In our fast-paced and stressful modern world, the need for counseling has never been greater. External events and inner turmoil can both adversely affect our mental health, as we struggle to meet expectations and cope with the challenges life throws at us.
Just having someone to talk to can help to alleviate a lot of the pressures and negative emotions. If the person listening is a trained mental health professional with a grounding in proven scientific techniques, drawn from disciplines such as psychotherapy, then the help they can offer is even more valuable.
Clinical mental health counseling can improve people’s lives by teaching them the skills they need to manage their emotions and cope with stressful situations. It can help them to reach positive decisions about their lifestyle, relationships and thought processes, which may also be beneficial to their families and loved ones. In this way, mental health counselors can benefit both individuals and their communities.
Becoming a clinical mental health counselor
Taking an online clinical mental health counseling course will let you provide help and support to people in their moments of greatest need. You’ll learn about the history, theory and practice of mental health counseling, with hands-on experience gained through two internships, and a final practicum. The flexible program will teach you how to address clinical problems in order to improve coping and functioning skills, how to analyze conflicts, promote wellness and how to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders.
By studying to become a mental health counselor, you’ll be joining a growing profession with many opportunities for personal and professional growth as well as the chance to be of real, lasting service to others. Valuable, transferable skills around interpersonal communication, leadership and understanding human nature are all part of a counselor’s training. Indeed, the benefits of counseling also extend to the counselor, who continually gains valuable insight into their own mental processes as well as those of others.
What is clinical counseling?
Although it uses many of the same techniques, clinical counseling is distinguished from regular counseling by its use of clinical research and proven techniques grounded in the scientific method and supported by empirical evidence. There is a focus on how the client feels, as well as their attempts to avoid certain thoughts and feelings. The counselor gives the client the tools to either solve their own problems or to recognize and manage ongoing issues.
Clinical counseling is rooted in psychoanalysis and may use a variety of techniques in order to best understand and serve a client’s needs. Ultimately, it is concerned with returning control over their own lives and thoughts to the client. The client is provided with a safe space in which to explore their thoughts, emotions and even fantasies, while working towards positive outcomes tailored to their needs and circumstances.
What can clinical counseling help with?
Clinical counseling can help with both emotional difficulties and specific mental health disorders. If you find that you’re sometimes overwhelmed by your emotions, or you are regularly experiencing negative emotions such as depression, anger, anxiety or self-hate, then clinical counseling can help you explore why these feelings recur and how to manage them when they do.
If you suspect that you may have an undiagnosed mental health disorder, then clinical counseling may be the best way to safely explore this. If a condition is diagnosed, then counseling can be employed alongside other forms of treatment in order to help you accommodate the disorder, recognize warning signs and avoid triggering situations.
Working with a counselor, you can adjust your lifestyle and practice techniques to minimize the harmful effects of a condition or disorder. Clinical counseling can help with depression, anxiety, phobias, addictions and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as conditions like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. It can be equally effective in helping clients to deal with difficult life events, including illness, the end of a relationship or job, or the death of a loved one.
What does a clinical counselor do?
A good counselor should be able to put themselves in their client’s shoes, empathizing with them and helping them to work towards realistic solutions to their problems. They will be supported by a thorough knowledge of how the mind works, grounded in both classic psychoanalytical research and contemporary theories about how our brains work. They will have a broad and deep understanding of human nature, rooted both in lived experience and sociological study.
Clinical counseling will last as long as is needed to uncover and explore the client’s underlying difficulties. Sessions may continue for weeks, months or years. While mental and emotional problems may never be categorically “solved”, the counseling process will conclude when the client feels they’ve reached a satisfactory outcome that enables them to lead a more empowered and fulfilling life.
Helping people help themselves
People ultimately need to solve their own problems, but most of us need a little help to do so. Clinical counseling provides tools and motivation to prioritize mental health. Once the client has found the necessary motivation, the counselor helps them to hold onto it. They can assist them in finding reasons to stay on track and hold them accountable if they backslide.
A client may aspire to leading a better life, but counseling can help them construct a realistic roadmap to doing so. This may involve breaking down a big goal into smaller, more achievable targets, such as improving your daily routine or exercising more. Once these smaller goals are achieved, the bigger ones, such as a better job or improved relationships, suddenly seem more manageable.
Learning about yourself
Plenty of people may feel miserable or anxious without knowing exactly why. Clinical counseling can help them to explore their feelings and uncover the root cause. Negative emotions could have an obvious cause or an obscure one. Depression and anxiety can be caused by present circumstances, but they can also be generated by worries about the future, or a traumatic event in the past.
Self-awareness means learning about your strengths and weaknesses and seeing how your attitude and behavior impacts those around you. By recognizing unconscious habits, you can start to change them and develop new skills in terms of communication and self-expression.
Counseling also lets people find out if they have a genuine ongoing mental health disorder. By asking you to record all your episodes, a counselor can help you to look for a pattern that could suggest a recurring condition. A good counselor won’t rush into a diagnosis but will consider all aspects of a client’s history, lifestyle, and personality before advancing a theory and recommending treatment.
Clinical counseling is about working with the client rather than telling them what to do. It should be non-judgmental and focused on finding a workable solution that is in the client’s best interests, rather than what the counselor thinks is right.
Self-acceptance can lead to greater self-esteem, which in turn can lead to better decision making, problem solving and conflict resolution. Clinical counseling can help with self-confidence and assertiveness, which in turn can lead to healthier relationships, both personal and professional. Sessions can focus on constructive and diplomatic ways to solve problems, avoiding confrontation wherever possible but learning how to manage it in a positive way when necessary.
Along with weeding out toxic relationships, counseling can help to facilitate better communication in those relationships that we value. Counseling can also assist us in taking control of our thoughts and having a more positive attitude. By changing the way that we think, we can change the way we act. Mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy are among the tools a counselor can employ in this respect.
Clinical counseling in schools
Today’s children are arguably under more pressure than those of any previous generation. New technology, higher expectations and changing social values all make school life more stressful than ever before. Increased exposure to violence and drugs has also contributed to making counseling an essential part of every school’s student care commitment.
Counseling can help students communicate better with each other, with teachers and other authorities, and with their families. It can help them integrate with their peers and to explore and express their emotions in a safe and healthy manner. This can lead to improved attendance, academic achievement, and attention in the classroom, as well as a reduction in disruptive behavior.
If a child has problems at home, including neglect or abuse, then school counseling sessions provide a safe space for them to talk about this and the counselor can advocate on the child’s behalf.
Benefits of clinical counseling
It’s often easier to talk to a stranger about our problems than it is to talk to family or friends. Counselors listen but don’t judge and offer constructive advice where appropriate. Clinical counseling can lead to a decrease in symptoms of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and the use of prescribed or over-the-counter medication such as antidepressants.
By improving interpersonal communication and self-awareness, clinical counseling can enable clients to lead a better life, with far greater clarity and emotional control. This helps not only the individual but all of society.