Mental health is a complex topic. Unlike physical ailments, the process to remedy mental health issues is not linear. A counselor has to work diligently to track down the source of the problem, understand the client’s circumstances, and administer help accordingly. However, at the same time, mental health counseling enables clients to deal with an array of situations.
Whether it’s PTSD, running away from a troubled past, or struggling with intense depression, mental health counselors have a solution. In a flourishing society, you can empower clients to give up gambling, reunite with their families, and even help tackle sensitive issues like sexual assault. So how does mental health counseling become a solution to all possible mental ailments? Read on to find out:
Counseling Follows Specific Pathways
Counseling itself is an umbrella term. There is mental health counseling, family therapy, and even group therapy, depending on the client’s situation. As a counselor, you have to pick one route and specialize in it before you can administer treatment. For instance, as a clinical mental health counselor, you help your clients through various mental health issues. These can be helping them through substance abuse problems, coping with PTSD, preventing self-harm, and helping them tackle depression, anxiety, and self-esteem problems.
However, suppose you work as a family counselor. In that case, your job is no longer limited to one client but tackling the relationship problems of an entire family or enabling couples to find their peace again. Therefore as a counselor, you need to decide what career makes the most sense. When choosing between mental health counseling vs marriage and family therapy, you need to know the career trajectory both fields follow. While mental health counseling allows you to focus on a client at a time, you also earn slightly less than a family counselor.
Similarly, as a family counselor, you have to use treatment methods that benefit people in groups and need to balance working with clients hailing from the same family or troubled marriage. You cannot choose to listen to one client and dismiss the other. Your work environment will also vary. As a mental health counselor, you may run a private practice or work in rehabs. Still, as a family counselor, you need to get employed.
What Are The Benefits Of Mental Health Counseling?
For clients living with mental health issues is not easy. It takes over their thought process, impacts their emotional well-being, and pushes them away from friends and family, seeking isolation. When this behavior pattern continues, it can cause them to sink deeper into turmoil and turn to drastic measures to seek relief. These can include self-harming, abusing substances, or developing eating disorders. As a counselor, if a client seeks your help, whether out of choice or because of a court-mandated penalty, you can help clients regain control. Here’s how:
1. Breaks The Vicious Cycle
Depression, anxiety, and stress can lead to vicious cycles. Patients may start blaming themselves for troubles in their relationships, try actively sabotaging the people around them, may start skipping meals, and even run away from their responsibilities. In extreme cases, their paranoia may be so high they can hurt others around them physically.
As a counselor, you help clients understand why they feel a certain way. For instance, a client may have depression and PTSD from being in an abusive relationship, or a client may have anorexia. No matter the cause, once you identify the source, you can help a client find their way back through a series of questions.
Through cognitive behavioral therapy, you teach a client to change their thought pattern and modify their behavior. For example, you teach clients anytime they feel like blaming themselves, take a deep breath, remind themselves that they did the best they could, and let go of guilt. Then, if they’re enduring abuse, help them regain their self-esteem and prevent them from victim blaming.
This can mean using kinder words when talking about themselves, helping them understand the concept of abuse, and training them to think it was not their fault. When positive reinforcement takes the place of unhealthy coping mechanisms, it helps clients break free from the habits they established for themselves.
2. Actively Battles Substance Abuse Addiction
Contrary to popular belief, addiction is not a result of poor choices or habits but is a mental illness. What starts as harmless drinking turns into a compulsive need to stay drunk and abuse drugs to silence the feeling of panic, stress, and suffocation. When a client is under the influence of substances, it’s easy to turn off the world around them. But addiction is a problem. It takes over lives, destroys relationships, and ruins a person’s life, so you need to help.
You may meet clients struggling with addiction in rehab centers, which means they’re already undergoing detox and feel ashamed, guilty, and even angry. As a counselor, before you can modify how a client thinks, encourage them to reflect on their feelings. Why do they feel bad, and what makes them think poorly about themselves. When clients can connect their emotions and understand why they feel so intensely, they understand the guilt of hurting their family because of misusing drugs.
You can help them through dialectical behavioral therapy. During this process, you help clients deal with intense emotions and resist the urge to give into drinking again. You start by empowering them to accept their addiction, help them combat the rising feelings through reassurance, encourage them to tolerate distress by assisting them to see the light, and support a client to see their strength and resilience. Other treatments include sending the client to Alcoholic Anonymous or visiting the 12-step program.
3. Establishes A Healthy Lifestyle
Through motivational interviewing, you can help clients establish a healthy lifestyle for themselves. Mental health disorders can take away routine from them. Clients may choose to sleep, isolate themselves in their rooms, and ignore their physical well-being, often skipping out on showers. Even though helping clients back on their feet is slow, once they get into the habit of choosing to be healthy, your work is complete. You may ask clients to start doing one task a day. This can be journaling their thoughts, eating breakfast, or taking a shower.
When they’ve accomplished one task, praise their effort and encourage the client to appreciate themselves. At the same time, tell a client anytime they feel overwhelmed and stressed to find a coping mechanism and start doing another task. For instance, if you diagnose a client has panic disorder, you can help them recognize the signs and symptoms of an attack. This empowers them to turn to their coping mechanisms such as humming a song, breathing profoundly, or sitting down and closing their eyes to subside the feeling.
Make sure you praise, applaud, and help the client acknowledge their resilience. When clients start adopting multiple healthy habits, help them establish a routine with a proper schedule to stay focused.
4. Introduces Better Ways to Communicate
Mental health issues can make communication a burden. Poor interpersonal relationships and destroyed marriages can result from the inability to communicate. Communication is a type of self-expression where a client needs to find the approximate choice of words, connect their feelings to their thoughts and give space to allow others to speak.
As a counselor, it will help if you look into different ways of communication. If a client is nonverbal, teach them gestures, hand signs like nodding and pointing to get their point across. When it comes to communication, help clients to listen, understand what the other party is saying and have an appropriate response. You need to teach them accountability and help them phrase their mental illness, making it hard for them to have ongoing conversations.
It may help if you invite the client’s family and mediate a session between them to watch how they communicate as a unit. When the session concludes, point out where improvements can be made. This will demonstrate active conflict management and teach the client how to ask for help.
Counseling is an integral part of a thriving society. Numerous mental health ailments surround us that arise due to varying circumstances. As a mental health counselor, you can understand these ailments and individually work with clients to get better. Your empowerment can help clients understand the source of their problems.
You can empower clients to modify their thinking through different therapeutic techniques, help establish healthier habits, learn to live sober, and teach them better ways to communicate. When a client can gain momentum, get an idea about their illness, they may actively work on improving their health. This results in a happier and healthier community and reforms broken bonds into loving relationships again.