Thursday, July 11, 2024

Choosing a counseling technique to suit the patient

Not all mental health counseling approaches are created equal. This fact has been proven true and will stay that way for long. Especially as the mental health field undergoes various evolutions in how individual clients are cared for.

This guide will cover the various techniques that are typically used. What may work for one client may not be the best solution for another. We’ll also discuss how counselors can utilize specific techniques to fulfill an individual client’s needs effectively.

It starts with the best education possible

Individuals interested in becoming mental health counselors can enroll in a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at a reputable institution, such as American International University (AIU). Students at AIU will learn about the different practical methods used in the field by counselors today, alongside the theories and principles that underpin them, including psychoanalytic, interpersonal/social, cognitive, and behavioristic theories. Combining 100% online coursework with in-person placements, the program helps students gain the necessary skills to determine the counseling approach that best suits a patient.

What makes individual needs in counseling important?

Not every individual in need of counseling suffers from the same issue. Each one is different when it comes to their mental health struggles and individual needs. As a result, the mental health field recognizes that every individual should have a tailor-made approach to their counseling and if needed, mental health treatment.

Getting a good idea of what an individual is struggling with is important. These are some of the most common situations that lead to mental health counselors working with individuals:

Personal issues

An individual may be undergoing situations that pertain to stress, grief, or even low self-esteem. Mental health counselors who focus on these issues will often attempt to determine the source of such issues. A counselor that specializes in grief counseling will work with individuals who have suffered the loss of a loved one or friend.

The death of someone important to an individual can be a mentally agonizing time, so a mental health counselor with a specialty in grief counseling will  put together and implement strategies to help the individual get through the pain of their loss. Similar concepts apply with counselors in other specialties when dealing with individuals who are struggling with low self-esteem or stress.

Relationship issues

While individual approaches are the focus of this guide, we must remember counseling involving couples. Typically, they seek counseling services due to struggles in their relationship or marriage. This includes breakdowns in communication, conflicts between each other and other challenges that can harm an otherwise healthy relationship. As the counselor is working with two people in these situations, they must create a strategy that tackles everyone’s struggles.

Addressing their issues and needs can benefit both individuals. At the same time, this gives the counselor a chance to understand each person’s needs and struggles. Based on the information gathered from both individuals, counselors can create a solution that both can benefit from.

Mental health concerns

Today, situations involving mental health concerns are taken more seriously than in years past. More people are opening up about their struggles and the stigma surrounding mental health is less prevalent. Mental health counselors often work with individuals dealing with issues like depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders.

In addition, they also have an opportunity to tackle the issue based on the individual’s treatment plan. Counseling will play a crucial role in that regard; however, some clients may also benefit from medication to treat their condition.

One thing to be aware of is that a client with mental health concerns could also be struggling with substance abuse or addiction. If they have received a dual diagnosis, they will need both counseling from a mental health professional and assistance from those who specialize in substance abuse. Mental health counselors are responsible for the mental health aspect of their struggle — not the substance abuse aspect of it.

No counselor should be tasked with responsibilities outside of their expertise. Nor should an individual meet with the same person to tackle both substance abuse issues and mental health concerns. Mental health counselors should work in collaboration with substance abuse counselors to effectively assist the individual in tackling both of their issues — especially if they have not been previously diagnosed with a mental health disorder until now.

Challenges relating to careers

Some mental health counselors specialize in working with individuals facing challenges related to their careers. This can include but is not limited to workplace stress, professional development, and issues about the individual’s choices in their career, including relocation. While a rewarding and prosperous career may be an individual’s goal, underlying factors might complicate things and result in them becoming stressed out.

In these cases, a mental health counselor can help the client cope with the situations surrounding their career. This includes anxiety stemming from moving to a new and unfamiliar place and even stress brought on by the pressures and demands of a new role.

What are the types of mental health counseling?

Below, we discuss the different types of counseling techniques that exist in the mental health field. We will also cover examples of how these techniques are applied when counseling an individual dealing with issues that may require such an approach. Let’s have a look at the following:

Person-centered counseling

In plain English, this is known as talk therapy. One of the cornerstones of this approach involves the counselor creating an environment that promotes empathy and non-judgement. This will primarily focus on a person who may be struggling with self-esteem issues along with concerns regarding their personal growth and similar situations.

A counselor who utilizes this approach with individual clients must be someone who provides a “safe space”. They should also have the ability to actively listen while being empathetic. They should understand what the individual is going through on a day-by-day basis.

When using this approach, counselors need to make sure their client is the one that talks more. Their listening skills should operate at the highest level. Counselors should avoid taking an active direction in the conversation or judging the individual they are trying to help.

At the same time, they should avoid displaying any type of “authority” or “superiority”. This means that they cannot challenge the individual with what they’re going through or act as if they’re an expert on the subject.

A simple example of this approach is asking questions regarding a person’s struggle. Counselors can listen and take notes accordingly. If need be, they can ask follow-up questions about what the individual has said. However, it is important to be careful with every question to avoid crossing any possible boundaries set by the individual.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

Known for its goal-oriented approach, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) implements the same type of talk therapy framework that person-centered counseling has. This type of therapy has often been used for individuals who are struggling with mental health disorders — particularly anxiety and depression. Individuals who deal with certain fears or phobias can also benefit from this kind of approach as well.

A counselor who offers this is someone who will be able to identify cognitive distortions. They should also have the ability to help an individual put together a plan that will help them cope with their situation by way of behavioral experiments. For example, a person who is dealing with depression can learn how to challenge any negative thoughts they may have.

This will allow them to turn the tables and replace negative thoughts with something more positive. Please note that while CBT can be effective with those with mental health disorders, taking medication alongside may still be an option for the individual. This includes doing your part as a counselor to help put together a strategy that is tailor-made to the individual’s needs rather than utilizing a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Psychodynamic therapy

This therapy approach connects a bridge between an individual’s past experiences to their current situation. Most of the time, those experiences may be from their childhood. A counselor who utilizes this approach will be able to give the individual a chance to speak freely about what is coming to mind now.

This can include what they’re dealing with right now in terms of their challenges, their fears, and dreams. Mental health counselors want the individual to feel better about themselves and minimize their symptoms. This approach can be great for individuals who are struggling with traumas that are unresolved, deep emotional issues, or challenges in forming and maintaining relationships.

These are the three most common approaches available to counselors. Depending on the individuals a counselor aims to work with, it may be a good idea for them to choose one and focus on it specifically. This will improve their ability to handle each individual case.

For example, if they’re intent on working with individuals who deal with mental health disorders, they may find CBT to be one of the best approaches. From there, counselors can utilize their understanding and abilities in applying the approach to create effective strategies for each of their clients.

What are the essential skills a counselor should possess?

Regardless of which technique they use for their counseling, each practitioner should have a set of common but essential skills. These include but are not limited to the following:

Effective communication

Communication is a two-way street that involves talking and active listening. At the same time, counselors will also want to place a high importance on empathy — especially when it comes to building rapport with clients. As active listeners, counselors become someone an individual can trust on a regular basis.

Verbal and non-verbal communication will be important when it comes to a role as a mental health counselor. It is also important to be as clear and easy to understand as possible for every individual. Simple will always be better than complex when it comes to explaining and laying out certain strategies the client can use to handle the issues they’re dealing with.

Cultural competence

Counselors regularly work with individuals who come from a range of cultural backgrounds. As such, it is a good idea to consider learning about them. This helps counselors to recognize and respect the culture that their client connects with.

This can include factors pertaining to communication styles, the way they seek assistance and their overall perspectives on mental health. Likewise, it is important to avoid cultural bias to ensure that counseling remains effective.

Problem-solving and critical thinking

At the heart of counseling is the ability to solve problems. This also pertains to any issues that clients face. Counselors will want to solve them systematically while identifying any underlying factors that may exist.

The ability to develop effective strategies for clients stem from critical thinking. This allows counselors to create tailor-made plans for everyone who seeks assistance. Part of the strategy includes choosing the right technique, the goals to be achieved and how to respond if a setback happens.

Mental health counselors can make a difference

The important thing to remember is that mental health counselors typically have a positive impact on their clients. No matter what therapy approach they take, each one shares a common goal. That is doing their part to improve and enrich the lives of their clients while addressing their needs.

Counselors utilize their essential skills to choose an approach based on the type of clients they want to work with. People are opening more about their mental health struggles and counselors act as the guiding light that helps them get better and live their best lives possible.

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