What Does A Counseling Psychologist Do?

Updated November 23, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Are you considering talking to a counseling psychologist about a mental health concern you are having? According to the American Psychological Association, approximately 59 million people seek treatment for mental health each year, and the vast majority find it to be successful. A licensed counseling psychologist helps people identify their personal strengths while providing resources in coping and resilience strategies. Their counsel involves helping people work through resolving conflicts and psychological challenges with a variety of methods, including talk therapy. This article answers questions you may have about how a counseling psychologist works with you to improve your mental health.

Wondering How A Counseling Psychologist Can Help Improve Your Mental Health?

The Role Of A Counseling Psychologist: Questions And Answers

Generically speaking, a psychologist is an expert of knowledge in the field of psychology and the history of psychology. They study the science of the human mind, focusing on how thoughts lead to feelings and behaviors. Psychologists work in mental health clinics, hospitals, research facilities, online counseling platforms, businesses, or educational institutions.

Are There Different Types of Psychologists?

Psychologists can engage in diverse professional roles dependent upon the setting in which they practice. These include:

  • 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 practice remotely, from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • School Psychologist– School psychologists are experts in learning, behavior, and mental health. They apply their expertise to help students succeed on many levels -especially academically, socially, and emotionally. School psychologists foster a team approach, working with students, parents, and faculty to build a healthy learning environment.
  • Child Psychologist– Child psychologists serve children of all ages, including teenagers. Typical goals for child psychologists and their programs are to help a child overcome trauma, to improve family relationships, to deal with problems (like acting out or depression) and foster healthy psychological development.
  • Business and Consumer Psychologists– A business psychologist may do a variety of jobs, including working in human resources, 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.
  • Research Psychologist– A research psychologist designs, oversees, and reports on scientific studies, often in an academic environment.
  • Forensic Psychologist– These psychologists work within the legal system, using scientific methods to investigate the psychological aspects of a crime.

What Is A Clinical Psychologist?

Clinical psychologists have a doctoral degree in clinical psychology and typically work in the research, university, and health sectors to address behavioral and mental health issues, including:

  • Emotional and psychological problems (i.e., serious mental illness and crisis intervention
  • Interpersonal problems and dysfunctional social behavior
  • Substance abuse disorders and dependence behavioral issues
  • Traumatic stress reactions and adjustment issues

Clinical psychologists specialize in different types of talk therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, psychodynamic therapy, or interpersonal therapy. Others use a more eclectic approach that relies on merging elements of different types of talk therapies.

Can Psychologists Prescribe Medications?

Medications are often prescribed to treat mental disorders and conditions, especially in conjunction with other psychotherapy treatments. A 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 Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Idaho, and New Mexico, psychologists are allowed to prescribe medications if they are appropriately trained.

Disclaimer: Please consult with your doctor or primary care physician before considering any medication options.

How Counseling Psychologists Advocate For Mental Health

If you want to improve your mental health, a counseling psychologist can be your advocate. Individuals might be skeptical of how a counseling psychologist can help with mental health concerns. A therapist or counselor: 

  • Acts as a sounding board
  • Contributes objective observations
  • Helps identify problems
  • Helps work through past trauma
  • Assists in setting reasonable goals
  • Teaches to change dysfunctional thinking patterns
  • Helps change negative behaviors
  • Teaches life coping skills and resilience strategies

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 engaging in psychotherapy. Sometimes, all you need is to be heard. Counseling psychologists are skilled active listeners who pay attention when others cannot or will not. A psychologist uses the  to provide you with expert help and support in the following ways:

A Counseling Psychologist’s Expertise

Only you are familiar with what has happened to you and how you have dealt with it thus far. An advantage of being open with a psychologist is that they have not only seen many similar dilemmas but also are aware of a variety of responses to those situations. In addition, as a trained psychologist, they have 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 their clinical experiences.

Acts as a Sounding Board

Perhaps you have some ideas about what your mental health conditions 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 conclude. In addition, they can offer feedback to help facilitate your insight.

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 extreme emotional terms, the psychologist can glean facts from your description and contribute their objective view of it.

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. There may also be other issues that are contributing to your distress. In these cases, a clinical psychologist may serve your needs best. A clinical psychologist uses therapeutic strategies (such as interviews or tests ) designed to evaluate your thought processes, emotions, and behavior. These interventions help to determine if you need to be evaluated further for a mental health condition.

Counseling Helps You Work Through Traumas

People who have experienced psychological trauma often need to see a psychologist to work through the emotions surrounding the traumatic event or situation. They are not only there to listen but also to help you understand how the trauma has affected you. They can guide you to a better perspective on the issue and offer you strategies to build resilience and coping skills to improve the quality of your life. These resources include relaxation, breathing, and mindfulness practices that help work through the difficult moments that may arise.

Helps You Set Reasonable Goals

When you feel overwhelmed by the mental, emotional, or behavioral issues in your life, reaching out to a psychologist can help you work through these challenges and guide you in decision-making . A counseling psychologist can explain what types of goals would be beneficial to your mental health. Then, they can help you set goals that, while requiring effort, are reachable without the 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 to change your thought process. Through cognitive restructuring, a counselor can help you change your thought patterns concerning troubling events, dysfunctional relationships, or your concept of yourself. In this method, a counseling psychologist uses a form of cognitive behavior therapy to help you evaluate, challenge, and modify dysfunctional beliefs and transform them to healthy modes of thinking.  

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 mentally healthier behaviors. 

Offers You Support

A counseling psychologist can offer you positive reinforcement during times of great stress and serious emotional difficulties. While loved ones intend to offer you help in your time of need, at times this is not enough. A counselor considers 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.

Wondering How A Counseling Psychologist Can Help Improve Your Mental Health?

Do Online Psychologists Offer The Same Type Of Help?

Online psychologists have the same requirements as an in-person therapist and can help you with your mental health issues. People often ask, "Can an online psychologist give me the same kinds of therapy and support I would get from a clinical psychologist in my local community?" A counseling psychologist who works through an online platform can offer the same types of talk therapy and level of emotional support that an in-person psychologist may offer in your community. For example, 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. Without having to leave the comfort of your home, you can begin addressing your mental health concerns with a supportive and understanding online therapist. Read the following reviews of our therapists below:

Counselor Reviews

"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 led 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 of 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 recommend her."

Moving Forward

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.

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