How Can A Behavioral Health Counselor Help Me?

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated March 24, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.
Discover whether you need to see a behavioral health counselor

Behavioral health can be as important as physical health, and studies have found a significant mind-body connection including the concept of marriage cognitive dissonance, which can affect both mental and physical well-being. For this reason, healthy behaviors like exercising, eating well, and keeping a routine can keep your body physically well.

You may benefit from talking to a behavioral health counselor if you’re experiencing behavioral concerns, distressing symptoms, or have been diagnosed with a mental illness. 

Although mental health stigmas can make it seem that counseling is only for the most severe symptoms, that’s not the case, and outlooks are changing. One report found that 41.7 million Americans saw a therapist in 2021. You can see a behavioral health counselor for any reason, and they can often act as a guide as you navigate your life. 

What is a behavioral therapist?

A behavioral therapist is a professional who has undergone rigorous education and training to help support individuals with mental health issues. They often work in clinical settings and have licensing requirements set by the state and national board to ensure they offer quality health care. Their education typically includes understanding human behaviors, substance abuse, and other health issues that may affect a person's well-being.

These therapists may have a master’s degree in social work, counseling, or psychology, which can enable them to provide support to those facing various challenges like abuse or addiction. Certified counselors with clinical experience are especially qualified to manage complex mental health concerns. As behavioral health counselors, their role is not only to guide but also to educate their clients through various tools and resources.

Whether you see a behavioral health counselor is up to you. However, understanding the basics of behavioral health counseling and the common benefits of therapy may help you make an informed decision on your healthcare.

What can behavioral counseling offer support with? 

From mental health challenges and medication management to substance abuse and more, there are various reasons individuals might reach out to a behavioral health counselor. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mental health counselors held 351,000 jobs in 202, and behavioral health counseling is on the rise. Below are a few common motives for seeking behavioral health counseling.  

Depressive symptoms 

Almost 300 million people worldwide are diagnosed with a depressive disorder. For that reason, mental health counseling with a mental health professional often addresses common symptoms of depression. If you are experiencing depressive symptoms, with or without a diagnosis of depression, you may benefit from discussing these with a trained mental health counselor. 

Although you can also reach out to a psychiatrist for medication management for symptoms of depression, many clients choose to meet with a psychiatrist and a therapist to ensure a complete analysis of their symptoms. In addition, having the support of a licensed professional may help you feel less alone in your mental health experiences. 

Anxiety and panic attacks 

Anxiety disorders can also benefit from behavioral counseling with a licensed professional counselor, and there are various types of therapy suited to treating them, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention (ERP). 

Anxiety disorders include but are not limited to panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and social anxiety disorder. Feelings of anxiety can be tough to cope with because they can take away an individual’s sense of safety. If you experience panic attacks associated with panic disorder, you might also experience distressing physical sensations. 

Suppose you feel like your anxiety drives your behavior. In that case, a licensed mental health counselor or family therapist can help you develop a treatment plan and learn new coping mechanisms, such as mindfulness, breathing exercises, or creative activities. Addressing anxiety symptoms before they affect your life negatively can also be beneficial. Sometimes, mental health counselors work to address social, professional, and educational challenges, too. 

Some behavioral therapists also utilize worksheets and at-home practices to help those with anxiety understand their symptoms with outpatient mental health treatment. Targeting your behaviors can help you make actionable changes regardless of the type of therapy you try. 

Substance use 

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.

Many mental health counselors have training in substance use disorders and symptoms of addiction. Although dependency is chemical and can physically change your brain, it can come with behaviors many clients want to change. Substance use counseling can also target repairing relationships, choosing rehabilitation, or staying sober. 

Counseling may also help you understand the motives and mental health issues you may have behind your substance use. Understanding why you turn to certain habits can help you learn how to break them. Although addiction is not your fault, support is available, and behavioral counselors can help you develop a plan when you’re ready. 

Substance use can also feel isolating for many. If you feel lonely or withdrawn from friends and family, talking to mental health professionals can help you feel heard and valued. If you hope to repair relationships, you can also talk to a substance use counselor or other mental health professionals with your family or partner through marriage and family therapy or couples therapy sessions. 

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) also offers educational classes and support groups for individuals with mental health concerns or substance use disorders. Other popular substance use support groups and community health centers may also be available in your area. 


Eating disorders

Eating disorders are common, and it is estimated that 50% to 75% of those with an eating disorder are also diagnosed with depression. Whether you’ve been diagnosed or not, if you’re struggling with body image, restrictive eating, binging, purging, or another food-related symptom, it may be beneficial to talk to a behavioral health counselor. 

Regardless of the cause of your eating disorder or distressing symptoms, a behavioral health counselor can help you with behavioral techniques to change your relationship with food or your body. For example, they might lead you to a guided journaling prompt where you write to the voice in your head that you might hear when you partake in disordered eating behaviors. They can also help you challenge self-beliefs through positive affirmations and critical thinking. 

Discover whether you need to see a behavioral health counselor

Counseling options 

There are various options for behavioral health counseling available. Many people may talk to their primary care physician to get a referral for mental health services. Others might search online for behavioral health counselors. who may have backgrounds in social work. However, you can also join an online platform that matches you to a professional based on your symptoms, preferences, and concerns.  

Online counseling allows you to seek out a counselor from the comfort of your own home in a discreet manner. It can also be more affordable than their own practice, in-person counseling, which often ranges from $100 to $200 a session. In contrast, online therapy may cost about $65 to $90 a session. 

A recent study on internet mindfulness-based CBT found that online therapy reduced psychological distress in those experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety and improved the emotional control skills of those individuals. These impacts are similar to previous research on the effectiveness of in-person therapy, showing online treatment can be beneficial to clients. 

If you’re interested in signing up for an online therapy platform, consider a website like BetterHelp, which offers therapists trained in various modalities. You can also find behavioral therapists or those who are experienced in other types of behavioral disorders or mental illness counseling. 


Behavioral counseling targets behaviors and how they might connect with thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. With this type of therapy, you can explore symptoms of various mental health conditions. However, you do not need a mental illness to partake in therapy. Counseling can provide life skills and tools to those from any background. If you’re ready to get started, consider reaching out to your primary care physician or a therapist for further guidance. 
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