What Does A Mental Health Professional Offer?

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia
Updated February 26, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might discuss trauma-related topics that include suicide which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Free, one-on-one support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Navigating mental health challenges, including mental health disorders and behavioral disorder, may take a toll on your emotional health. If you have been experiencing mental health concerns, it may have disrupted your day-to-day life or other life situations that require mental health counseling services.

Whether you're experiencing severe depression anxiety, or going through a stressful life transition, a licensed professional counselor provides mental health support and assists clients in navigating life's challenges more effectively. Seeking professional help may help you develop critical thinking and interpersonal skills needed to manage the symptoms and concerns you're experiencing, ultimately improving your mental well-being, and quality of life.

What experience can mental health counselors offer?

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A mental health counselor can help you overcome challenges

When experiencing a mental health issue, college students and others might consider connecting with a licensed mental health counselor as a potential first step. Counselors work with the experience and education to help patients cope with the challenges that they face. 

An individual does not have to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder to receive a treatment plan. Many mental health counselors help individuals experiencing grief, navigating a life transition, or facing stressors in the workplace or in their relationships. Group sessions and outpatient mental health services often offer a safe space to process difficult emotions and events and grow self-awareness and understanding.

About mental health counseling 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, roughly 1 in 5 adults experience mental health concerns that impact their life and overall wellness. Mental health counselors may be able to help people deal with issues ranging from substance abuse to negative emotions and stressors adults face on a daily basis. 

Likewise, studies done by the National Institute of Mental Health have found that psychotherapy treatment options like talk therapy with licensed professionals or family counselors are effective in addressing these conditions. Treatments and results vary depending on the individual’s situation. 

You may seek counseling for relationship problems, addiction counseling, and more from local and online professionals. These might include social workers, assistant professors, and therapists who have completed bachelor’s and master’s programs in mental health fields.

Reasons why someone may seek mental health counseling 

Licensed professional counselors offer a non-judgmental space for you to talk about anything you need to and assist you in developing new coping skills for various difficulties and concerns using therapeutic techniques. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook, in 2022, 83.7% of mental health counselors held a master's degree or higher. Mental health counselors choose evidence-based approaches based on their knowledge and expertise to help clients in their healing.  

There are several reasons why someone might decide to try therapy.

Anxiety disorders

According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is defined as “feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” 

Many individuals experience occasional anxiety, particularly leading up to a stressful situation like a deadline at work or taking an exam. However, persistent feelings of fear and distress that interfere with one’s daily functioning may indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder.

There are various types of anxiety disorders, such as:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder (SAD) 
  • Specific phobias 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) 

While each condition may have distinct signs and symptoms, they all display similar traits, such as intense worry and fear accompanied by uncomfortable physical symptoms.

Some individuals experience panic attacks, which are sudden episodes of intense fear that may cause frightening symptoms such as chest pain, breathing difficulties, dizziness, trembling, and a sense of impending doom. 

It may be common for individuals with anxiety disorders to avoid certain situations or environments that trigger feelings of distress, which may significantly disrupt their mental well being and ability to attend school or work or carry out daily responsibilities.

Seeking counseling from a licensed professional clinical counselor can be helpful for individuals living with an anxiety disorder. Professional counselors work to develop treatment plans, addressing unhelpful thought patterns that may be contributing to anxiety and suggest coping mechanisms for times when symptoms become overwhelming. While anxiety may not vanish entirely, working with mental health counselors or other mental health professionals can equip a person with tools to manage their symptoms, making them less debilitating.

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Depression

Depression is a mental health condition that impacts the lives of millions of people each year. Various types of depression present with specific symptoms, or the symptoms appear under unique circumstances. Recognizing the signs of depression might help identify the symptoms in yourself or others. 

Some common symptoms of depression (also known as major depressive disorder) include: 

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased energy 
  • Loss of interest in one’s usual activities
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline immediately by visiting their website or texting/calling 988. Free, one-on-one support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Living with depression may make carrying out daily tasks and responsibilities challenging. If you are experiencing signs of depression, consider reaching out to a counselor. 

Mental health counselors work to assist you in developing awareness of specific patterns in thinking or stressors that may be exacerbating your symptoms of depression, and may refer clients to other resources if needed. They help you recognize your triggers and signs of a depressive episode. Additionally, they aid in providing coping strategies for use during intense symptoms or episodes. 

Eating disorders

Eating disorders are mental health conditions that significantly impact an individual’s mental, emotional, and physical health. The most common eating disorders may include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. 

While each eating disorder differs in presentation, general warning signs that may indicate an eating disorder include: 

  • A preoccupation with food, calories, weight, or body shape 
  • Distorted self-image 
  • Frequent dieting 
  • Cutting out entire food groups 
  • The presence of food rituals 
  • Binge eating or purging behavior 
  • Increased isolation 
  • Significant weight fluctuations

Despite some popular misconceptions, eating disorders may happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age, race, weight, or body size and shape.

As eating disorders are dangerous and can be life-threatening, seek a mental health counselor if you believe you may have an eating disorder. A counselor may assist you in exploring the underlying factors that could be contributing to disordered eating patterns. 

While eating disorders often manifest in behaviors around food, they may be related to more than that and are often rooted in painful emotions.

Substance use disorders

Individuals may also opt to seek counseling due to substance use concerns. Signs of a substance use disorder include preoccupation with substance use, frequent cravings, overuse, and the inability to stop using despite the negative impact on one’s life.

In some cases, you may feel unsure if you have a substance use disorder but find yourself concerned about how your substance use may impact your work, school performance, or relationships. In these cases, you might consider reaching out to a counselor who might provide clarity on how your use may affect various aspects of your life. 

There are multiple ways how a mental health counselor can support you in setting goals to address your substance use and identify the deeper feelings and emotions that may lead to the desire to use alcohol or drugs. It is common for many individuals to use substances to cope with symptoms of depression or anxiety. Addressing these issues can be beneficial for learning healthier ways of managing stress and difficult emotions.

Relationship counseling

At times, relationship challenges may spur a person to seek professional counseling. Mental health counseling may make a significant difference if you have been through a tough time with your partner or spouse. A therapist can assist you in addressing problems in your relationship that are causing friction.

Learning how to better communicate with your significant other is often a primary focus of this type of counseling. Relationships may experience challenges due to a lack of communication or communicating ineffectively. Counseling might provide a safe space for both parties to express their feelings and perspectives and develop skills for problem-solving together.

Studies show that social connection is imperative to physical health, so improving interpersonal relationships may be a priority in therapy. 

A counselor may guide you through a stressful life transition or process difficult emotions. No matter what unique challenges or stressors you may be facing, a counselor is able to meet you where you are and move you towards whatever goals you would like to work on.
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A mental health counselor can help you overcome challenges

Online mental health counseling is available

Many people have found online therapy to be a convenient and affordable option. Research demonstrates that online therapy is as effective as in-person therapy in treating various conditions and resolving common challenges, including anxiety, depression, and relationship troubles.

Through online counseling platforms like BetterHelp, you will be matched with a licensed therapist and schedule sessions at times that are most convenient for you at your own home or anywhere there is a reliable internet connection. Online counseling may make it possible for people in a long-distance relationship to attend therapy from different locations and time zones, offer parents support for their children without needing to compromise other priorities, and empower people with limited in-person options in their geographical area to attain mental health care for specific concerns.

Takeaway

Mental health may be an individual, nuanced experience that shifts in tandem with life. As we go through life, it may be normal to experience difficulties like stress, grief, anxiety, or depression.

You are not alone in the challenges you are facing. Help and support are available. Getting started with professional therapy whether in an in-person practice or other settings, may be a helpful first step in getting the support you need, no matter what you may be experiencing. Consider reaching out to a counselor to get started.

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The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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