The world as we have known it has been turned upside-down in the past few years. We have experienced lockdowns, various government and private medical mandates, loss of jobs, and many people are tired, sick, and fearful, not knowing what to expect next. Loved ones have gotten gravely ill, but recovered, and many have, sadly, passed away perhaps before their time.
The field of psychology, or mental health to say it another way, has been around for thousands of years, with many significant advances having been made in the last 150 or so years. So, there is no reason to lose hope, as there are many benefits of mental health counseling to be realized. And you can reap these benefits by seeing a mental health counselor or by practicing self-care tips for mental health, or even better – doing both!
What are 8 Benefits of Mental Health Counseling?
While there are many more benefits of counseling for mental health that the 8 being highlighted here, these are some of the most basic ones, and thereby, worth mentioning.
Montare Behavioral Health lists these 8 benefits as follows:
Whether you have concerns for yourself, your close friends, or family members, it is important to understand why mental health is so important and create mental health awareness in yourself as well as those in your community.
Think about your mental health as a journey of self-education, which can help bring self-awareness. You not only learn more about yourself and how you relate to others and handle difficult situations, you are also learning new skills to aid in the process of overcoming. Understanding what’s going on with your own mental health, like feeling depressed or having a high level of anxiety, you also become aware that you are not alone. Many others feel the same way. And while that’s not a quick fix, it can help ease your sense of isolation.
In short, it has been scientifically shown that certain mental health interventions can increase your happiness as well as decreasing your sense of depression.
Why You Should See a Counselor.
Once you have established trust with a professional counselor, this affords you the opportunity to speak freely about how you’ve been feeling, and also ask what you can do about it. Many issues interfere with daily life functioning, so it’s important to learn the needed skills to handle just about any difficult issue that comes your way.
In fact, children need – more than ever – to see counselors and can benefit from mental health counseling even while at school. That is why there are school counselors, available during the school day, and employed usually by the school districts. Some schools even have a mental health counseling program, which is either done in-house, or in conjunction with other mental health care counselors from the community, often on school property and on school time. Children frequently need help managing their behavior, keeping up with grades, and even planning for the future. In-school counselors also are able to work with administrators, teachers, and parents, to create an environment more conducive to improving the experience kids make at school. And if, for example, parents are reluctant to make positive changes, the kids still have great role models and support from other adults.
Think about the pressure our kids are under these days. Kids are expected to get good grades, not get into fights with their peers, be involved in extracurricular activities, and in general, not get into trouble. As if that pressure were not enough, add in the problems America is having with drugs, many of which play out at school, and kids face challenges due to the ever evolving/changing world of technology. Many schools are not even teaching kids handwriting anymore!
The world has been facing unprecedented health-related challenges, as well, as these past few years dealing with the “pandemic” and the shutdowns, mandates, remote education, and more. Remember, there are different styles of learning, and some simply learn better in person! Having to do academic work from home has been an uphill battle for many of our kids. For that matter, working from home has been an uphill battle for many adults, too!
Even though many kids get involved with illegal drugs, adult use has also skyrocketed, especially in the last few years during this pandemic. Over 165 million people in America have used illegal drugs or misused legally prescribed drugs in the last month. This is crazy! For those with actual substance use disorders, after the initial step of getting safely off all drugs, it is critical to engage in counseling and other services, or relapse may be imminent.
There may be other reasons to seek out help. Perhaps you or someone you know are living with a difficult, chronic health condition. This can produce mental health symptoms, like anxiety and fear and depression. Or maybe you’ve lost a loved one. Getting some mental health assistance can guide you through surviving and coping with this very difficult life transition.
There is unfortunately still stigma concerning getting counseling, but that issue aside, think of seeking counseling as something like health maintenance. Do you get dental checkups or wellness exams with your doctor? Meeting with a counselor can help improve your mental health, but it can also assist in keeping your mental health in good working order. Think of it as a key element in your overall health.
If you have intrusive, uncontrollable thoughts, it is probably wise to seek out a mental health counselor. If you have any compulsive behaviors, like you gamble or shop too much and are finding it difficult to control, that is a good time to look for help. Some people have nightmares and insomnia, some have flashbacks to traumatic times. Was somebody in combat? Did somebody have a car accident which involved loss of life? It’s time for professional help. Perhaps you are a victim of sexual abuse or domestic violence or have problems with drugs and alcohol…if you seek out mental health counseling, you will be able to get help faster and more effectively.
If you find yourself in crisis mode, and you are thinking about harming yourself or attempting suicide, please tell someone right away or even dial 911. There are also many suicide and crisis hotlines. Always err on the side of caution and act when you are thinking about hurting yourself; also, if you know someone in this condition, reach out and get help for them. Some of the warning signs of someone contemplating suicide are talking about it, feeling empty and/or hopeless, feeling that they have no reason to live, and having a sense of being trapped without any good solutions. Some people feel overwhelming and unbearable emotional and/or physical pain. If someone talks about being a burden to others, take action. When you see someone withdrawing from friends and family, and perhaps putting their affairs in order, like making out a will, it’s time to intervene.
How Mental Health Counseling Works.
Healthy Place says that counseling “is a formal, purposeful partnership between a client and a mental health professional.” There is a plethora of scientific studies in the literature that demonstrate what techniques actually work best for certain individuals. For example, if you’re dealing with anxiety, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, or depression, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy might be a good fit for you.
If you have a substance use problem, then often a dual-diagnosis treatment agency will be equipped to help you in all ways. Many have a department for detoxification from the drugs, often with doctors and nurses on staff to assist you medically. Once that is safely accomplished, you are usually paired with a counselor for individual sessions. Often you are required to attend 12 step groups, and also to participate in group counseling, and group education. If you’re staying in-house for treatment, there is often a gymnasium for exercise, and many places have music and art therapy available as well.
There are psychiatrists, who can prescribe medication, and many also practice psychotherapy. There are psychologists who practice psychotherapy, but do not prescribe medication. Other professionals like licensed professional counselors or licensed social workers offer help with coping with your emotions, and social workers are typically very well connected within communities for assistance in procuring other types of services, like getting free food, clothing, help around the house, etc.
Today we also have health and wellness coaches; in fact, in some areas, coaching is available for substance use clients as well.
There are also emerging energy approaches to treating mental health issues, such as Emotion Code, which uses energy techniques to remove trapped emotions, and homeopathic remedies and acupuncture. Also, Ayurveda can help restore your energy balance, which then helps your body during the healing process. While these are often used in conjunction with other approaches, they can be quite valuable in aiding mental health counseling.
Clinical Mental Health Counseling Approaches.
As previously stated, both individual and group therapy can be very valuable. Group therapy is a very popular choice, and usually there is one or more therapist available for a group of up to 15 people. There is a great deal of support offered by peers in this format, as well as issuing some challenges. Having other people there to discuss issues can help put them into a better perspective, and you realize that you are not dealing with this alone. You can get inspired by others in your group when you hear how they handle their issues.
Individual therapy is very important, as well. Some people are not comfortable in a group setting, and trust may be a real issue in groups. Learning to trust one person may be preferable than trying to trust a group of people.
There are other specialized forms of counseling, like family and/or couples counseling.
Counseling approaches may also be differentiated by client/counselor interaction. Counselors who are more client-centered may focus on your innate goodness and this approach assumes that you already have the qualities within you to be very well. So, it encourages you to trust your intuition, your creativity, and your curiosity. This approach is very open and nonjudgmental.
An existential therapeutic approach doesn’t “cure” you, but it helps you explore and question your predicament. What does it mean to be alive? They help you fulfill your potential, and to trust yourself to make rational choices.
Cognitive behavioral approaches assume that the core of our issues lies in your thought process. These counselors use techniques focused on changing thought processes and behavior, which then gives rise to a change in emotions.
There are many, many other great approaches, but these are some of the most commonly used ones.
How Mental Health Counselors Help.
First and foremost, a mental health counselor is a highly trained, highly educated professional. Then there are licensing and credentialing exams which need to be taken and passed, as well as internships, just like doctors. Mental health counselors help by offering advice, emotional support, a safe place to talk about issues – thoughts, feelings, behaviors – and you can expect your counselor to understand your feelings. They can also identify other issues that may be impacting your mental health, and how to remove obstacles or develop effective coping strategies. A mental health counselor can help you set goals for your personal growth and can offer education about your condition and that of others you may be close to.
Some typical life events and conditions that you can expect help with are when you experience grief or loss, fears/phobias, addiction, problems managing your anger, eating disorders, relationship difficulties, obsessive-compulsive disorders, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and so many more. Many professionals specialize in certain areas, which usually means they are very good at helping you! Sometimes they receive specialized training in post-trauma, sexual assault, domestic abuse, etc.
Common Therapies Used in Mental Health Treatment
While many approaches were discussed previously, talk therapy in any of its forms is likely the most common form of treatment. You discuss your problems with a mental health professional. This is usually a one-on-one experience but can also be done effectively in a group setting.
In more recent times, it has become common practice to utilize prescription medicine. These are often called mental health meds. These drugs make changes to our brain chemicals, and they attempt to help us feel better and thus, cope with daily stressors or major life transitions or mental health disorders in a better way. They are not meant to cure, but rather to augment other approaches, like talk therapy.
However, for people looking for more natural, holistic approaches, one can find help with changes in diet and in taking supplements in lieu of medications. Some of the best self-care tips for mental health include exercise, healthy meals on a regular basis, staying hydrated, getting a good night’s sleep, and engaging in relaxing activities, such as meditation, breathing exercises, diffusing essential oils, taking a bubble bath, etc. Other tips for mental health self-care include setting goals, practicing gratitude, and focusing on being positive yourself and being around positive people. Don’t forget to create and use a network of positive, caring friends and family member for support and other types of help.
Another type of group setting is found in support groups. These are not clinical groups, so no therapist need be present. However, self-help and support groups can still be very helpful in gaining insight and perspective in your situation/condition. In fact, you can often find new friends, caring support, new resources, including useful mental health self-care tips.
Not to be forgotten or overlooked are hospital or residential treatment programs. At times people feel so poorly that they find it difficult to function at all. For those individuals, long-term programs may be the best type of approach. This type of treatment means that clients live at the treatment facility, in a supportive environment, with others, and they receive frequent support from specialists to meet all their needs, both physical and mental.
In this type of holistic approach, in addition to basic treatment therapies, they can also participate in therapeutic activities like yoga, music and art therapy, other mindfulness activities, and in some facilities, they learn to prepare very nutritious meals, which also aids in their physical and emotional recovery. A residential program actually removes a person from what might be a very toxic environment and offers a supportive, healing environment, which then helps them build up resistance, resiliency, and self-esteem.
Remember – knowledge is power; take charge of your health!
And, as always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
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