Effective counseling, either online or in person, can be a great tool for helping people heal and improving their mental well-being. Counseling can assist you during difficult times in your life, support you with a mental illness, or help you learn new skills. Talking about your problems with an experienced professional can encourage you to gain a new perspective or learn techniques to help you cope with recurring problems in the long-term.
That doesn't mean that all counseling is effective, or that all counselors are good at what they do. Ineffective counseling will not have the same effects (in fact, it can negative effects), so finding the right fit is important if you want to see results and reach your full potential.
In a multicultural society, it's also important for counselors to be culturally effective so that they can help regardless of client characteristics. Counselors can achieve this through continuing education and other types of consciousness-raising training. A counselor's ability to overcome cultural barriers can have a big impact on the quality of services that their clients receive. This is just one example of what it means to be an effective counselor. There are many other common factors of effective counseling that you can look for when choosing a counselor to meet your needs.
Trained and experienced counselors use proven methods and therapeutic techniques that are backed by science. Your counselor should be able to adequately answer any questions that you have about your treatment and concerns that you may have.
For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common theoretical orientation that therapists utilize. Therapists who practice CBT use it to treat a wide range of issues, from anxiety and depression to addiction and relationship issues. CBT is a short-term therapy that's goal focused and aims to help the patient change problematic thoughts and behaviors. When you're receiving CBT, you know you're getting a treatment that's been studied and is effective. You should also have at least an idea of what to expect.
Some other popular kinds of therapy include:
In counseling, it's important to agree on a common framework of ideas so that the counselor and client can move forward using the same language and understanding each other.
Some people might think that effective counseling is supposed to fix all of the problems in their life, but that's not true. It's not the counselor's responsibility to make those changes happen. Plus, having someone else fix your problems won't cause the kind of long-term changes that counseling can bring. Clients need to learn how to fix their problems themselves, with help from the counseling process. This can empower the client, boost their self-esteem, and give them the confidence to continue to manage their mental health concerns.
Ideally, effective counseling will give you the tools and insight you need to make the positive changes you crave in your life. That's why great counselors don't suggest solutions to your problems or tell you what you should do. Instead, they might ask you to come up with a list of things you can do to reach your goals.
An approach that many counselors utilize to help clients reach their own goals is unconditional positive regard, which psychologist Carl Rogers helped develop. This strategy is meant to promote self-awareness and allow the client to accept their thoughts and behaviors.
A counselor might work on helping you re-think underlying thought patterns and emotions that feed the problems in your life. Instead of focusing on your potential flaws or negative characteristics, a counselor might help you start to focus instead on the things that you're doing right or your strengths. A counselor's job is to help without taking power from the client. Successful therapy will empower people to become more self-aware and help themselves.
Effective counseling relationships are built on trust. As a patient, you should understand your rights. When you start counseling, you should expect your therapist to protect your confidential information and adhere to industry rules and standards. Also, you should feel safe and confident that you can share your true thoughts and feelings with your counselor without being judged.
The counseling relationship cannot be effective if you feel judged and hold back from sharing important information as a result. Similarly, it can be hard for a counselor to treat you effectively if they often catch you in lies and can't be sure if you're ever telling the truth during counseling sessions. There should be mutual respect between the two of you.
The relationship between the client and therapist, known as the therapeutic alliance, is incredibly important. It's important that there is goal consensus between the patient and counselor—in other words, both sides need to be working towards the same end goal. From the start, you should be open and honest with each other, and try to maintain that openness and honesty throughout the whole process. Sometimes this can even mean that the counselor self-discloses. According to Counseling Today, self-disclosure—which refers to the sharing of personal details from a counselor’s life—can help establish trust between counselor and client.
You should try to go through counseling without cutting any corners. Without a solid therapeutic alliance, counseling won't be as effective.
It can be hard to open up to someone with mental illness or difficult events in your life, past, and present. Therefore, it makes sense that once you find a person who you can confide in, it's very likely that you'll form an emotional connection with them.
It's important for counselors to watch out for these things and aim to keep the relationship with their clients professional. You should like your counselor—and they should have excellent interpersonal skills and display empathy—but effective therapy does not involve more than a therapeutic relationship. A therapist shouldn't be your counselor and sell you a car or ask you on a date. There are rules against dual or multiple relationships between counselors and clients. Only the professional therapeutic relationship should exist.
Counselors may not be qualified to fix your life for you, but they are trained to guide you and help you see things in life more clearly. Your therapist shouldn't make decisions for you or act in your life on your behalf. Instead, they should listen and do their best to empower you to make important decisions or positive changes in your own life.
Sometimes you can get stuck in a frame of mind that doesn't serve you and perpetuates your problems. Counseling can help you see things in a new light and develop an optimistic outlook. Counselors encourage you by showing you what your strong qualities are and emphasizing positive things instead of dwelling on the negative. Counseling can facilitate therapeutic change by helping you let go of pain from the past that's been holding you back in your life.
A good counselor is empathetic, which means that an effective counselor can find ways to relate to the situations in your life and make you feel heard. If you meet with a counselor who seems bored by your problems, isn't interested in listening to what you have to say, seems judgmental, or makes you feel small, you can imagine that the counseling you receive from them won't be very effective.
Good counselors can put themselves in their client's shoes and suspend judgment, even if they've never been in the same kind of situation in their own life. Your counselor's goal should be to understand and help you reach your goals. Counselors should always aim to create a safe and understanding environment, where their clients feel free to share their problems and challenges openly.
If a counselor tries to blame your mental health issues on outside factors like family, friends, and work, they're not effective. The goal should be to give you the power to handle your problems and not automatically blame other people/things. Since you can't control what other people do, the key to counseling is learning to be aware of your feelings and focus on things that you can change.
Again, the goal of counseling should be to educate you, make you feel listened to, and empower you to make necessary improvements in your life. By teaching you to blame your problems on other things, a counselor will not help you become stronger. Effective counseling should help you learn to face your problems regardless of outside obstacles, like a difficult family member or co-worker.
Everyone is unique, which is why treatment should be unique too. If you need to go at your own pace due to the circumstances of your life, a counselor should be accommodating. Counselors also need to admit when their first line of treatment isn't working. Sometimes counselors need to be willing to shift as things change and they learn more about their clients. If a client starts to resist treatment, their progress may come to a halt. Counselors should be flexible and find a way to get through to their client. Most clients will understand that a change in treatment plan is necessary.
Treatments like CBT are relatively short, but counseling can't be rushed. Sometimes it takes time to improve a client’s mental and emotional well-being. Both the client and the counselor need to be patient and willing to work on things, even when it becomes difficult. Effective counselors acknowledge that there is no one way to get things done every time. Patients must be treated following certain guidelines, but to an extent also on a case-by-case basis.
Finding an effective counselor can help bring on big, positive changes in your life. However, there are a few warning signs of ineffective counseling that you should always look out for. Counselors are trained to follow certain rules and guidelines. For the counseling relationship to be effective, those guidelines should be followed, and the counseling relationship needs to have boundaries that aren't overstepped.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Which is the effective process of counselling?
Counseling is effective when the client achieves, or gets closer to achieving, the goals that were set out at the beginning of counseling. Take, for example, family counseling. Often, in family counseling, the members of the family want to better communicate. Along with their counselor, they will state that as their goal at the beginning of their time in family counseling. Throughout the process, the counselor will ask the family questions and try to get a feel for what the core issues are.
As family counseling progresses, the counselor may utilize certain techniques, such as role playing, which are meant to help family members see each other’s points of view. This can help them better understand the way their communication methods may have been unhelpful in the past. They can then work with the counselor to alter those methods and come up with new ones. By the end of the process, the family will have hopefully successfully addressed their concern, which means that family counseling was effective.
Which type of counseling is most effective?
The type of counseling that is most effective is going to depend on the person (or people) participating and the specific concerns that are being addressed. In some situations, individual counseling with cognitive-behavioral therapy or a similar modality will be best. In others, family counseling or relationship counseling will work.
Why is counselling effective?
Counseling is effective for a variety of reasons. It can help for people to talk through their concerns and address the issues going on in their lives. Family counseling can help families come together and communicate. Individual counseling can help people with their careers, mental health concerns, and general life challenges. A counselor will be able to provide ideas for addressing the clients’ concerns and give them strategies to cope with difficult situations in the future.
Again, we can use the example of family counseling. In this case, parents of a young child need help with behavioral issues. They may begin family counseling by describing the behavior they’re concerned about, answering questions about their home life, and giving the counselor other important background information. The counselor might even talk to the parents and the child separately. Family counseling could then continue with exercises that are meant to help the parents respond more positively to their child’s behavior. As the family counseling sessions progress, the counselor will have hopefully gotten to the root of the issue and helped the family figure out how to address it.