Mental health counseling isn’t just for people who struggle with mental health, but for anyone who has concerns about mental health at any given time. Whether you have stress in your life, problems with a relationship, or anything else that weighs on your mind, you can benefit from mental health counseling.

The counseling process is like an educational experience. The patient learns more about him/herself and gains new skills. Counseling also sometimes includes learning about certain conditions such as depression, eating disorders, and anxiety so that he can understand the treatment options better.

What are the 8 benefits of mental health counseling?

  • improved communication and interpersonal skills;
  • improved self-acceptance and self-esteem;
  • capability to change self-defeating behaviors and habits;
  • more suitable expression and management of emotions;
  • relief from depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions;
  • greater confidence and decision-making skills;
  • ability to manage stress more effectively;
  • improved abilities for problem-solving and conflict resolution.

Why You Should See a Counselor

Psychological or personal counseling gives you the chance to talk about social, emotional, or behavioral problems that are causing you concern or interfering with your daily activities.

There are many reasons for seeking personal or psychological counseling. Some of the most common problems people go for help include:

How Counselors Help

It takes a trained, professional counselor, also known as a therapist, to guide you through that journey. Addiction counselors provide an important and necessary system for people who want to recover from substance use disorders, eating disorders, gambling addictions, and other behavioral disorders. They build a relationship with their patients that is based on trust.

Sometimes just being able to talk about your problem helps you see a solution more clearly. Your counselor is trained to ask certain questions to help you discover a solution on your own. This way, you will have the tools you need to find solutions on your own outside of counseling. Counselors provide support, resources, confidentiality, and judgment-free guidance.

Common Therapies Used in Mental Health Treatment

Several common evidence-based therapies have proven to be immensely effective in SUD (substance-use disorder) counseling. They are used in virtually every treatment program that has experienced, trained addiction counselors to implement them. These are included:

1. Group vs. Individual Therapy

Individual therapy, also called psychotherapy, is a collaborative process between the therapist and the patient. A trained therapist can help you discover the underlying causes of your thoughts and behaviors and make positive lifestyle changes.

Individual therapy can be a great help to you if you have depression, bipolar, or another serious mental health disorder that needs to be treated on its own. Some people find it’s helpful to participate in individual and group therapy.

Group therapy is usually preferred over individual therapy. Therapy sessions typically consist of one or more therapists and 5 to 15 group members. During group therapy, you are more likely to be challenged and supported by your peers in the group.

Group therapy helps you put your problems into perspective. Listening to others regularly helps you speak openly about your issues and realize that you are not the only person with problems.

Observing how the other people in the group handle problems and make changes in their lives helps you learn new strategies for your own issues. Many groups are formed to address a certain problem such as depression, chronic pain, obesity, or substance abuse. Still, others are focused on improving social skills.

2. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Basically, CBT is a “talk therapy” that explores the differences between what you want to do and what you actually do. Substance use disorder is an example of that. Nobody wants to be an addict. CBT is an effective goal-oriented and short-term treatment that takes a matter-of-fact approach to problem-solving. It is used on a variety of issues including drug and alcohol abuse.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy highlights the behavior and thought patterns (cognition) the patient has. Using this method the patient begins to understand how their negative thoughts and attitudes directly affect their behavior.

The goal is to adjust the patterns of thinking or behavior that led to the patient’s problems. This is done by targeting the thoughts, images, beliefs, and attitudes the patient has and the relationships that have caused them to behave in certain ways to deal with their emotional problems. Once you have identified the relationship between your problems, behavior, and thoughts you can begin to learn ways to cope and manage your thoughts and emotions during and after treatment.

3. Family Therapy

Family therapy is psychological counseling that helps family members enhance communication skills and resolve conflicts. Relationships are examined as family members try to understand the experiences of all the other members.

The goal of family therapy is to bring transparency to the relationships and encourage closeness if the members choose to. The most important parts of family therapy are:

  1. Engagement — Family engagement interventions typically take place during the first stage of treatment.
  2. Reframing relationships — This consists of interventions designed to transition from defining a problem in individual ways to producing solutions based on relationships and understanding.
  3. Behavior change — The goal is to shift the behavior of the family members by teaching them new skills and bolstering individual changes in behavior.
  4. Restructuring — The goal is to change the way the family system is directed, adjust basic beliefs and family rules.

4. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Initially, DBT was developed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD). Research subsequently showed that it is effective in treating bulimia, binge-eating, depression, SUD, and bipolar disorder.

Dialectical behavioral therapy is another type of cognitive-behavioral treatment originally to treat BPD. People with BPD typically have extreme, intense, negative emotions that are difficult to manage and frequently appear while interacting with other people, including personal relationships.

Normally, DBT consists of individual therapy sessions with your counselor and DBT skills groups. The therapist keeps you motivated to apply the DBT skills to your everyday life and discuss any problems that might arise during treatment.

DBT skills:

Participants in the skills group learn and practice DBT skills, share their experiences, and provide support for the other members. Patients learn to develop the skills necessary to manage their emotions and reduce conflict in relationships. Skills are developed in four areas:

  1. Mindfulness — Improving the patient’s ability to be “at the moment.”
  2. Distress tolerance — helps improve the patient’s tolerance of negative emotions rather than trying to escape.
  3. Regulation of emotion — Learning to manage intense emotions that are causing difficulties.
  4. Interpersonal capability — Learning techniques that allow the patient to communicate with others in an assertive manner that maintains self-respect.

5. Contingency Management Therapy (CM)

In this behavioral therapy approach, you receive positive incentives. Patients are “reinforced” or are rewarded for evidence of positive changes in their behavior.

CM is based on principles of basic behavioral analysis. Behavior that is reinforced close to the time it occurred will increase in frequency. Contingency management is used in everyday settings as well as in clinical settings. It is highly effective for the treatment of substance use disorders. CM interventions can be used in psychiatric treatment to increase abstinence in patients with dual diagnoses and to encourage attendance at mental health treatment sessions.

6. Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a counseling method that helps you resolve conflicting feelings and insecurities to find the motivation necessary for you to change your behavior. It is a short-term process that recognizes how hard it is to make changes to your life.

It’s often used as a therapy for substance use disorder and management of physical health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and asthma. Motivational interviewing helps you change the behavior that prevents you from making healthy choices.

Research shows that this method works well with people who start unmotivated or unprepared to make changes. In a supportive demeanor, the interviewer’s role is to encourage the patient to talk about their need for change and their reasons for wanting to change. And to induce a conversation about change and commitment.

It is a short-term therapy that requires just one or two sessions although it can be included with other longer-term therapies.

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Author: Dr. Anthony McKeys

Dr. Mckeys has over 25 years of experience as a family therapist, educator, author, and supervisor worldwide. He provides state-of-the-art clinical services utilizing cutting-edge clinical technologies.