Mental health counselling can be an effective therapy as part of a wider treatment plan for an individual who is suffering from depression or an anxiety related disorder, or for people who have experienced a traumatic event in their lives and are finding it difficult to cope with, or for those who are struggling to deal with specific problems and issues. It is often a doctor who will recommend mental health counselling, however, many individuals will seek the services of a counsellor themselves, either by asking their doctor for advice or by approaching a counsellor directly.
What is counselling?
Basically, counselling can be described as a type of talking therapy. It is usually delivered in a safe and private setting so that the individual concerned can relax and talk openly and freely about their particular problems or issues and the emotions or feelings that can accompany them.
It is described as a talking therapy because the counsellor will listen empathetically to an individual in order to understand the situation from the individual’s point of view. In doing this a trained counsellor will be able to encourage an individual to see their situation more clearly, perhaps from a different perspective, and will be able to help them identify new ways of coping with their problems or circumstances. Counselling usually does not involve giving advice or telling someone what to do with their lives, it is more about exploring problems, identifying possible solutions and choices and obtaining clarity.
For counselling to be effective, it is essential that an element of trust develops between the counsellor and the person or persons receiving the counselling as only in this way can there be an open and free dialogue. It may take time for a person receiving counselling to lose any initial feelings of distrust, fear and embarrassment so quite often counselling will be offered over several sessions in order for a relationship to develop between the counsellor and the patient or client.
There are several types of mental health counselling services available, each drawing on its own particular theory of human psychology and development. There are also many different types of counsellors, some of who are trained to deal with a particular problem or circumstance. For example bereavement counsellors, counsellors who specialise in eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, and counsellors who understand the issues surrounding drug and alcohol addiction, as well as many others.
Counselling can take place on a one to one basis, or in group sessions, face to face or over the phone. It can last for just one session, a specific block of sessions or be open ended with no time limit at all. Regardless of the particular type of mental health problem involved, the first step to recovery is recognising that there is a problem in the first place.
When mental health counselling can help
Mental health counselling can be particularly beneficial for individuals who have a tendency to repress feelings like guilt, frustration, anger, resentment, sadness and so on and who find it difficult to cope alone and who for whatever reason, perhaps do not want to discuss how they feel with their friends and family. It can help an individual to gain new insights into their own particular circumstances and problems and to achieve clarity and direction in life. Most of all it can help an individual cope and improve their quality of life.
There are numerous circumstances where someone might seek the services of a mental health counsellor or be referred for counselling by their doctor and these include but are certainly not limited to:
Relationship problems, including separation and divorce
Problems at work or financial worries, dismissal, redundancy
Physical, sexual and/or mental abuse
Depression and anxiety
Post natal depression
OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
Alcohol and drug abuse
Dealing with stress
Post traumatic stress
Finding a counsellor
In order to get the right kind of help it is important that you access the most appropriate type of counselling for you and as there are so many available options, it can be problematic if you decide to go it alone.
In the first instance, it would be advisable to speak to your doctor as he or she will be able to take into consideration your full medical history before recommending any particular type of therapy or counsellor. If you decide to seek the services of a trained counsellor independently, it is up to you to check out the cost and the credentials of any potential counsellor before you start.
Many voluntary organisations have counsellors and there are numerous private counsellors advertising in the press, phone books and on the Internet. However, you can find an accredited counsellor from the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy website at www.bacp.co.uk or from the National Board for Certified Counsellors at www.nbcc.org if you live in the USA