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What is Counselling In Mental Health?

Mental health counseling, or psychotherapy, is something many people wonder about. It’s a concept that, until one begins, seems hard to fully grasp. It’s not uncommon for people to associate counseling with the proverbial couch, with the client lying on this piece of furniture and spilling their guts while a counselor, who may or may not look like Sigmund Freud, furiously takes detailed notes on a pad of paper. This process is called psychoanalysis and is rarely practiced in the twenty-first century (but¬†mental health counselors¬†typically do take some notes to increase understanding).

How Mental Health Counselling Works?

Mental health counselling is a formal, purposeful partnership between a client and a mental health professional. It’s sometimes referred to as clinical mental health counselling not because it’s cold and dispassionate but because it is based on sound research and uses techniques proven to be effective. Counselling is a process of varying lengths during which a mental health counsellor and a client work together to explore problems and develop the skills and mindset needed to transcend challenges and live a life of emotional health.

The length of the counselling process varies depending on the individual and the mental health disorder or distress. It can continue anywhere from a few weekly sessions to months or, sometimes, years of occasional sessions. People seek counselling for many different things. Counselling is for mental illness as well as for specific life stresses, such as a toxic workplace with a bullying boss. Counselling happens individually, in one-on-one sessions with a counsellor. Additionally, people can engage in couples therapy, family therapy or group therapy.

Clinical Mental Health Counselling Approaches

Mental health counsellors choose from a plethora of approaches when helping someone. The particular approach used depends on both the counsellor’s professional preference as well as the nature and characteristics of an individual client.

Each approach has a particular focus. Mental health counselling methods can emphasize a person’s background, emotions, thoughts, behaviors, or a combination of these elements. Within each category are specific theoretical techniques. Below is a list of the most common approaches, or theories. The list is meant as a starting point for exploration. If there are some methods that resonate with you, you can inquire about the theoretical approach when you are searching for a counsellor.

Theories that emphasize background are:
Emotion-based theories include:
Among theories that focus on thoughts are:
Approaches emphasizing behaviors involve:

A growing counselling approach that falls into the categories of thoughts, feelings, and behavior as well as stands strongly on its own is positive psychology. Most counsellors don’t practice one single approach but instead weave together principles of many to best fit individual clients. Approaches most likely to be used on their own include CBT, DBT, ACT, and solution-focused brief therapy.

Benefits of Mental Health Counselling Counselling indeed helps many people; approximately 80 percent of people in counselling reap benefits (Seligman, 2006). When people engage in mental health counselling, they often gain:

Mental health counselling improves and even saves lives. Seeking counselling is a sign of courage and strength because it’s an important step in taking charge of mental health and creating the life that you deserve, a life worth living.

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