Many people face challenges in their lives that require them to seek emotional and psychological support from a qualified professional. One such professional is a mental health counselor. A mental health counselor helps people with a range of problems including mental and emotional disorders and problems stemming from familial relationships. He or she will listen to the client and try to assist the client in developing strategies to improve their wellbeing. Counseling can also involve groups such as families or entire communities. A mental health counselor can work in a variety of settings including schools and hospitals, although most typically work in private practice and mental health centers. In addition they may focus onspecific areas such as counseling for psychiatric issues (like depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc), family services, career counseling, substance abuse.
What do mental health counselors do?
In the broad sense, mental health counselors are there to help people improve their psychological or emotional health. In terms of more specific duties, mental health counselors do the following:
• They identify, diagnose and treat a wide variety of mental and emotional disorders including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, anger management etc.
• They provide sufficient support to clients so that the clients are able to discuss their feelings and experiences.
• They help clients to adjust to significant life changes such as divorce or retrenchment.
• They help clients to define goals and come up with plans of action in order to improve their lives.
• They assist clients in developing skills and strategies in order to change unhealthy habits or behaviors and to cope with hardships.
• They co-ordinate treatment with other professionals where needed e.g. if the client requires a psychiatrist.
• They refer clients to other resources or services such as support groups or inpatient treatment facilities.
• They provide crisis treatment where an individual has undergone a traumatic event such as a violent attack or the unexpected death of a loved one.
If the client is a group such as a community, the mental health counselor can also develop and distribute mental health education materials as well as develop and implement mental health and wellness seminars.
There are many tools and techniques that can be used to assist clients to improve their mental health. Counselors often work from a holistic approach to mental health care, that is one which looks at the mind and body as a whole. This is typically done by means of using a wellness model i.e. a model which focuses on the client’s strengths rather than focusing on his or her ‘illnesses.’ Mental health counselors may also apply specific strategies or techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is a goal-orientated approach and helps clients to understand unhealthy and harmful thoughts and beliefs and focus on replacing them with positive ones.
A mental health counselor has a master’s degree in counseling which follows at least two years of clinical experience under the supervision of a licensed mental health counselor. Licensing takes place with the State Licensing Board upon the successful completion of a course work & certification test.
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If you, your children or your family are currently experiencing any emotional or psychological difficulties or disorders, or you are simply looking to improve your mental health and wellbeing, please do not hesitate to schedule a session with us for a consultation.