A mental health counselor is a proficient who uses a variety of psychotherapy methods and techniques to help people who are experiencing psychological disorders. The predominance of mental health problems highlights the demand for and need for qualified professionals to diagnose, treat, and prevent mental health problems.
In A Guide to the Human Services Professions, experts suggest that by 2020 depression will be the second-costliest health problem, second only to heart disease. At the age of 55, around half of all adults in the United States will experience signs of at least one psychiatric problem.
If you are inquisitive about what a mental health counselor can do for you, or if you are considering entering this profession, there are some important things to know. Learn more about what these specialists do, when you might consider visiting one, and what to do if you are fascinated in becoming a mental health counselor.
Where can you find mental health counselors?
All people face different psychological challenges at different times in life, and sometimes people need the help of a professional to deal with these difficulties. Determining what kind of support is required can sometimes be confusing, particularly since there are many diverse types of professionals who specialize in treating mental health problems.
Mental health therapists represent just one profession that works specifically with people facing cognitive, behavioral, and emotional problems. Counselors work with people, families, groups, and communities to treat mental health problems and improve mental well-being.
You may find professional mental health counselors who work in a wide range of settings, including:
- Mental health clinics
- Private practice
- Community health centers
- Correctional facilities
- The companies
- Colleges and universities
- Social service agencies
- Governmental agencies
People who experience symptoms of psychological illness, such as phobias, anxiety, and depression, may choose to see a mental health psychoanalyst for psychotherapy and counseling services. Counselors can also help people experiencing social difficulties, emotional problems, addictions and substance abuse, grief, self-esteem problems, and marital distress. Some mental health counselors opt to work with specific populations such as children, the elderly, or college students.
What do mental health counselors do?
Some of the chores that a mental health counselor can tackle on a regular basis include:
- Evaluation and diagnosis of clients experiencing symptoms of psychological disorders.
- Provide psychotherapy to clienteles.
- Talking to patients about their experiences, emotions, and thoughts.
- Group sessions with families.
- Work with clients to set goals, develop a treatment plan, and obtain information through treatment
- Work with clients to identify situations, behaviors, and thoughts that interfere with their well-being and recovery
- Examine social issues that can influence a client’s mental well-being, including peer pressure, bullying, substance use, prejudice, job stress, financial challenges, and health problems
- Refer clients to other health professionals, as well as other resources in the community, such as other social services, employment services, and support groups.
Counseling tends to see individual needs within a developmental context. Rather than focus on dysfunction, counselors often view problems as a consequence of normal reactions to developmental changes or as difficulties coping with specific stages of life. As a result, counselors can focus on personal development by helping you learn the skills and coping expertise you need to deal with such life changes and stages effectively.
While counselors are often called in to address specific problems, they also tend to take an approach that focuses on general well-being. Treating the immediate problem is crucial, but the advisors also strive to help you function not only minimally, but optimally as well. Improving overall wellness by solving problems, promoting resilience, fostering healthy behaviors, and developing relationships are vital components of the duties of counselors.
What are the different types of mental health professionals?
Many people think that the terms psychologist, therapist, counselor, and psychiatrist are interchangeable. While all of these specialists are trained to be responsible for mental health treatment, their level of education, and the point to which their practices are regulated vary widely.
Don’t worry if you are not sure which specialist is best for your needs; you can always discuss what might be right for you with your General Physician.
In the meantime, we’ve outlined the most well-known mental health professions below to give you a bit of background.
Attending physicians are physicians who have specialized in a field other than psychiatry. Because mental disorders often have physical effects. Many physicians understand the mental health care system and can work with a patient’s psychiatric team to provide more holistic treatment. Talking to your doctor is, therefore, an excellent place to start if you are thinking of seeing a professional who specializes in mental health.
The term psychotherapist is general and can be applied to any mental health professional. It encompasses everyone from psychiatrists and psychologists to social workers and counselors.
Psychiatrists are physicians who have received additional training in mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Thus, they can help their patients with the physical and mental problems associated with their disease and prescribe medication. The principal role of a psychiatrist is to diagnose, treat, and prevent psychological disorders.
There are two broad categories of psychologists: clinical psychologists and non-clinical psychologists.
Clinical psychologists must have a doctorate in clinical psychology from a school recognized by the Country’s Psychological Association. They perform tests, assessments, and administer psychological treatments for individuals or groups, but cannot prescribe medication. However, they are well educated in prevention and intervention techniques for patients with mental health issues ranging from minor to severe.
Non-clinical psychologists usually hold a doctorate in philosophy and focus more on research, assessment techniques, and psychological theory than on the direct treatment of patients.
- Therapists and counselors.
Therapists and counselors have master’s degrees and major in a wide range of areas, including addiction, relationships, suicide, and religion. Their primary obligation is to help the patient or group understand and learn healthy ways of dealing with their emotions, dealing with psychological disorders, and overcoming trauma.
Psychoanalysts advocate the Sigmund Freud school of thought and use tools like inkblot tests and dream analyzes to unblock the unconscious thoughts and desires of their patients. They do this intending to find what lies at the root of a patient’s psychological state. However, licensing rules differ from state to state. Psychoanalysts generally hold a post-graduate degree in mental health and have some previous practice as psychoanalysts.
- Social workers.
Similar to psychologists, there are non-clinical and clinical social workers.
Clinical social workers have obtained a master’s degree in social work and provide psychotherapeutic supervision similar to that of counselors and therapists. However, social workers also assist their patients in accessing relevant resources and social services that they may need.
Non-clinical social workers operate at a more community level, influencing program design, policy, and implementation. They can also play an administrative and advisory role with individuals and groups, as needed.
- Psychiatric and mental health nurses.
They are involved at various levels of inpatient care, depending on their training and accreditation. Still, they are generally all trained to assess and treat the mental health needs of an individual or group. They usually work in clinics and hospitals as members of the patient mental health care team.
- Psychiatric pharmacists.
They hold a doctorate in pharmacy. They develop drug therapy plans for patients, help them understand and manage their medications, and monitor the side effects of their treatment.
- Peer specialists.
These are the only unlicensed mental health providers on this list. Their expertise stems from their personal experience with mental illness. Peer specialists have been successful in combating the disease and, in some cases, have also been certified to be better equipped to help others with similar issues.
Choose the professional that suits you’re the best.
Many of these professions seem almost identical, and depending on the services you require, either of them can be of immense help to you. Consider some questions when refining your search, such as does the professional specializing in the area (s) that concern me? What kind of education, license to practice, or certification do they have? What are their treatment methods? Etc.
Answering these questions will give you confidence in choosing a mental health care provider that suits the best to your requirements.