What A Counseling Psychologist Does To Improve Your Mental Health
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated June 05, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Denise Doster
Are you considering talking to a counseling psychologist about a mental health concern you're having? A licensed therapist has the education and training to help you deal with many life situations and personal challenges. What exactly do they do for you, though? How can they help with problems you can't conquer on your own? Looking at the job of a clinical psychologist can be helpful as you consider what to do next to improve your mental health.
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How do counseling psychologists help?
You might be skeptical of how a counseling psychologist can help you with your mental health challenges. Here are a few of the ways that we are going to discuss in more detail below:
- Listens when others don't
- Acts as a sounding board
- Contributes objective observations
- Shares their expertise
- Helps you identify problems
- Helps you work through past trauma
- Assists you in setting reasonable goals
- Teaches you to change your thinking
- Helps you change your behavior
- Teaches you important life coping skills
If you want to try meeting with a psychologist, you aren't alone. One survey that American Psychological Association mentions online found that around 59 million people seek treatment for mental health each year, and the vast majority find it to be successful.
What Does a Psychologist Do?
Generically speaking, a psychologist is an expert in the field of psychology. They study the science of the human mind, focusing on how thoughts lead to feelings and behaviors. Psychologists do many different types of jobs. They may work in mental health clinics, hospitals, research facilities, through online counseling platforms, in business, or at educational institutions.
So, what exactly does a psychologist do? That depends on the type of setting in which they practice. Below is a list of psychologists and what they do.
- Counseling Psychologist - Also known as a clinical psychologist, a counseling psychologist uses talk therapy to help people with their mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, grief, anger issues, and social problems.
- Online Psychologist - An online psychologist uses talk therapy and other methods in the same way as other counseling psychologists. The only difference is that they do it remotely, from anywhere with an internet connection.
- School Psychologist - A school psychologist may work at any level in the educational system. Their job is to help students succeed in school. They may also work with parents and faculty in order to foster a better learning environment for the student.
- Child Psychologist - Obviously, child psychologists work with children. They also work with the child's parents and sometimes other family members whenever it can help the child to do so. Typical goals for child psychologists are to help a child overcome trauma, to improve family relationships, to deal with problems like acting out or depression, and to foster healthy psychological development.
- Research Psychologist - A research psychologist designs, oversees, and reports on scientific studies, often in an academic environment.
- Business Psychologist - A business psychologist may do a variety of jobs, including human resources work, helping design marketing strategies, and other tasks related to helping the business succeed. Consumer psychologists also work within the business arena, studying the decision-making processes consumers use before purchasing a product or service.
- Forensic Psychologist - These psychologists work within the legal system, using scientific methods to investigate the psychological aspects of a crime.
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What Is a Clinical Psychologist?
A clinical psychologist is a counseling psychologist who provides services directly to mental health consumers. They may specialize in working with a certain age group, such as children or the elderly. They might do group therapy for families, couples, or people sharing similar problems with each other, such as substance abuse or grief. Some clinical psychologists specialize in one specific type of talk therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, psychodynamic therapy, or interpersonal therapy, while others use a more eclectic approach that relies on elements of several different talk therapies.
Can Psychologists Prescribe Medications?
Sometimes people with mental health challenges need to take medications to reduce symptoms and help them live a more emotionally comfortable life. The question many people seeing a counselor ask is: "Can psychologists prescribe medications?" In most cases, they cannot. A psychiatrist or other medical doctor typically takes care of this part of the treatment. However, in Illinois, Louisiana, and New Mexico, psychologists are indeed allowed to prescribe medications if they have the necessary training.
How a Counseling Psychologist Can Help You
If you want to improve your mental health, a counseling psychologist can help you do that. But, what do they do that you can't do for yourself? Without getting into the technical details of each type of therapy, a psychologist uses the therapeutic process to provide you with expert help and support in the following ways:
Listens When Others Don't
For a psychologist to do their job, they must listen to what you have to say. For most people with mental health issues, this alone justifies the time and effort they spend to engage in therapy. Sometimes, all you need is to be heard. Counseling psychologists are skilled active listeners who pay attention when others can't or won't.
Acts as a Sounding Board
Perhaps you have some ideas about what your mental health problems are, what caused them, or what you need to do to overcome them. Most counselors are happy to hear what you have to say and let you talk it out until you come to a conclusion. In addition, they can offer feedback to help facilitate your insight.
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Contributes Objective Observations
Whether you see a psychologist for help with depression, anxiety, or work issues, your mental health issues can affect how you see events and ongoing situations. In these instances, a counseling psychologist can provide an objective perspective. Even if you describe an event in very emotional terms, the psychologist can glean facts from your description and contribute their objective view of it.
Shares Their Expertise
You're familiar with what has happened to you and how you've dealt with it so far. An advantage of talking about your situation with a psychologist is that they have not only seen many similar dilemmas, but also a variety of responses to those situations. In addition, as they studied and trained in psychology, they developed a level of expertise that allows them to see the situation from a professional viewpoint. They can then offer solutions that have proven effective in studies and in their clinical experiences.
Helps You Identify Problems
Although you may have a general idea that something is wrong, you might not know if you have a specific mental health condition that needs to be addressed. Also, you might know of one problem without realizing other issues are contributing to your distress. A clinical psychologist can learn about these problems through interviews with you and tests designed to evaluate your thought processes, emotions, and behavior. They might ask you whether you're experiencing certain symptoms to determine if you need to be evaluated further for a mental health condition.
Helps You Work Through Past Traumas
People who have suffered from psychological trauma often need to see a psychologist to face the emotions surrounding the traumatic event or situation. They are not only there to listen, but also they can help you understand how the trauma has affected you. They can guide you to a better perspective of the issue and help you realize your power to overcome the trauma to live a better life today.
Helps You Set Reasonable Goals
When you don't know what to do about a mental, emotional, or behavioral problem, going to a psychologist for help is an excellent way to make that decision. The counseling psychologist can explain what types of goals would be beneficial to your mental health. Then, they can help you set goals that require some effort but that you can achieve without intense fear of failure.
Teaches You How to Change the Way You Think
There are times when the most crucial part of overcoming a mental health issue is simply to think differently about it. Through cognitive restructuring, the counselor can help you change your thought patterns concerning troubling events, dysfunctional relationships, or your concept of yourself. They can help you make better choices about what thoughts to focus on, too.
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Works with You to Change Your Behavior
Changing thoughts is usually the best starting point for changing behavior. However, along with changing your thoughts, you may need to work on actively choosing different behaviors. Sometimes, counselors help you plan how you will behave in a certain situation. They may also suggest ways to reward yourself for choosing behaviors that are mentally healthier. It might be that just having someone to report to will provide you the motivation you need to make the behavioral changes you've decided to make.
Teaches You Relaxation Techniques and Coping Skills
Psychologists don't send you out to conquer your problems without offering some preparation for dealing with them. One way they do this is by teaching you relaxation techniques such as belly breathing, systematic muscle relaxation, or mindfulness. They typically teach you a variety of coping skills you can use whenever you need them. These coping skills can include problem-solving skills to help you choose action rather than inaction, and the stress that goes with feeling powerless. They also include ways to minimize the emotional impact you feel when you're under stress. With relaxation techniques and coping skills ready to go, you can deal with situations you might have once thought impossible to face.
Offers You Support
A psychologist can offer you support during times of great stress and serious emotional difficulties. While someone else in your life might be too preoccupied with their own concerns to offer you much support, a counseling psychologist counts supporting you as a part of their life's work. No matter how you think, feel, or behave, your psychologist supports your sincere efforts to improve your mental health.
Can an Online Psychologist Offer the Same Types of Help?
Online psychologists, available at BetterHelp, can help you with your mental health issues. The question people often ask is: "Can an online psychologist really give me the same kinds of therapy and support I would get from a clinical psychologist in my local community?" It's a fair question, especially if you haven't before used many online services of other types.
The answer to this question is that a counseling psychologist who works through an online platform can absolutely offer the same types of talk therapy, the same level of emotional support, and the equivalent expert help you might get from a psychologist you see in person within your own community. In fact, an extensive study by the Berkeley Well-Being Institute found online therapy to be as effective as face-to-face counseling, with 98% of clients reporting significant progress.
You can begin therapy with an online counselor after filling out a simple form and choosing a therapist from the many who work through BetterHelp. You can read a couple of reviews of our online therapists below.
"In the short span of 9 months, Shonnie has become like one of my best friends. At first, I was skeptical of doing therapy since I'm very "psychologically healthy." A few challenges in my personal life lead me to try therapy for a month. Now I consider it an important part of my growth as a businessman and leader within my community. Thank you, Shonnie, for being so helpful during the recent difficulties; I am very lucky to have found you!"
"I'll be honest, I was a little skeptical about doing therapy today online versus in person. I was also afraid that I would have to go through so many therapists until I found the right one since I couldn't meet them in person... but Dr. Cox Lance is wonderful. She is kind, compassionate, understanding, flexible, professional, and truly wants to help people. She has only been my counselor for a couple weeks, but I already love her and doubt I will need to switch counselors again. She has gone above and beyond, and that's rare to find. I highly highly recommend her."
Whether you're facing a severe mental health crisis or just need help handling everyday stressors, starting with a counseling psychologist can improve your mental health and help you live a happier, more fulfilling life. Take the first step today.