
  2. Hospitals
  3. Businesses
  4. Private setups
  5. Mental health clinics
  6. Social service agencies
  7. Correctional facilities
  8. Community health centers
  9. Government agencies
  10. Substance abuse centers

Diagnosis is basically identifying and labeling an illness based on a set of symptoms. One cannot assume the nature of their illness, or someone else’s, without a proper diagnosis done by a qualified individual. After finding out what mental health counselors do and what their roles and responsibilities are, the question arises that asks whether these professionals can diagnose a mental health disorder or do they only help the client to recover from an already diagnosed one?

The answer to our question lies in this line: mental health counselors can diagnose and provide therapy to clients; however, they cannot prescribe medications. Medication can only be given by a psychiatrist; diagnosis can be made by a psychologist and by a mental health counselor. Thus, mental health counselors can diagnose a mental illness in an individual who comes to them for guidance.

This is because mental health counselors are trained to recognize signs and symptoms of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and everything else that could possibly assist the client as they walk through the door of the clinic.  

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