Mental health counselling is something everyone can benefit from. A mental health counsellor can treat and assess emotional health disorders, mental health disorders, life challenges, and relationship issues. By using psychotherapy, counsellors can work with you to create meaningful behaviour changes and to find coping strategies that work best for you. Counsellors usually focus on specific issues, helping you to address addiction or a particular situation that you are struggling with, as well as helping you cope with stress management. This is usually a short-term treatment, as it sets you up to learn specific techniques that will help you cope with a problematic situation you’re struggling with right now – and with future ones.
By seeing a mental health counsellor, you can improve your interpersonal and communication skills. This, in turn, can help improve your self-esteem and self-acceptance. Mental counselling and therapy can help treat different types of mental health issues, such as anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, panic disorders, and more. But don’t be fooled into thinking that mental health counselling is only an option if you have a mental disorder. Mental health counselling can be a great option if you’re struggling with an alcohol and drugs addiction, suffer from unresolved traumatic experiences or suffer from stress in different areas of your life.
Professional counsellors also referred to as therapists, are trained and prepared to guide you through any issues you may be facing. They employ different therapies and techniques to help you develop a viable solution. They will ask you certain questions to help guide you there and will prompt you to think about certain areas or to take on certain perspectives you may not have considered earlier. As you can see, a counsellor equips you with the tools you need to find the solutions to your problems.
Common therapies - such as behavioural therapy - that mental health counsellors use for bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and more
There are quite a few types of therapies that counsellors will use to treat different mental health disorders, as these evidence-based therapies have been proven to be effective.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is one of these and focuses on the differences between your behaviour versus your thoughts. Cognitive therapy is quite effective for developing goal-directed behaviour that will help you take a matter-of-factly approach to issues that arise. It does so by adjusting the attitudes, beliefs, images, and thoughts that you have towards certain issues and problems.
There is also dialectical behavioural therapy, which was initially developed for borderline personality disorder treatment. However, research has shown that it is also effective for treating bipolar disorder, SUD, depression, binge-eating, and bulimia. This therapy belongs in the group of cognitive behavioural therapies and consists of individual therapy sessions with skill groups and your counsellor. After learning about dialectical behavioural therapy skills and strategies, your counsellor will help you apply these to your daily life and will discuss any problems you may run into along the way.
Motivational interviewing is a counselling method that helps you to resolve insecurities and conflicting feelings by helping you find the motivation that you need to change your behaviour. This is a short-term process and, as well as being used for behaviour disorders, can be used to manage physical health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease. This method is especially effective for those who start unprepared or unmotivated to make changes to their life, as it poses questions about commitment and change.
Contingency management therapy is another one. This behavioural therapy approach focuses on reinforcing positive changes in behaviour by giving you the desired reward. This therapy is based on basic behavioural analysis principles. Behaviour that is reinforced close to when it occurred means that this behaviour is more likely to be repeated. This therapy can be highly effective for treating behaviour disorders and is used in both clinical settings and everyday settings. Your counsellor will decide which therapy is best suited for you – but, if you have any questions, you can always ask them to explain this process to you.
Group, individual, and other forms of mental health counselling used by mental health professionals for mental illnesses and other problems
Individual therapy is a type of psychotherapy that can be effective for treating mental health disorders and mental health conditions, such as depression or bipolar disorder. This is a collaborative process between the patient and therapist, as the therapist helps you to discover the causes of your behaviours and thoughts. Once these causes are identified, you can start making positive lifestyle changes.
Group therapy tends to be an option that is preferred over individual therapy. Group therapy sessions usually have one or more counsellors and five to fifteen participants. Throughout group therapy, the role of your peers is to support you and challenge you. The counsellor is there just to oversee and prompt the discussion in the right direction. This therapy helps you to place your problems into perspective, since listening to others allows you to take a different perspective and to realise you are not the only one dealing with issues. Groups tend to be formed to address a specific issue, such as obesity, chronic pain, or depression – while other groups focus on improving social skills.
Family therapy is another counselling option that aims to help family members to resolve conflicts and improve their communication skills. Each family member takes the time to think through their relationships with others and tries to understand the experiences and perspectives of other family members. Major parts of this therapy include encouraging the family to engage with each other, reframing relationships, changing problematic and unhealthy behaviour, and restructuring the family system. As well as family therapy, there is also the option of marriage counselling, which focuses on resolving and understanding the relationship within couples. Marriage and family therapists can also help couples that aren’t married; some also offer the option of online marriage counselling.
Online therapy options for psychotherapy counselling and other therapies
Online therapy can be a great option for therapy if you don’t have the time to travel to your therapist or would like a low-cost alternative. Online therapy, usually referred to as telepsychology, is also sometimes called text therapy, phone therapy, or Web therapy depending on the format it is delivered in. There are many different types of online therapy available, including psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical therapy, and counselling (such as marriage counselling). Therapy online is also available for different age groups, no matter whether it is for a child or an adult. If you are uncomfortable in the traditional face-to-face setting, then online therapy may also help you feel more comfortable.
There are a few benefits to online therapy, such as the convenience of it. There’s no need to dish out extra time to meet your therapist or to plan your day around it, as it can be done whenever works best for you and whenever you are the most comfortable. In comparison to traditional therapy, online therapy tends to be cheaper, too – which is important to note if you don’t plan on using your health insurance for therapy. Online communication can also be easier for people, especially when communicating private or personal information. This option also provides access to those who can’t access their therapist in person, such as those in rural communities. It can also prove to be easily accessible for those with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
However, there are some points you should consider before choosing online therapy over in-person therapy. First, you need to ask yourself ‘will this work for me, personally?’ If you’re someone who prefers eye contact and having personal interactions, then this might not be the most effective choice for you. You also need to ensure that the therapist you are seeing online is licensed. Licensing laws protect you, as they ensure that only those who are qualified and trained can administer therapy to you. Otherwise, anyone can claim to be a therapist or health professional, so remember to only go to licensed clinical therapists. Another big one is ensuring that the app or site you’re using is secure – as, since you’re sharing private information, you’ll definitely want it to remain confidential. If the app or site is with the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia, then this is already a good start.
Counselling VS psychotherapy and how to find the right therapist for you
While you read about counselling and psychotherapy, there’s a good chance you’ll see these words being used interchangeably. It’s the same deal with the words ‘counsellor’ and ‘psychologist.’ But is there a difference? Let’s have a look at “counsellor” VS “psychologist”.
Psychologists are trained in the area of science regarding how people learn, behave, feel, and think. Many psychologists work in therapeutic environments and are trained to support people with severe mental health issues. They take a more medical approach – whereas counsellors take on a more person-centred approach. If you were to visit a psychologist, they would probably start with an assessment – while a counsellor would ask about your life goals. However, both psychologists and counsellors cannot prescribe medication. This is the same deal for clinical social workers, as only medical doctors and psychiatrists can do that.
Notably, psychologists can also advise diagnosis or treatment as part of their master’s or doctoral degree requires them to spend time recognising different mental disorders, mental health conditions, and treating mental disorders. As for counselling and psychotherapy, counselling can be thought of as short-term therapy. Psychotherapy is usually more long-term than counselling and instead focuses on a wider range of issues. Different types of psychotherapy include psychodynamic, psychoanalysis, behaviour, cognitive, humanistic, and holistic or integrative therapy. Different types of counselling include veterans, school, rehabilitation, financial, family, and relationship counselling. Remember that it’s important to only trust licensed professional counsellors and other licensed professionals for health advice.
You can’t overestimate the importance of finding a therapist or counsellor that you feel comfortable with. There are a few steps you can take while finding the right therapist, such as consulting your provider directory. If you’ll be paying for therapy through your insurance, then this would be a good first step. You can also ask for some suggestions from anyone you trust, such as a friend or your doctor. If you still can’t find the right therapist, then you can also try reaching out to organisations specialising in your area of concern.
How to choose between therapy and counselling
By now, you may be wondering how to choose between therapy and counselling. If you have been professionally diagnosed with clinical bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, alcohol and drug substance abuse issues, or suicidal disorders, then therapy is the go-to option for you. Although, it’s worth mentioning that even if you have milder anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or stress management issues, then you can also benefit from therapy. Therapy can help with a wide range of issues, such as suicide prevention, raising children, and much more too.
Counselling can be more helpful if you are currently going through a life-impacting event, such as the loss of a loved one or retirement. This is because counselling is more short term, and focuses on goal-setting – while therapy is more long term. If you’re still confused about whether therapy or counselling is best suited to you, talking to your doctor is always a good idea. You can also consult a medical health professional and look to Healthline Media for some extra information.
If you’re looking for cheaper or alternative therapy options, you can look at community mental health services. Just search up the community mental health services for your state. (For example, if you live in Western Australia, you can search up ‘Western Australia community mental health services and find a local site with a list of different government and non-government options.) If you’re of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, then there may be some additional options for you. This is similar if you’re a student, as students are usually given student resources for therapy. You can take a further look at these options by accessing mental health community sites and other government sites – or by contacting the Australian psychological association or your doctor.
Different types of mental health disorders and potential therapies for them
Depending on the mental health disorder you have, there are a few specific therapies that will be best for you. Remember that you should always be properly diagnosed before stating you have a disorder, as it takes a professional to recognise the signs of a mental disorder. If you think you may have a disorder or are experiencing mental disorder symptoms, you can book an appointment with a psychiatrist or your doctor to start the process of getting diagnosed. Some licensed mental health counsellors and psychologists can also diagnose you in Australia. To gain access to a wide range of psychologists, you can access the Psychological Association site.
There are a few therapies that are more effective for certain mental health disorders, as briefly mentioned earlier. If you struggle with addiction, it’s best to seek group therapy or family therapy. Talking with others with similar experiences or those close to you can help you gain a new perspective on your problems that you may not have considered earlier. Counselling, motivational interviewing, and cognitive behavioural therapy are also viable options. In more severe cases, rehab and detox programs at the hospital or home can also help.
For post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy and medication are common therapies and treatments. There is also the option of eye-movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), where your therapist asks you to make different eye movements while focusing on a disturbing memory. This therapy can sound unusual but has been able to help patients reprocess memories in the past. EMDR works by moving memories into the normal memory system from the ‘immediate action’ section (where they were located earlier).
Your therapist will work with you to find the best therapy for you and the mental disorder you may be struggling with. They will also help to find the best mental health treatment and mental health care for you, which can be different for each individual person, regardless of whether they have the same type of mental health disorder or not. Always ask your therapist or medical health professional any questions or health advice that you may have or need, as you need to understand your therapy and treatment plans before you commit to them.