The Different Types Of Mental Health Counseling Services

By Sarah Fader |Updated September 7, 2022

Most people are familiar with the idea of mental health counseling services and what they entail in general — but they may not be aware of all the different kinds of services, or the professionals and practitioners who offer these different services. There are numerous types of online counseling services that can help in a variety of ways: some are general, and can help with issues such as physical illness, loss, and relationships, and some are more specific, such as those that help individuals coping with anxiety and depression, bipolar disorder, parenting, addiction, and marriage counseling. Mental health counseling services can also be tailored to different demographics, such as the elderly and children.

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Types of Mental Health Counseling Services

There are certain mental health professionals who are licensed for a particular type of mental health therapy or service. Below are just a few of the mental health counseling services that are available.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Licensed clinical social workers are usually available in hospitals or in a hospital-like setting, and will be able to make diagnoses, as well as provide individual and group counseling. They also help with the study, treatment, and prevention of mental illnesses. Clinical social workers can be an invaluable source of information for individuals and families, helping them find additional resources and referrals so the patient can continue to progress after leaving the hospital setting. There are also licensed social workers who work in these same settings. While they are not normally focused on diagnosing, they are often just as helpful in assisting patients when finding appropriate referrals and resources.

Clinical social workers can also work in the private sector, with the same abilities as a licensed professional counselor. Sometimes this confuses people who are seeking a licensed mental health counselor, but find a clinical social worker instead; but a social worker with the clinical status has completed the necessary education and licensure (similar to what a licensed professional clinical counselor has). Clinical social workers are also able to accept Medicare payments, which can make them a good fit for elderly patients who want to address their mental health.

Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor

A licensed chemical dependency counselor, or substance use counselor, is someone who works with clients with addictions. Those living with substance use should consider receiving help from a certified alcohol and/or drug abuse counselor, who is trained for these types of recoveries exclusively. While most counselors are technically qualified to work with substance use issues, many do not choose this as a specialty and may have limited experience. It never hurts to ask if you have a counselor you really like, to see if they are suitable for help with your recovery, but many clients opt to start with someone who has the unique and specific education and experience in working with individuals with substance use issues.

These counselors will work with anyone who is living from substance use issues, from teens to veterans, and they can help in times of serious mental health crisis, such as by leading an intervention or performing an assessment in a clinic or hospital setting to determine what level of care the individual needs (e.g., detox, inpatient/outpatient treatment).

In a session, you will explain your history with substances, and the counselor will help you determine the root of your abuse problem. This often entails figuring out what your triggers are and what coping skills will work for you, so that you can achieve and maintain sobriety. Your counselor will discuss options for how you can cope with your addiction, and they will come up with the best way for you to recover from it.

It is not uncommon for someone with an addiction to also have another mental health problem. This is referred to as a dual diagnosis. It is the current belief that anyone with a dual diagnosis should start by working on their addiction and getting stable before moving on to address other mental health issues. Stability and sobriety are often necessary prior to doing work on other disorders. In addition to individual work, many substance use counselors offer group therapy which is often very helpful and an important part of recovery work.

Licensed Marriage And Family Therapist

Many individuals find themselves in need of help with their relationship. Relationship issues are not just for marriages, but any relationship. Issues can range from divorce, infidelity, or premarital counseling, as well as wanting to improve communication and conflict resolution. Marital and family therapists are available to help those who are struggling in intimate or family relationships. They tend to focus on eliminating dysfunctional patterns within these relationships in favor of a stronger connection with your partner or family member(s).

Families will also seek the help of marriage and family therapists if there is an issue in the family that cannot be resolved within the family, such as the conflict between children and parents, adjusting to divorce or remarriage, and a host of other issues that can affect mental health. It can be very helpful to have an unbiased third party serve as a mediator and create a safe space to talk about hard things, in addition to offering suggestions and feedback for improvement.

Peer Specialists

Peer specialists, on the other hand, are unique counselors who have experience in recovering from certain ailments or troubling situations. They provide extraordinarily useful advice for those living with certain mental health issues because they have first-hand experience. Peer specialists also tend to decrease the perceived stigma of mental illness, while encouraging their peers or clients to recover or heal.

Licensed Professional Counselors

Then, of course, there are the most familiar type of counselors—the mental health counselors—also referred to as licensed professional counselors. The exact title may vary from state to state. These counselors are trained in the assessment and diagnosis of a huge variety of mental health problems. Officially, these counselors are qualified to assist with an fmla for mental health, and can treat any of the mental health disorders, but most choose a specialty or a few different specialties.

You may want to start out by looking for a counselor who specializes in what you are seeking help with. For example, if you want help with depression, many counselors specialize in addressing those symptoms. It could be a little harder to find a counselor who specializes in some specific mental health issues, such as sexual dysfunction or eating disorders, so some extra research may be necessary in that case. Each counselor will usually provide a wide range of services, including assessment and diagnosis of mental illnesses, treatment, prevention programs, crisis management, and much more. They also work in a wide variety of settings from clinics, hospitals, schools, and private practice.

Online Sessions With A Mental Health Professional

There is a growing body of research showing that online therapy platforms are effective in providing a wide variety of mental health counseling services. According to one broad-based report on its effectiveness, researchers found that online therapy services produced overall positive results when treating symptoms of trauma, anxiety, and panic disorder. The study specifically noted that online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) had the most beneficial effects of the 92 different trials they examined.

Online therapy programs generally match individuals with licensed professional therapists based on certain preferences, goals, and specific mental health concerns. The therapist will then guide them through a treatment plan that may include counseling, interactive lesson plans, and other tools that can help them understand their thoughts and behaviors. Psychotherapy can improve symptoms from physical health conditions and mental disorders. You can learn more about therapy from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or studies and evidence these institutions have published.

As mentioned above, working with a counselor online is a useful alternative to traditional talk therapy when seeking help for mental health challenges (and there are differences between a behavioral health vs mental health counselor). Through the BetterHelp online therapy platform, clients are matched with one of thousands of qualified mental health professionals. You aren’t limited to only those therapists in your particular area, so you have a better chance of finding one who is exactly right for you and your specific concerns. The licensed mental health professionals at BetterHelp know how to help you along on your mental health journey, no matter what you may be going through. They can offer professional medical advice for mental health challenges. Whatever mental health condition you're facing, support from a mental health provider is available. Read below for a review of a counselor from those who have sought help in the past. 

Counselor Reviews

“I've been working with Jennifer Evans for a few months now dealing with anxiety related issues and addressing long-standing negative coping mechanisms. I've made amazing progress in identifying underlying issues and establishing techniques to overcome my anxiety. Jennifer uses a variety of methods and tailors therapy based on feedback. She is quick to respond, is extremely caring and always insightful. I truly believe she has been integral to the progress I’ve made in a fairly short amount of time. I highly recommend this therapist and am encouraged by how effective online therapy can be.” Learn more about working with Jennifer Evans, LPC, LMHC

“I was a little skeptical about doing online therapy. However, Arielle, changed my worries into reassurance. Ever since I’ve done therapy with her, I am feeling a lot more free from my traumas that no longer serve me. Arielle genuinely cares for me and wants the best for me. I’m so happy I have her in my life now. Thank you BetterHelp for that.” Learn more about working with Arielle Manganiello, MS, MA LPC

Conclusion

No matter which form of mental health treatment you choose, know that there is help out there. It may be hard, but it’s important that you know you’re not alone when it comes to your mental health. Take the first step toward better mental health today, and sign up to talk to a therapist online.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does counseling help mental health?

Counseling is helpful in increasing communication skills, healthy coping mechanisms, self-esteem, and relationship efficacy. Counseling, overall, can help a person see a number of benefits in multiple areas of their life by helping them break down and understand the core belief systems behind their actions. 

What 3 things can a mental health counselor treat?

Counselors can treat much more than 3 things-they can offer support for a wide range of mental illnesses, help with stress, assist with substance use, and build self-esteem. Providers can also help their clients work through psychological distress, grief, and many more mood disorders or complex feelings. 

What is the difference between mental health counseling and counseling?

Most counseling is mental health counseling. While there are career counselors and other kinds of counselors, the term generally applies to someone who offers mental health guidance to others. Clinical mental health counselors can sometimes prescribe you with medications, but, in order to do this, they need higher levels of training to better understand the risk of medication as treatment. 

What is the five major goals of counseling?

Counseling can offer support for much more than 5 goals, and your individual goals for therapy will depend on you. Many people attend counseling with the goals of improving relationships, improving their own behaviors, enriching the self, recognizing potential, and enhancing decision-making skills.

Is a counseling psychologist better than a counselor?

Both psychologists and counselors have chosen careers devoted to helping others. Counselors are trained in the general field of psychology, and usually have a bachelor's degree. Psychologists generally hold a PhD in addition to a bachelor's degree and have training in a more specific area of psychology. The counselor job description focuses more on direct contact with patients while psychologists focus more on using specific tools, like diagnostic tests and assessments, in their approach.

Are therapists and counselors the same?

These words are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. A counselor usually has a bachelor's degree and some training, while therapists hold additionally licensing, have completed additional training, and may be trained in one specific area of mental health. Psychiatrists are also different from therapists and counselors in that a psychiatrist can prescribe medication and drugs to treat serious conditions.

How do I become a counselor without a degree?

You can become a substance use counselor for adults in many states without holding a degree, but all other mental health counseling careers require a degree. Most aspiring mental health counselors should pursue a college bachelor's degree, and some will see great results from obtaining a master's degree. 

What are the 5 stages of counseling?

The stages are initial disclosure, in-depth explanation, commitment to action, counseling intervention, and evaluation or termination.

What is core values of counseling?

Many counselors will give different answers to this question, but all will revolve around autonomy, respect, collaboration, communication, care, and trust.

What is the responsibility of the counselor?

First and foremost, a counselor is responsible for supporting their clients and helping them handle their emotions. Mental health counselors work to promote mental health, healthy behaviors, decision-making skills, and goal achievement in their patients.

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