Many people think discussing issues with a counsellor is a sign of weakness or a useless and costly exercise meant for crazy people. Some believe that therapy should only be the last resort only when all the other treatment methods have been exhausted.
Despite the many misconceptions people associate counseling with, counselling actually has the potential to help a lot of people in many ways. They can work in various situations, from a failing marriage and other faulty relationships, to social and behavioral problems attributed to particular mental conditions. Counselling could also help individuals who don’t have serious medical problems.
Because of this versatility, counselors are capable of dealing with problems and issues that concern persons from all walks of life, religion, gender, and age groups. It’s typical to see counselors in different settings such as hospitals, clinics, behavioral and rehabilitation centers and school, among other facilities.
What Is Counseling?
In general terms, counselling refers to the provision of mainly professional service, with the aim of addressing personal, emotional, psychological, and social challenges.
Many people consider a counselor as a therapist or an advisor, and they’re not completely wrong. These terms refer to persons trying to share their expertise and knowledge in resolving a life-disrupting issue.
Issuing guidance to individuals who may need it in specific or all aspects of their lives, for instance, in the financial, romantic and social relationships, as well as spiritual fronts, is a form of counselling.
When it comes to mental health, counselling may refer to the provision of services by a psychologist or a psychiatrist to create a treatment plan typically for a behavioral issue, for example when one is experiencing anxiety.
Depending on the severity of the impact, the mental health specialist will request a few to several sessions to assess the patient, propose a treatment plan that may or may not involve taking medications, and offer advice for the patient and care givers about how to effectively handle and manage the specific condition.
These pieces of advice aim to offer support for individuals and their families to live their lives unimpeded by the issue, which can be very debilitating to some.
Counselling And Psychotherapy: What’s The Difference?
Despite the close resemblance of their main objectives, a counselor and a psychotherapist may have different approaches in helping patients deal with their problems.
A counsellor typically focuses on the emotional and intellectual experience of a patient. In sessions, the discussion with the patient may center on how a client feels and what they think about the issue or problem that they’re facing.
On the other hand, psychotherapy coaxes a patient into examining their childhood or past experiences in an attempt to understand how said history impacts their current challenge(s).
Additionally, some states require therapists to have an advanced degree and training. Although, not all counselors are required to have them. Counselors predominantly use talk therapy, humanistic therapy, and Gestalt therapy, in their approach. Psychotherapists often use these methods, too, and a number of other methods at their disposal, among more complicated behavioral therapies and cognitive-based methods.
Most Common Types of Counselors
There are many types of counselors, and most of them are either employed in health, mental care and behavioral health facilities, such as hcbh.org.
The most common types of counselors include the following:
- School counselors
- Marriage and family therapists
- Mental health counselors
- Rehabilitation counselors
- Child pediatric counselors
- Grief counselors
- You Have Thoughts About Hurting Yourself Or Others
Harming yourself and others is a cause for immediate concern. It is recommended to talk to a licensed professional if having or acting upon these thoughts. If you’d rather remain anonymous, consider calling the hotlines on suicide prevention, crisis prevention, or other online counselling and psychotherapy services.
Suicide and self-harm can potentially be prevented if detected early by a licensed counselor or therapist. You shouldn’t take statements about suicide, lightly. Observe symptoms such as preoccupation about death, violence or doing self-destructive things. Abrupt personality or behavioral changes are also among the danger signs of a person suffering from suicidal thoughts.
If a friend or a loved one expresses these thoughts to you, it is recommended to refer to a counselor. A counselor is trained to allow a person experiencing suicidal thoughts to freely and safely express the emotions that he or she has difficulty conveying to other people. This can take a load off the person and help them eventually achieve emotional stability.
- You’re Finding It Hard To Move On
People have different coping mechanisms after traumatic events. If, for instance, you’ve experienced the death of a loved one, it’s natural to undergo a difficult time while grieving. It’s normal for people who suffered a recent loss to find difficulties in re-engaging with other people after a traumatic and life-altering event.
However, if the process has become your “default setting”, and you’re finding it hard to move on, seeking an appointment with a grief counselor may be beneficial.
Sometimes having a counselor to comfortably and openly talk with, may help you learn easier ways to cope with the loss.
- You’re Friends And Family Members Tell You That They’re Concerned
Often, people don’t see how stress and emotional distress like anxiety can take a toll on them. If you’re surrounded by concerned friends, colleagues and family members, telling you that they’re “concerned”, you should take heed and observe ourselves, too.
Chances are, you may have fallen into self-destructive patterns that require professional help to manage.
- You’re Experiencing Frequent Mood Swings
A mood swing is an often intense and abrupt change in a person’s emotional state. When experiencing a mood swing, an individual may feel happy one moment and annoyed or frustrated the next, faster than you can say, “mood swing”.
Just to be clear, it’s a certain degree of mood swings can be normal. But, if you’ve been experiencing more persistent negative feelings, like a feeling of doom, it might be worth talking to a trusted friend or a family member.
Professionals suggest that you take the further step and seek the services of a specialist, as this may be a symptom of a mental health issue. Having yourself checked by a counselor can help you discuss and express your feelings, fears and anxiety better.
Contrary to common notion, mood swings affect both men and women.
- You’re Anxious About Life-Changing Decisions Or Changes
Along with death and taxes, changes are, ironically considered permanent in life. People grow, make mistakes, learn and become wiser (hopefully).
Along with these changes people expect to be amenable to life-changing decisions such as transferring to a new job, having another child, or relocating to a new country. People have different ways of coping with these changes which is why seeking professional help may be beneficial.
- It Seems Nothing Can Perk You Up Anymore
If the things that used to light you up no longer provide you with the right amount of motivation, it could be a sign that there’s something wrong.
For instance, if you used to be a sports buff and have suddenly caught yourself cancelling your tennis plans, it may be important to ask yourself why. If you can’t answer this question, a counselor or therapist may be able to find the answer for you.
- You’re Using Substance To “Escape”
Turning to alcohol, drugs, and other addictive substances, is never a good way to deal with your problems. Substance abuse disorder, as it’s known in the medical field, brings with it a myriad of life-threatening problems, for instance, drug overdose.
While the condition is considered a medical issue, counseling and psychotherapy are imperative in substance abuse cases because they can help prevent the risk of a relapse.
- You Think You May Have A Mental Health Issue
One thing is clear: physical health is as important as mental health.
Many have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic at varying degrees. Those who’ve had existing challenges pre-pandemic may have found their problems exacerbated by the deaths of persons they know, loss of income, or constant fear of infection. Anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder are few of the mental conditions that may have been aggravated by the worldwide pandemic.
Further, the World Health Organization revealed that individuals who suffer from mental, neurological and substance abuse issues are more susceptible to infection.
As the only one who can distinguish potential physical and mental issues, especially at its onset, never take your suspicions with a grain of salt. If you think something’s off, reach out to a counselor or a therapist as soon as possible.
- Your Relationships Are Suffering
Any kind of relationship requires all parties involved to exert a certain amount of effort and hard work, in order to keep it functioning. Whether you want to become a better parent, sibling, partner or friend, there are usually things that you can and should do to make the relationship blossom.
These days, so many things can take and keep people’s attention and time away from others who matter to us. While the digital space can help people in many ways, social media can damage relationships, too.
If any of your relationships need mending, consider an appointment with a counselor or therapist to explore ways to make it better.
For instance, a counselor may work with you in finding ways to improve your communication strategies or reduce the chances of misinterpretations by analyzing and understanding your relationship dynamics better.
- You’re Sleeping Patterns Have Become Too Erratic
Sleep deprivation can be triggered by a myriad of causes, from the medications that you take, to stress, anxiety, or serious health issues. The same goes for your desire to sleep extra and often unreasonable hours. The act of losing sleep is not the only cause for worry. It has implications that may cause health-damaging conditions such as obesity, pain sensitivity, and increased susceptibility to heart diseases.
Erratic sleeping patterns could also be a sign of a mental health issue such as depression. Without proper diagnosis, however, you won’t be able to manage the problem. Seeking the help of a counselor is an important step in ruling out major health issues, and later, to discover how you can handle them better.
- You Feel Alone
People who suffer from mental health issues often think they’re alone in dealing with their issues. In these instances, counseling through group therapy sessions could be helpful. Individuals who, alongside other sufferers, have the chance to discuss their struggles and the more effective means in managing mental health issues may benefit more so than seeking help alone. This may also ease feelings of isolation.
If you’re not comfortable discussing your concerns in front of other people, you may still choose individual therapy or counseling. The act of validating your thoughts, feelings and emotions, may be enough to give a patient a sense of comfort and a semblance of positivity and hope.
Things to Consider About Counselling
Choosing the best counselor or therapist is key to making progress in your healing. However, much of it relies on the relationship that’s built between the counselor and the patient.
- Trust is one of the most important factors: If you can’t trust your counselor, you most likely won’t feel comfortable discussing everything them.
- Make sure that your therapist is a good fit: Counseling is a collaboration, meaning, both you and your therapist should work together. It’s unlikely that you or your therapist alone, will be able to solve the issue.
- Therapy may stir uneasy feelings: As you examine the external and internal factors and how they may contribute to your current problem, painful memories and unpleasant feeling may crop up. It’s important to not allow it to define you, however. Remaining open and telling your counselor how you’re feeling is recommended.
- Counseling should offer you a safe space: Despite the unfavorable sensations, you should never feel judged or criticized.
- Experience is important, but it’s not everything: License, education and proper training are all important in choosing the best counselor. However, having a counselor you’re happy to talk to and work with, can be more helpful in some cases. Your first choice may look good on paper, but if he or she is not a good fit, you may need to seek another therapist whom you can work with in a seamless manner.
- Online counselling is available: The pandemic has resulted in an increasing demand for telemedicine, and looking for mental health support is no different. These days, you can seek counselling without leaving your home. In some cases, online counselling may not cost you anything.
The Bottom Line
Just like seeing a physician to have yourself checked when you’re not feeling well, talking to a counselor to help you deal with your emotional issues, is normal and potentially beneficial.
The so called “red flags” discussed in this article are useful in finding out whether it’s time to seek an appointment with a counselor. However, in some cases, the urgency to have someone to talk to may just be enough to try and keep your mental health and well-being, intact.