What is Counseling?

What is Counseling?
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Your mental health is an essential aspect of your overall well-being, just like your physical health. Sometimes, we all face challenges or experiences that affect our mental well-being, such as stress, anxiety, difficulty in relationships, or trauma. During these difficult times, it’s essential that we take care of our mental health. In this article, we will explore what mental health counseling is and how it can help those who want a better life.

What is Counseling?

Counseling, also known as therapy or psychotherapy, is a process where individuals or couples work with a trained and licensed professional. The counselor provides a safe and supportive environment for people to express their thoughts, emotions, and concerns without fear of judgment, condemnation, or harm. The goal of counseling is to improve your emotional and mental health and help individuals cope with life’s stressors in a more productive and satisfying way.

How Does Counseling Work?

Counseling sessions take place in a private setting, like an office or clinic, where individuals can talk openly with their counselor.  There’s also the highly popular option of telehealth counseling which allows you to be in the comfort of your own home, or wherever you choose to be. The counselor listens attentively and asks questions to better understand your experiences. It’s important to know that counselors are trained to be non-judgmental and show unconditional positive regard, meaning they won’t criticize or blame you for your thoughts or emotions.

Why Do People Go to Counseling?

People seek counseling for various reasons. The most common ones I’ve seen include:

  1. Dealing with stress: Counseling can help individuals manage stress and find healthier ways to cope with challenging situations, such as work, family issues, or relationship problems.  There are real and often physical consequences of excessive stress.

  2. Managing emotions: Counseling can assist individuals in understanding and managing their emotions and increase their emotional intelligence.

  3. Improving relationships: Counseling can provide tools and strategies for individuals to develop healthier communication and relationship skills. It’s no secret that poor coping skills can damage relationships with the people you love and care about.  A counselor can help provide skills so that you can better interact in all of your important relationships.

  4. Building self-confidence: Counseling can help individuals enhance their self-esteem and develop a positive self-image.  We tend to act according to the beliefs we have about our worth and ability.  If our self-confidence is low, we will likely achieve less than what we’re actually capable of doing.

  5. Overcoming addiction: Counseling is a common treatment for those struggling with addiction.  Whether it be substances, sex/porn addiction, or another process addiction like gambling or shopping, counseling has proven to be very effective in helping people overcome these struggles.

Types of counseling:

There are so many different types and modalities of counseling, the type of counseling you receive will depend on your specific needs and concerns. Here are a few popular examples:

  1. Cognitive-Behavioral Counseling (CBT): This is probably the most commonly used modality.  CBT focuses on identifying, challenging, and changing maladaptive thoughts and behaviors that exacerbate our mental health.

  2. Diagnosis/symptom-specific Counseling: This type of counseling involves a very specific kind of counseling aimed at a specific concern.  For example, those who have PTSD often seek a counselor who does EMDR or CPT.  I like to think of this as going to an orthopedic surgeon if you have a tendon injury in your knee.  For this concern, you’d like to seek a specialist versus talking only to your PCP.

  3. Couples Counseling: Involves a couple, aiming to improve communication and resolve conflicts within that relationship.

  4. Play Therapy: Specifically designed for children, using toys and games to express and work through their emotions.  Children speak through their play so this is a great way to understand what they’re going through via their own forms of communication.

Benefits of counseling:

Counseling offers several benefits to individuals, including but not limited to:

  1. Emotional Support: Counseling provides a safe space where you can speak freely about your emotions and receive nurturing support.

  2. Coping Skills: Counseling can teach individuals tools and strategies to help manage stress and difficult situations with more positive results.

  3. Increased Self-Awareness: Counseling can help individuals to understand themselves better, know why they do and think what they do, and be more aware of their experiences.

  4. Improved Relationships: Counseling can enhance communication skills and help identify roadblocks to healthier relationships with others.

What Counseling is not:

Those who’ve never met with a counselor often only see what counseling looks like in movies or TV shows, or from second-hand information.

  1. Counseling is not someone who knows all of the answers just telling you what to do.  On the contrary, I rarely give advice in session, but rather try to help an individual become their own best advice giver.

  2. Counselors aren’t people that you need to please or gain approval of.  You might be doing something or believe in something that I wouldn’t do or support, but as long as you’re not hurting yourself or others, it’s not my place to pass that judgment.

  3. Counseling isn’t a magical process where all of a sudden you “just get it” and are happy for the rest of your life.  Counselors utilize evidence-based practices that have been proven to help others going through the same thing you are experiencing.

  4. Counseling isn’t a place where you have to talk about things if you don’t want to.  While I might tell you that if you continue to avoid something it likely won’t improve, I will never force someone to talk about something they don’t feel comfortable talking about.

If anything in this article resonates with you and you’d like to become a better version of yourself, it might be time to reach out and see if a licensed professional counselor can help.  Remember, seeking therapy is a sign of strength and self-care, and it’s okay to ask for help when needed.

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