In 2020, about 53 million adults in the US had experienced mental illness. That’s one in every five adults. Unfortunately, only half of this population receives the appropriate treatment they need to overcome the disorder.
Often, these people delay or avoid seeking help or professional treatment due to the stigma attached to the illness. They’re afraid of how society will label them or that people will perceive them as incapable and weak, and they might lose their jobs or even be avoided by people around them.
The more people dodge the idea of getting professional help, the more staggering the consequences can be. There’s a possibility that their conditions may lead to further disabilities, substance dependency or abuse, poor quality of life, or even suicide.
On the other hand, when appropriately addressed and given the proper treatment, people can identify what’s wrong and deal with the problem accordingly. It’ll help lower the risks associated with these illnesses. Such treatment is mental health counseling.
What Is Mental Health Counseling?
Mental health counseling is a service provided by trained, licensed professionals, such as those in High Country Behavioral Health and other healthcare providers specializing in mental health.
In this process, the patient engages with a counselor who talks to them about their recurring symptoms and lays out a treatment plan. Counselors, in most instances, may also give advice, support, and a safe place where the patient can discuss their struggles and problems.
There are different psychotherapies that counselors can provide to patients depending on their needs, such as:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This approach focuses on identifying a patient’s destructive patterns, their influences on their behavior, and how to convert those into healthier practices.
- Interpersonal Therapy: This treatment highlights the link between personal interactions and the patient’s psychological symptoms.
- Psychodynamic therapy: This treatment concentrates on interpersonal relationships and the patient’s emotions. It uses self-examination and reflection to reveal and deal with the patient’s destructive patterns.
Who Needs Mental Health Counseling?
One might think that the only reason to seek professional help from a licensed counselor is when they’re experiencing symptoms of mental illnesses. However, there are other instances when individuals opt to visit a counselor.
Here are the main reasons why people go to professional mental healthcare providers:
- When they struggle with mental health issues: It’s always a good idea to see a professional when it comes to dealing with symptoms of mental health problems. People with anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and other mental health issues can benefit from counseling.
- Experiencing challenging life events: People who encounter difficult times like excessive stress and trauma may also seek guidance from counselors to help them better process and deal with situations such as abuse, addiction, death of a beloved, job loss, or severe physical illness.
- Facing hard decisions or undergoing transitions in life: New life experiences usually come with a great deal of decision-making. Individuals transitioning to a new phase of their life, such as newly-wed couples, first-time parents, retirees, young adults, and those who had just changed their careers, can benefit from counseling. Professional counselors can help them make good choices as they face challenging transitions in life.
- Journeying to self-discovery: Some people seek help from a counselor to guide them towards self-discovery, reflection, and exploration of their emotions and value system. Mental health counseling helps these individuals discover their true sense of being and helps them achieve satisfaction and self-fulfillment.
What Are Its Benefits?
Aside from the many advantages of seeking professional help enjoyed by the people mentioned above, here are more specific benefits of mental health counseling:
1. Improves Communication And Achieve Better Interpersonal Skills
Individuals with mental illness can potentially develop communication issues. They often tend to misinterpret others, leading to misunderstanding and tension in their interpersonal relationships.
These communication issues can be addressed through mental health counseling by exploring how these problems occur and working on the patient’s difficulties during communication.
A mental health professional can help overcome communication and interpersonal problems through opening the lines of communication, practicing active and dialogic listening, mediated and respectful communication, and questioning stereotypes.
2. Helps Accept Yourself And Boost Self-Esteem
Mental health illness can also affect individuals’ views of themselves, which sometimes contributes to low self-esteem due to feelings of inadequacy, shame, and self-doubt.
Although boosting one’s self-esteem can be a long journey and process, proper therapy can help patients recognize negative self-talk and reduce the instances through healthy goal-setting and self-compassion.
A mental health professional can help the patient challenge negative talks about themselves and develop healthy practices such as positive self-talk, mindfulness interventions, and journal therapy.
Through counseling, therapists can also help patients learn assertiveness, self-awareness, and confidence by encouraging them to create new hobbies. These activities contribute a lot to building self-confidence through a sense of accomplishment in doing something they’ve always wanted to do.
3. Helps Defeat Bad Habits
It’s hard to break away from bad habits. They’re etched deep within a person’s cognition as they continue to practice them over time.
The good thing about counseling is that therapists help patients understand how bad habits are formed and find appropriate approaches to condition behaviors and influence the process of their habit formation to develop new healthy practices.
Such conditioning includes:
- Classical conditioning
- Operant conditioning
- Observational learning
4. Helps Manage And Express Emotions
Expressing one’s emotions is a healthy practice. However, not many find it easy to do, especially when a person is raised in an environment where they’re trained or conditioned to act ‘appropriately’ and according to the rules set by the people with whom they grew up. Consequently, many people find it hard to let loose when it comes to emotional expression or adopt unhealthy practices due to observed patterns of expressions.
One significant role of counseling is to guide patients as they reflect on their manners of emotional expression and internalization of their practices. Counselors provide insights to help patients form new decisions on how they want to show their genuine emotions and manage them consciously.
5. Relieves Depression, Anxiety, And Other Mental Conditions
One of the most commonly known benefits of therapies is that they help patients with depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and other mental conditions. Therapists can guide patients in learning skills that’ll enable them to cope with negative events, show a different way to perceive and react to situations, identify the cause of their problems, and find effective ways to resolve their issues.
People who suffer from these disorders usually find it challenging to steer away from negative thoughts, emotions, and conflicts that happen in their lives. They often feel embarrassed or afraid to talk to anybody about their undertakings.
On a lighter note, counselors are well-trained professionals that can provide a safe space for patients. They can design and plan therapy sessions to relieve patients from these issues by helping them unload their burdens and baggage freely and without judgment.
6. Enhances Decision-Making Skills
Mental illnesses can affect the decision-making capability of a person. Some people find it challenging to understand the link between their actions and the consequences. It means they can keep on choosing to do something even if they already know it has possible negative effects. They also tend to jump to conclusions even with less basis or information about their choices.
Even though cognitive problems are hard to treat, professionals offer specific therapies to help improve a patient’s cognition. One such method is cognitive remediation, wherein the therapist guides a patient’s brain to better respond to situations and choose the better options, improving memory and decision-making.
7. Helps Learn Effective Stress Management
Stress is an overwhelming feeling associated with pressure and demands an individual is facing. It could be something that people feel when they have a lot to accomplish but have limited time to fit those tasks into. Stress can also be related to relationships, financial crises, or career problems.
No matter where the stress comes from, trained specialists can help people manage it through proper stress management. These professionals help patients manage their stress by identifying their stressors and finding better strategies to respond to or deal with them, if not to change them.
8. Improves Conflict Resolution Skills
Mental health counseling offers a treatment called conflict resolution therapy, wherein the therapist teaches the patient skills to address conflicts that arise in marriages, family friendships, the workplace, and many other situations.
In this method, the patients are taught how to achieve a ‘win-win’ situation by listening to one another and working cooperatively to arrive at a resolution, which is usually effective among romantic couples.
9. Assists Recognizing Distorted Way Of Thinking
A cognitive distortion is an individual’s way of thinking negatively about situations that arise in front of them. These recurring patterns cause people to view reality inaccurately or negatively, leading to increased anxiety and depression, relationship problems, and other complications.
Through effective therapies offered in mental health counseling, such as CBT, patients are guided to become more aware of their negative views, interpretations, and behaviors. Furthermore, therapists help them develop a set of alternatives to their thoughts and behavior to reduce their distress.
Such methods include identifying troublesome thoughts, reframing the patient’s perspective toward a situation, and performing a cost-benefit analysis. Through CBT, patients with distorted ways of thinking learn how to change unhealthy thinking patterns.
In many instances, mental health counseling helps patients overcome roadblocks to achieve healthier and better lives. With the guidance of an experienced counselor, many people can have the support and help they need to begin positive changes in their lives.