It’s important to get your basic counseling questions answered if you’ve never seen a mental health professional before. After all, the more you understand, the better the counseling experience will be for you.
Let’s shed some light on the topic and consider a few different counseling questions.
How Does Counseling Work?
Most counseling sessions take place once a week for approximately one hour. Sessions are completely confidential and may continue as long as you and your counselor feel they’re helpful.
Counseling requires hard work in the form of self-exploration, personal insight, and honesty with yourself and with your therapist. Counseling is a partnership between you and your therapist.
The therapist assimilates what you tell them and determines how the pieces come together. Your counselor will be objective and help you to identify areas of your life to focus on in therapy, and the right therapeutic approach to help you. During your appointments, your counselor may teach you coping and problem-solving skills to utilize outside your appointment times. While they’re often very candid, your therapist will never make any decisions for you.
You must be completely open and honest about your feelings, experiences, thoughts, and actions with your therapist. Commitment to the counseling process and trust in your therapist are important keys for progress and recovery. It’s imperative that you consider your counselor’s feedback carefully and practice what you’ve learned in your sessions in your daily life.
What Types of Therapies Are Common?
Individual Therapy – Sessions are held with one individual at a time. They normally focus on exploring negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and making positive changes.
Couples Therapy/Marriage Counseling – Sessions are held with two people who are in a committed relationship. It often focuses on teaching how to handle challenges, improve communication, overcome an incident of infidelity, parent cooperatively and effectively, and have a happier and more satisfying relationship.
Family Therapy – Sessions are held with more than one member of a family at the same time. It usually focuses on resolving conflict and improving interactions between individuals.
Group Therapy – Sessions are guided by a professional therapist and are held with a group of peers that work on the same problem, such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse.
What Types of Mental Health Professionals Are There?
All mental health professionals are licensed, regulated, and governed by a professional licensing board, and they must abide by and adhere to a strict code of ethics for their profession. The terms “counselor,” “therapist,” and “psychotherapist,” may be used interchangeably in most mental health professions. Here is a brief description of the most common mental health professional designations:
Counselor/Therapist – An LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist), and an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), are individuals who have completed a minimum of a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or a related field. They provide professional counseling, psychotherapy, and mental health services to individuals, couples, families, and groups.
Social worker – A person who has a minimum of a master’s degree in social work or a related field. An LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) is trained to help families dealing with various social issues, but they are also skilled and trained in providing mental health and counseling services to individuals and couples.
Psychologist – A person with a graduate degree in psychology who is licensed to work with patients who need mental health therapy. Most psychologists hold a doctorate (PhD) in their professional discipline. A psychologist may hold a master’s degree, and work under the supervision of a psychologist holding a PhD. Like LPCs, LMFTs, and LCSWs, psychologists provide counseling and psychotherapy to individuals, couples, families, and groups. Many psychologists are trained to provide specific mental health testing that they deem necessary to help diagnose specific conditions. They often work cooperatively with other mental health professionals (LPCs, LMFTs, and LCSWs) to provide needed testing for their clients.
Psychiatrist – A medical doctor (MD) whose medical specialty and training focuses on mental and emotional disorders. They are licensed to prescribe medication, and they also may provide psychotherapy. Often, psychiatrists will provide medication management for a patient, and work in coordination with the LPC, LMFT, LCSW, or psychologist who is providing counseling for the patient. Psychologists, LPCs, LMFTs, and LCSWs often refer their clients to a psychiatrist if they determine the client needs medication for their condition.
How Do You Choose Which Mental Health Professional to See?
Choosing the right mental health professional for you is a lot like finding a primary care physician, or other professional. You may know someone who can refer you to a therapist they really like. If not, search online for therapists in your area who work with your particular concern or mental health diagnosis, or ask your insurance provider for a list of therapists they work with. Contact the therapist and ask questions about their areas of specialty and training, how much they charge per session, do they accept your insurance, and other questions you have. Many therapists will offer a free consultation over the phone or in their office. A consultation gives you the opportunity to see how comfortable you are talking to them. Once you see them in person, or have a phone conversation, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about choosing a therapist that is a good fit for you.
Keep in mind that not all therapists and patients match up. You may have to find someone else if the first therapist you talk to doesn’t fit your needs, for whatever the reason. But don’t give up. Your mental and emotional health is worth finding the right fit just for you.