What is a Mental Health Counselor?
A mental health counselor helps individuals and families deal with difficult emotions, mental health disorders and trauma. A person with this title provides therapy and coaching to help his patients manage their stress, redirect disturbing emotions and set goals for themselves. He might focus therapy sessions on recovery or on better management of conditions. Often, mental heath counselors also help their patients learn to modify their behaviors for better results. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mental health counselors work in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, private offices and clinics, and substance abuse treatment facilities.
A mental health counselor treats people with a wide range of mental health issues. She might treat patients struggling with depression, anxiety, eating disorders and anger management difficulties. She might also treat patients dealing with post-traumatic stress issues, grief and troubled relationships. For example, a mental health counselor might treat a patient who has been the victim of domestic abuse, or she may treat the abuser. In addition, a mental health counselor might counsel individuals struggling with poor self-esteem.
How to Find a Therapist
Whether an adult or child needs therapy, finding the right therapist takes research, patience, and intuition.
You need to find a therapist. Your life, your child, your marriage is suffering. But for many people, this task is daunting.
There's the alphabet soup of PhDs, PsyDs, MDs, MSs, and MSWs, not to mention all the labels -- psychiatrist, psychologist, marriage & family therapist, family counselor, licensed professional counselor, social worker.
It's true; all these therapists provide mental health services. But each brings different training, experience, insights, and character to the table. How can you find a therapist who is right for your needs?
Take heart, for the search will be worth the effort. "A good therapist, however you find them, is gold," Don Turner, MD, a private practice psychiatrist for 30 years in Atlanta, tells WebMD. "A good therapist is nonjudgmental, accepting, and patient. Otherwise, our patients are just getting what they grew up with."
First, let's look at the professional labels:
These are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental or psychiatric illnesses. They have medical training and are licensed to prescribe drugs. They are also trained in psychotherapy, or "talk" therapy, which aims to change a person's behaviors or thought patterns.
These are doctoral degree (PhD or PsyD) experts in psychology. They study the human mind and human behavior and are also trained in counseling, psychotherapy, and psychological testing -- which can help uncover emotional problems you may not realize you have.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is the psychologist's main treatment tool -- to help people identify and change inaccurate perceptions that they may have of themselves and the world around them. Psychologists are not licensed to prescribe medications. However, they can refer you to a psychiatrist if necessary.
These are specialists that provide social services in health-related settings that now are governed by managed care organizations. Their goal is to enhance and maintain a person's psychological and social functioning -- they provide empathy and counseling on interpersonal problems. Social workers help people function at their best in their environment, and they help people deal with relationships and solve personal and family problems.
Licensed Professional Counselors:
These counselors are required by state licensure laws to have at least a master's degree in counseling and 3,000 hours of post-master's experience. They are either licensed or certified to independently diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders, says W. Mark Hamilton, PhD, executive director of the American Mental Health Counselors Association.
You've Made the Call to the Mental Health Professional...Now What Do You Do?
Spend a few minutes talking with him or her on the phone, ask about their approach to working with patients, their philosophy, whether or not they have a specialty or concentration (some psychologists for instance specialize in family counseling, or child counseling, while others specialize in divorce or coping with the loss of a loved one.) If you feel comfortable talking to the counselor or doctor, the next step is to make an appointment.
On your first visit, the counselor will want to get to know you and why you called him or her. The counselor will want to know-- what you think the problem is, about your life, what you do, where you live, with whom you live. It is also common to be asked about your family and friends. This information helps the professional to assess your situation and develop a plan for treatment.
If you don’t feel comfortable with the professional after the first, or even several visits, talk about your feelings at your next meeting; don’t be afraid to contact another counselor. Feeling comfortable with the professional you choose is very important to the success of your treatment.
For more information on the types of therapy that may help you or your child contact us today.
Collaborative Therapeutic Services (CTS) seeks to maximize clients’ options by offering a variety of services, hours, and service providers with diverse specializations. We offer evening & weekend appointments. Have questions? Contact Us Here or Call 813-951-7346. Located in Tampa, Florida.