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What Is Mental Health Counseling?

If you are suffering from some form of mental illness, you may benefit from mental health counseling. It’s important to note that a mental illness does not need to mean crippling psychosis. Severe depression, anxiety or attention deficits are all legitimate problems that can be treated with the help of a mental health counselor.

Mental health counseling is the treatment of a mental illness by a trained mental health care professional. This professional can take the form of a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker. The counseling itself can take on a variety of forms as well, from psychoanalytic approaches to behavioral approaches. In many cases, talk therapy will be combined with some form of medication to treat the particular mental illness that an individual may be suffering from.

Who Can Benefit from Mental Health Counseling?

Anyone who is dealing with some form of psychological difficulty that is interfering with everyday functioning may benefit from mental health counseling. This includes people with severe depression, with crippling anxiety, with attention deficits or with eating disorders, as well as those who struggle with addictions, trauma, or phobias. The more severe the problem, the more experience and training you will want in the professional you seek.

How Does Mental Health Counseling Work?

Mental health counseling can come in a variety of settings, including with a group, one-on-one, or occasionally with a partner offering support and information to the therapist. The counselor will generally start with an intake interview where the patient will detail what brought him or her in for counseling, what symptoms he or she has been experiencing and what he or she hopes to achieve as a counseling goal. The counselor may also recommend that the patient take a variety of tests which may give a clearer picture of the patient’s specific pathology. Once the problems have been established, the counselor will recommend a course of treatment, which will often be a number of sessions of talk therapy, perhaps accompanied by medication designed to correct a chemical imbalance in the brain.

In the case of deep seated traumas or certain mood disorders, a lengthy course of psychotherapy may be indicated. In these cases, the patient’s childhood and ways of relating to others throughout his or her life are explored, with an eye towards how negative defense mechanisms may have developed. With phobias, anxieties or addictions, many mental health counselors have found great success with behavioral approaches. In these cases, a shorter term of counseling is required, in which patients are taught relaxation techniques and then taught to pair those techniques with the experiences that they fear or find difficult to handle.

Although for many years there was a stigma on the mentally ill or seeking treatment for mental illness, the reality is that mental health issues are very legitimate medical concerns, and should not go without treatment. Mental health counseling can be highly effective for many people, and can often allow them to go on to lead happier, more productive lives.