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What Is Mental Health Counseling?
I am sure almost all of us have suffered from fever at least once in our life. Most of us go to the doctor, doctors tell us what could have caused the fever, we take their consultation, follow their treatment and are on the way to our recovery. Mental health counseling is sort of similar to this. When the mind is tired, confused, sad or fatigued, then mental health counselor helps us to understand what could be the reason for our mind to not feel well, they guide us in helping to address the underlying issues for the mental health distress, they create a plan for the clients to follow over a period of time.
The difference between physical illness and mental health illness is that the physical illness such as cold, cough, food poisoning, fracture etc. can be acknowledged and seen by self and others whereas mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, feelings of feeling low, low self-worth etc. cannot be seen but are only felt. It could be that a person suffering from mental health issues may not even understand and acknowledge these feelings and the mental health issues remain either undiagnosed or untreated. But this blog will help you to know how to take care of your mental health by opting for counseling. Read on to know more!
Types Of Mental Health Counseling:
Mental health counseling consists a lot of tools, techniques, therapies and activities. All this helps the counselor to diagnose the mental health condition and it also helps the counselor and the client to work on the treatment part.
Here are few types of mental health counseling to give you an idea:
1. Individual counseling
Individual counseling is usually referred to as one-on-one counseling session. We all are unique individuals with unique issues. No two people will have the same problem with equal intensity, which means that for one person a problem in their relationship could be the most distressing one; for another person the same problem could be just one the issues in the life. That’s why understanding every individual’s issues and its intensity, frequency and duration is of utmost important.
Individual counseling is a way of addressing specific problems that are intrinsic or extrinsic. In all, for individual counseling, and individual can opt for therapy for problems that may arise due to their own intrusive thoughts are due to behaviors or actions of others or due to some situation.
2. Couples counseling
Couples counselling, as the name suggests, are sessions that are scientifically planned for couples who want to enrich their relationship or marriage. Couples counselling revolves around the issues between a couple and their marital relationship or a romantic relationship. Every relationship goes through various ups and downs. Arguments or discords are not surprising in a relationship because after all two individuals come together to form a relationship. Their behaviours, their actions, their vulnerability becomes the part of the relationship. Problem arises when small disputes take a form of fight which leads to big conflicts.
The counsellor guides the couple by viewing them from a third person perspective, which helps the counsellor to make them understand how the couple’s thought patterns, their behaviors, their actions can be affecting their romantic relationship.
3. Group counseling
Group counseling is a form of therapy that involves multiple people rather than a single person. Group counseling can be effective, especially for victims of trauma or abuse who often find the process of talking about the events difficult and overwhelming on their own. The benefit of group counseling is that it provides a sense of safety and individual attention.
Skill development, stress management, work-life balance, goal settings are few of the mainstream topics on which group counselling can be conducted.
4. Family counseling
Family counseling is a kind of counseling that deals with the psychosocial problems of families and consists mainly of family education, psycho-education, guidance and consultation. Family counseling is supposed to help parents, children, lovers and spouses who are going through transitions in their lives.
There are times when the family members want to support someone in their family who is dealing with mental health issues, here family counseling helps them understand what they can do to help the that member and support them. At other times, family dynamics could be adding to someone’s ongoing distress, here family counseling helps everyone in the family to understand each other’s perspectives and also set and accept boundaries if necessary.
How Mental Health Counseling Works
Mental health counseling can be viewed as one of the important treatment plans to heal the wounds on the mind. It is a professional relationship between the client and the counselor, wherein the counselor guides the client on the journey of healing, being with them professionally on each step.
On this journey, the counselor and the client work together to find the root cause of the problems, explore different techniques to help client reach a conclusion and understand their emotional state better and also to know how to deal with the distressing situation.
Typically, when the client goes in for a session, they can talk about anything and everything that is on their mind. This is called venting out and in psychological terms- catharsis, where a person feels lighter after talking about whatever is bothering them or whatever is on their mind. But only catharsis isn’t enough. Through therapies and techniques, the counselor helps the client to cope with the distressing events/ thoughts and makes them independent to deal with any situations that may come in future.
What Causes Mental Health Issues?
The factors that researchers have found out to be the causes of mental health issues are
A) Biological factors – a certain mental health condition like anxiety, depression etc. may run in the family as a result of that gene getting transferred to the offspring. Along with this, chemical imbalance in the brain, injury to the brain due to any accidents, prenatal issues during pregnancy also come under biological factor.
B) Environmental factors – This consists of how a person’s environment creates stressors for them and cause distressing situations. An example of this would be feeling rejected due to other people’s behavior, low quality of life due to monetary issues etc.
C) Psychological factors– This includes trauma that the mind may not be able to cope with such as childhood trauma, emotional or physical abuse, neglect, behavioral mechanisms etc.
What Problems Can Mental Health Counseling Help With?
Just like we have to go to the doctor for the treatment of fever or cold at any age, similarly our minds could also get tired and unwell at any point of time in our lives. Now, just like we have specialists like pediatricians, orthopedics, ENTC etc. who cater to specific illness when it comes to our physical health, similarly mental health counselors also have their own specialties, their own niche. There are child psychologists, adolescent and young adult counselors, family counselors, relationship counselors, counselors who cater only to men’s or women’s mental health needs, LGBTQ counselors, geriatric counselors etc. So, every counselor works in their field of specialization and help the client with those specific needs.
Problems or areas of issues that mental health counseling can help with are:
- Disorders in children –
- Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)
- Learning difficulty or disorder
- Eating disorders etc.
- Parental separation or divorce-
- Child showing signs of hostility towards one or both parents.
- Child going into the shell due to the news.
- Deterioration in the child’s social or other relationships etc.
- Hostile environment at school or home that the child isn’t able to cope with.
- Childhood trauma-
- Physical or sexual abuse.
- Witnessing an or experiencing an accident.
- Witnessing or experiencing violence.
- Sudden loss of a loved one.
- Social Media.
- Alcohol and related substances.
- Web series/ movies.
- Low concentration on studies.
- Complains of parents not understanding their angle.
- Friendship issues.
- Romantic and physical attraction.
- Sex education.
- Romantic relationship issues.
- One sided love.
- Difference between love and attraction.
- Poor communication styles and conflicts arising due to it.
- Dealing with toxic or abusive relationship/partner.
- Heart break and break-ups.
- Processing of emotions.
- Facing unpleasant emotions instead of avoiding them.
- How to move on.
- Pre-marital counseling-
- How to choose a partner?
- Expectation- from self and from the partner.
- Role and responsibility.
- Understanding the concept of romanticism.
- Post-marital counseling-
- Falling out of love.
- Responsibilities of extended families.
- Communication styles.
- Love languages.
- Anger management.
- Intimacy issues.
- Sexual dysfunction.
- Infidelity /Extra marital affair.
- Counseling for domestic abuse-
- For the victim of abuse/violence.
- For the person who is committing the abuse/violence.
- Parent counseling-
- How to provide emotional support to the child?
- Handling and providing support for childhood disorders.
- Caregiver’s responsibility.
- Psychoeducation on changed behaviors in teens and how to adapt with it.
- Family counseling-
- How to support a family member when they are struggling with mental health issues.
- How to accept boundaries set by the family member.
- Creating supportive and creative environment.
- Issues related to work and career.
- Psychological conditions –
- Stress-related issues.
- Obsessive Compulsive disorders.
- Other related disorders.
What Do Mental Health Counselors Do?
There is an understanding that mental health counselors help the clients to find the solutions to their problem. This is slightly misleading because that is not what the mental health counselors do. The mental health counselors guide their clients into finding the solution on their own for the problems they are facing.
Let’s take an example- a woman comes for counseling for her anxiety issues. Upon analysis, the counselor finds out that the anxiety is stemming from the relationship issues that she is having with her boyfriend and his abusive nature. With different therapeutic approaches, the counselor focuses on reducing the intensity of the anxiety that the woman is facing so that with the reduced anxiety she will be able to take steps towards finding the solution that is whether to stay in an abusive relationship or to walk out of it. Once the anxiety is reduced to the level that the woman can consciously take the decision, the counselor now uses different tools to help the client make the decision.
In the above example, the counselor never told the woman that she should walk out of the abusive relationship or give it another chance. Rather the counselor worked on the root cause, worked on reducing the effect of the symptom of the root cause and made the client independent to take her own decision. All this with the help of psychological therapies, tools and techniques.
A typical flow in which a counselor may work is-
- Making their client comfortable (over time) so that they can easily share any information and feel that therapy is their safe space.
- Collect case-history.
- Analyze the intensity, frequency, duration of the symptoms.
- Work on the root cause. (The counselor may also give the clients some home-work)
- Analyze the effects of symptoms from time to time.
- Make the client independent.
How Much Does a Mental Health Counselor Cost?
The fees of a mental health counselor vary greatly from counselor to counselor. It depends on the niche that they are working in, their expertise, years of experience and other things.
There is also ‘sliding scale’ system that is offered by some counselors. Sliding scale fees depend on the individual’s income or economic level. Say for example, there are many students in their late teenage years or early adulthood who may want to opt for therapy but some of them do not take that step because they aren’t earning yet. So, a counselor who offers sliding scale for students may slide the amount of the actual fees to a level where the students will be able to afford it. This is not just applicable to students, but anyone whose income is low.
How Do You Know If You Need Mental Health Counseling?
Knowing that one is suffering from mental health issues can be tricky and confusing because unlike physical illness, mental illness may not be seen at time. But your physical health can also tell a lot about disturbances in your mental health. Mind and body are connected. Disturbance in one is likely to affect the other. So, if you are suffering from any physical issues such as headache, stomach ache, heaviness in the chest for a long time and have gotten your physical examination done, knowing that there is no physical problem, then the issue could be related to mental health.
Another way of knowing when to start counseling is when your mind randomly pops up the question of ‘should I give counseling a try for this problem?’ This is because on some level of consciousness or unconsciousness, we know that therapy can be the solution, but our defenses may kick in and make us believe not to go for therapy, and stigma around therapy could be one of the reasons why these defenses may kick in.
In other terms, one can start taking mental health counseling when:
- There is a sudden change in life or when one is in the stage of transition.
- If one is having thoughts related to self-harm or causing physical harm to other people.
- There are low self-esteem and low confidence issues.
- The productivity levels decreases suddenly and for a prolonged time.
- There is continuous emotional distress that one is unable to handle.
- In terms of unhappy relationships, problems in career, feelings of feeling stuck.
- There is sudden, unpleasant change in behavior.
- In term of addiction.
The above list was for mental health conditions, one may also opt to take counseling sessions for the purpose of psychoeducation, that is in understanding a few points about themselves or others where there is no distress. Like-
- Pre-marital counseling.
- Enhancing the happiness or pleasant emotions in life (positive psychology).
- Understanding the different behaviors that may come up in different stages of life such as teenage, adulthood, during and after childbirth, menopause, old age etc.
What To Expect During Mental Health Counseling Session:
Mental health counseling can be seen as a road trip. You start your journey and are prepared to reach your destination. While being on the road, you may find that at times there is no road block, the surroundings are pleasant which is making your journey beautiful. On other occasions, you may get frustrated because you decided to take a route which you weren’t comfortable taking. That route may have road blocks, potholes, or your vehicle may break down but eventually you manage all that and reach your destination feeling relieved that you reached it finally!
Mental health counseling is not just one session thing. It is an entire process filled with ups and downs of emotions, feelings and thoughts. Your counselor has an end objective in their mind their goal is to guide you there.
The experiences of counseling sessions are different for every client. But this is what you can expect from mental health counseling sessions:
- The counselor will get to know you and your challenges first.
- Talking about everything that’s troubling you with complete transparency.
- After some sessions you may feel extremely good, after some you may feel fatigued. Both are signs that therapy is working!
- Discussing techniques and what has helped you and what has not helped you so far.
- Venting out, having a breakdown, getting an insight about your issues and working on them are all part of the process!
How To Find a Mental Health Counselor
- Ask a reliable source: If any of your friends or family members have been into therapy, then you can ask them for references and then choose out of those references!
- Google it: We understand that some of us want to keep it confidential that they want to get into therapy and would not like to ask any known person for recommendation for this reason. No worries! Google about the counselors in your areas, talk to the ones you have shortlisted and then choose one out of those!
Finding a therapist on social media is also one of the options, but sometimes people on social media are self-proclaimed therapists without having the proper qualification and knowledge about the subject. The minimum qualification for a counselor to practice as a mental health counselor is a Master’s Degree in Clinical or Counseling psychology. If you want to seek counseling for patients who seem detached from reality and want a clinical psychologist to assess them, then the compulsory qualification of psychologist to call themselves a clinical psychologist is having an M.Phil degree. You have the right as a client to ask the mental health professionals about their educational qualifications, their field of practice and number of years of practice.
Remember the above points and you are good to start finding a counselor. But if you want to find the counselor easily, without scanning the google pages and asking any known person about it, then read this article till the end and you’ll know about the counseling sessions that we provide at WAITT!
The Benefits of Mental Health Counseling:
Mental health has started getting the correct attention and importance widely since the past few years. The stigma around mental health, counseling has started reducing as all of us have come together to understand and spread its equivalent importance with physical health. If you interact with the people who are in therapy, most of them will tell you that it has been a life changing experience for them. There are some cases where therapy didn’t work for people for reasons such as the therapist was not the right fit, they decided to discontinue therapy or something on similar lines. But hey, to know how something is going to turn out for you, you will first have to experience it, right?
Therapy is great! It reveals so many things to you about yourself and knowing yourself even better is seriously an amazing feeling, isn’t it? So come, let me tell you what benefits you can avail from getting into therapy/counseling sessions:
- Venting out: Okay, how many times have you felt that if there could be someone who would just listen to you, without telling you whether you are right or wrong, without giving you any solutions? Just someone who can understand you by listening to whatever you are saying. So many times, right? Well, a mental health counselor gives you that space and attention- to talk, talk about anything and everything while they listen to you without any judgement. Isn’t that so helpful?
- Improves interpersonal relationship: When one starts working on themselves, they can see its effects being spread to the other relationships in their lives.
- Therapy/counseling helps in decreasing the depressive, anxious and other unpleasant feelings, thoughts and behaviors.
- Independence: The counselor covers every possible tool that you may need in future to take your independent decisions once all your counseling sessions are terminated. Because being too dependent on someone (here, on your therapist) is also not a good thing, right?
- Follow ups: Talking about being independent, there may come a time where you have tried every tool and technique that your therapist discussed with you to solve a new issue in your life, but somehow it doesn’t make you feel good. Don’t worry, you can again visit your therapist because they know how to support you when you have already tried everything but still something doesn’t feel good.
Apart from the above points, there are more amazing benefits of therapy which are listed below:
- Improves communication skills.
- Helps you in understanding the concept of ‘acceptance’ (self and others).
- Helps you understanding your behavioral pattern, where it is coming from and how to acknowledge them before altering them.
- Greatly helps in building decision making skills.
- Equips you with conflict-resolution and problem-solving skills.
Importance Of Counselling in Mental Health:
Imagine you have gone swimming in a nice pool. The people around you are swimming and enjoying themselves and suddenly you have started drowning, probably because you didn’t know how to swim or the pool is deeper than you thought. Somehow few people around you don’t realize that you are drowning and the ones who realize it are not able to help you. Then comes the swimming instructor and gives you a hand or the right size of rope to hold on to, so that you can grab it and come out of the drowning situation.
Just like the above example, sometimes the problem that you are facing could be completely new to you or sometimes you may lack the skills to solve the problem. In most of the cases of mental health conditions, the people around you may either not know that you are suffering or they may not be equipped to help you. The counselor, in such cases, will provide a hand to support you, to take you out of the distressing situation, isn’t that the most important kind of help one can get? That is why mental health counseling is important, because you get to heal with the help of a person who understands you and is equipped in all ways to guide you.
Apart from that, mental health counseling is important because:
- It makes you in control of the situation.
- It makes you empowered.
- Helps you in changing your perspective from negative to positive.
- It gives you a new way of thinking by opening various doors to the solution that you are looking for.
- Helps you let go of the past, and helps you to be present in the moment.
- It decreases your worry regarding the future and helps you in developing faith and confidence about it.
Current Issues in Mental Health Counseling:
Due to popularity of the field of mental health, a lot of people have started choosing mental health as their career fields. And it is overwhelming to see how the field is growing! The problem arises when people start practicing in the field of mental health without the proper knowledge and authentic certifications. While social media is a great place to gather information from, it could also be a place where people may put up misleading or incorrect information. In current times there has been a rise in the ‘social media therapy’ where quotes are posted online by people who aren’t certified as psychologists and even if this is done to spread awareness about mental health, it can be harmful. Hence, it is extremely important to know the qualifications of your therapist before starting your counseling journey with them.
Another issue in counseling is the number of clients dropping out of counseling before terminating the process. Like we discussed earlier in this article, there are times when clients feel extremely good about themselves, about the situation that was disturbing them and about the surroundings. And when that happens, one can naturally think that it is okay to stop taking the sessions. But this could be just one goal that is achieved and your counselor may have more goals planned for your treatment. Hence it is always advised to consult with your counselor first before deciding to stop the sessions, this reduces the chances of relapse.
Current Trends in Mental Health Counseling:
In the month of October, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDAI) issued this statement- “All insurance products shall cover mental illness and comply with the provisions of the MHC Act, 2017 without any deviation. Insurers are requested to confirm compliance before October 31, 2022”. So, from now on your insurance will cover the cost for your mental health illness along with your physical illnesses. Of course, it is just the start and hence a few disorders will only be covered in this insurance. But this is a huge achievement in the field of mental health!
Along with that, the companies and industries have started taking mental health of their employees into serious considerations. We have been seeing various programs being launched on industry levels to make mental health counseling more accessible to the employees.
Artificial Intelligence is a booming industry in all the sectors and it hasn’t missed to leave its mark in the field of mental health too. Started sometime back in the Western countries, AI chatbots are now surfacing in India too. Although it isn’t the replacement for counseling or a human therapist, exploring these apps helps us to achieve the wellbeing levels, enhancing the positive emotions and dealing with mild level anxiety and stress.
How To Counsel Mental Health Clients:
The approach of the counselor for the purpose of counseling differs from client to client. But understanding and accepting the client and their problems as they are, is one of the principles in counseling. Most of the people think that the job of the counselor is only to talk and be a motivational speaker, which is actually not true. Half of our job is to listen to the client by giving them complete attention and making them feel heard.
Once the clients feel good after what is bothering them, they can now shift their focus on the areas of their life that they expect a change in. This also helps them to come up with different ways of dealing with the problem with a small nudge and guidance from the counselor.
Counselor Vs. Clinical Psychologist
It has been observed, that while seeking help, a lot of times people don’t know who to approach for mental health counseling. Psychology is a growing field and knowing what every mental health professional does can be a bit confusing. So, here’s a table that will help you understand the difference between a counselor and a clinical psychologist.
|A clinical psychologist acquires an M.A. or M.Sc. degree in clinical psychology first and then goes on to obtain an M.Phil degree in clinical psychology to be accredited as a clinical psychologist.
|A counselor holds a Masters degree in psychology and additionally can also have Diploma degree in counselling.
|A clinical psychologist works with severe mental health illnesses and the patients who are away from reality.
|Counselors work with clients who are unable to cope with stressors that are caused due to day-to-day life challenges.
|Clinical psychologists are trained in diagnosis, psychological assessments and treatment.
|Counselors are trained in therapies that are required for areas such as child, individual, relationship, academic, work, family counseling etc. Along with this, they are trained to handle cases of anxiety, depression, suicide, OCD and many more.
Mental Health Counseling FAQs:
Q1. Is Mental Health Counselor A Doctor?
A: Technically, a mental health counselor is not a doctor. They obtain an M.A. or M.Sc. degree in psychology and do not have a degree in MBBS. But they can obtain a Ph.D. or Psy.D. and have a doctoral degree in that way.
Q2. Is Mental Health Counseling Effective?
A: Definitely yes! Mental health counseling will help one in some way or the other. The problem may arise when the counselor is not the right fit. Which is pretty normal. Every counselor may have their own way of approaching the sessions and that may not be helpful for everyone. In such cases, it is always recommended to talk to the counselor so that either they will change their approach which will suit you or they will refer you to another counselor who could help you better.
Another barrier where counseling may not work is when the clients do not follow the schedule of the sessions, the homework that they are given and when they are not completely trusting the counselor and withholding the information.
Q3. Where Can You Find a Mental Health Counselor?
A: One can get reference of counselors/therapists from their friend or family members. Another way to find a counselor could be on Google, LinkedIn or Instagram, however please validate their authenticity before starting sessions with them.
The Bottom Line:
We all go through ups and down in our life. Sometimes we are able to deal with the issues that have led us to our downfall and sometimes we aren’t able to do so. When it becomes difficult to cope with such mental states, remember that there is help out there, you just need to take a step and get that help for yourself!
Looking For Mental Health Counseling Services?
Finding the right mental health counselor can be very exhausting. Searching online, validating their credentials could be a lot. So, to save you the trouble, here’s a very easy way of finding the right counselor and starting your mental wellness journey with them.
WAITT has been catering to the community’s mental health since quite some time now and as a part of it has onboarded experienced, knowledgeable and skilled mental health practitioners who have their own niche in which they work and a very unique way of dealing with various clients. So, if you are someone who is looking for a mental health counselor, then your search may end right here. All you have to do is go on to- https://www.supportoursafety.com/therapy/ have a look at the counselor’s specialty areas and book an appointment with the one that you feel is the right fit!
Go on, and take that step because no matter what, we are in this together!