Why You Might Need To Talk To A Counselor
By Sarah Fader
Updated January 10, 2019
Reviewer Kristen Hardin
It is probably fair to say that everyone has a basic understanding of why physical healthcare is important. If you have a persistent cough or pain in your knees, you will generally go to a medical doctor and have it checked out. What can be less obvious is that your emotional health is no less vital, and mental issues can be treated by mental health professionals such as counselors as well as medical professionals if you are determined to benefit from medication. In fact, virtually everyone suffers from some sort of emotional distress at some point in their life, whether this means a bout of insomnia or something more severe such as clinical depression. Even if the issues you face do not feel severe enough for a clinical mental illness, it might be worth your time to talk to a counselor. At a minimum, this will help you to gain a deeper understanding of what you are experiencing and your counselor can be an important resource with information and suggestions on what you can do to feel better.
Reasons to Talk to a Counselor
Even if you think your life experience and natural mental balance are enough to get you through life's rough patches, it may still be to your advantage to find a professional to talk with. It's not really a question of "can", but of "can do better." Whether you think that your romantic relationship might be improved, someone you know is struggling with an issue such as addiction or depression, or you are finding yourself a little confused on how to deal with life's challenges, someone with the appropriate training and professional experience can assist you. Sometimes people think that counseling is only for those who are severally mentally ill or in crisis, but this is simply not true. People seek counseling for a variety of reasons from minor to serious. Some people also think counseling is a sign of weakness, but again, if your body is sick or injured, is it weak to get treatment? No. The same is true for seeking help for a mental health issue. There are more options than ever for affordable treatment, such as online therapy with BetterHelp. You do not have to suffer alone or for a long time. Remember that counseling has changed since its infancy, the goal of most therapists is to help clients get better as soon as possible. Many therapists practice solution-focused therapy when appropriate so you will not be in counseling three times a week for years in order to see improvement.
When someone advertises himself as a mental health counselor or psychologist, you can be sure that person has at least a master's degree along with many other requirements for state licensing, including strict protection of a client's confidentiality. Counselors are bound to HIPPA practices which at a simple explanation, means that they are obligated to keep your information confidential. There are some limitations to this, such as if you are at risk of hurting yourself or someone else, your counselor is obligated to seek action and get you the help you need. These are things your counselor will go over with you at your initial session and you should ask any questions you have as some laws are state specific. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to ask your counselor.
Finding a Counselor
Once a person has decided to seek counseling, it may feel overwhelming to find the "right" counselor. Some clients get overwhelmed because they feel the counselor might have to have a certain certification or number of years of experience. These are valid qualities to search for in a counselor, but it is just as important to remember that you may not know until you meet your counselor if he or she is the right fit for you. Research has shown that more important than certifications and number of years of experience is the rapport and trust between the counselor and client. Carl Rogers calls it "unconditional positive regard" which simply put, means that you feel you can share anything with your therapist. This alone is healing, to have a safe and judgment-free zone and someone who will listen and offer feedback without judgment and authority.
However, some patients and counselors simply do not connect well enough for effective therapy to take place. This can be for a variety of reasons: some counselors specialize in one or two mental health fields or employ a certain therapeutic technique that may not suit everyone. More often, just like with relationships, we do not click with everyone and you may not click with the first counselor you see. But do not let this overwhelm you, most counselors recognize there is no "one size fits all" approach and are more eclectic, taking from a variety of theories and therapies. If you have a very specific issue, such as anorexia, you will want to find a therapist with experience working with that disorder. Furthermore, if a therapist primarily works with children, that therapist would not likely be the best fit for marriage therapy. But in general, you can start with making some phone calls or sending some emails and getting a feel with who you feel comfortable with. Finally, try to not make a final judgment after the first session- the relationship between your therapist and you takes time to build just like any other relationship.
There are a number of directories listing places to find help within your area, and online counseling is now available anywhere you can find an internet connection. There are a number of options for talking with your counselor. You can exchange messages, scheduled live chat sessions, as well as video and telephone sessions. It also tends to be much less expensive than face-to-face therapy in an office setting, while allowing you the freedom of choosing from a wide variety of individual counselors possessing a wide variety of backgrounds and skill sets.
If you are suffering from any kind of emotional issue, or are close to someone who is, talking to a counselor is often a really helpful thing to do. You can learn more about yourself and how to help yourself, or, if it is a family member or friend struggling, how you be supportive to them while still maintaining healthy boundaries. The years of training and education a skilled therapist can offer gives them a unique perspective and ability to help with the problems of others.