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Counseling

What is counseling?

Guidance and counseling in the context of psychology is a talking therapy where a trained therapist helps you deal with and work through emotional problems. You must share and seek help only from a trained counselor who is equipped to help you with your problems. It is also essential that the counselor refrains from being judgemental or imparting any kind of value judgment to your actions. 

So, what is the counseling process like?

Counseling does not involve:

  1. Giving you advice on how to live your life. 
  2. Judging your actions based on their own moral compass. 
  3. Trying to intervene and sort out problems for you.
  4. Building an emotional relationship with the client.
  5. Trying to view a client’s problem through your own world view.

Counseling involves:

  1. An exploration of difficulties and emotions that are stressing you out. 
  2. Helping you see things objectively and with more clarity. 
  3. Keeping things confidential and ensuring trust. 

The role of the counselor

A mental health counselor helps clients explore their feelings and their life through talk therapy. Usually, when it comes to friends and family, individuals have reservations about what to express and this causes people to hide their true emotions. Negative emotions such as anger, jealousy, resentment cannot be directly expressed to near and dear ones. 

Speaking to a counselor can help clients deal with trauma in their life by allowing clients to vent their negative emotions in a safe environment. There may be some trauma in your life or childhood that you may have had trouble facing or coming to terms with, hence you’ll need trauma counseling, anxiety counseling, or stress counseling to face them and throw some light onto your present behaviors.  

A good counseling session will help the client arrive at clarity for why they act in a certain way. A careful analysis of your behaviour can help you address the past trauma in your life and empowers you to make better decisions and life choices.

You need counselling to help you understand the patterns in your behaviour and work towards inculcating healthier behaviours. The counsellor encourages the client to arrive at their conclusions and choices on what is right for them. 

Steps in the counseling process

There are different types of counselling such as relationship counselling, CBT counselling, mind counselling, anger counselling, and many more. However, the steps involved in counselling can be broadly classified as follows:

Establishing Rapport:

Trust is essential to any counsellor client relationship. Hence any counsellor must build a rapport that encourages the client to open up. This is especially the case when it comes to situations where the client feels vulnerable such as marriage and family counselling, substance abuse counselling, and post-traumatic stress counselling.

Assessment and Diagnosis:

This is the second stage of the counselling process. During this stage, the counsellor gathers all the information necessary to understand the problems faced by the patient.

The counsellor should help the client communicate what their problems are rather than making assumptions. The counsellor should be observant and tune into non-verbal cues on what makes the client uncomfortable to arrive at the root cause of the problem and the triggers and stressors. 

Setting the right goals for counselling:

Setting goals is vital for any counselling session. It is vital to create achievable goals for the client so that they know exactly what to expect after each session.

Goals can range from a reduction of dysfunctional behaviour, reduction in stress, adapting to surroundings better, cutting off toxic relationships, and imbibing healthier behaviours. Once the client no longer feels the need of counselling or the goal is achieved, the frequency of counselling sessions can be reduced or terminated altogether. 

Intervention and problem solving:

At this stage after assessing the problems of the client, the counsellor asks the client what the client has tried on their own to solve their problems.

Once the client discusses all the failed attempts to the counsellor, the counsellor suggests a plan of action to solve the problem faced by the client. The client has to decide a coping strategy, a framework of thinking, or intervention to change the destructive behaviours of the client. 

Follow up meeting and termination:

Once the goals outlined for the client counsellor relationship are achieved, the client may choose to terminate the relationships. However, the client must schedule regular follow up meetings with the counsellor to keep them updated about the progress and recovery.

There are clear procedures and evaluation of the patient that is done before the termination of a counselling relationship. The client is themselves consulted on their own readiness to stop the counselling before any decision is taken. 

Types of counselling

  1. Individual Counselling:

Individual counselling is a type of talk therapy where a client works one on one with a counsellor or mental health professional to deal with their emotional issues. The counsellor provides a safe space that is free of judgement to help the client share what is on their mind. 

  1. Relationship and Marriage counselling:

Marriage counselling is a type of therapy that helps couples identify the dysfunctional aspects of their relationship and work towards eliminating it. It is also called as couples therapy and it is a way of resolving conflicts in a relationship.

It can help you rebuild strained relations and help partners set healthy boundaries for themselves so that they can both grow in a relationship. 

  1. Psychiatric Counselling:

If a person is suffering from mental illness such as Anxiety, Depression, Bipolar, or OCD where their emotional health interferes with life, they are referred to as psychiatric counselling.

In psychiatric counselling, the counsellor provides an assessment, diagnosis, and treatment plan to help alleviate the symptoms that the client is facing and help them lead a better life. 

  1. CBT Counselling:

CBT also is known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a talk therapy that helps you change the negative thought patterns in your life. CBT combines two approaches, a Cognitive approach that examines why you think the way you think and a Behavioural approach that deals with the way you react to a situation.

It helps break down larger emotional problems into a set of thought processes in your mind that causes you to react a certain way. Once these negative thought processes are identified they can be worked on and resolved to deal with emotional issues. 

  1. Trauma Counselling

If you face a traumatic or difficult event in your life such as a toxic relationship, being cheated on, the death of a family member, being abused or similar situations it can cause emotional trauma.

This trauma can make you feel helpless and frightened whenever you are reminded of the event or in a similar situation. For eg: if you were ever bullied in school it can cause a very negative reaction to even the slightest criticism or conflict situation in adulthood.

Trauma counselling helps you deal with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and develop coping strategies to deal with such similar situations. 

  1. Workplace Counselling

Today’s workplaces can be stressful, with long hours, challenging deadlines, and constant competition. Workplaces can be emotional minefields to navigate and the stakes are high.

Workplace counselling is usually introduced to prevent employee burnout and conflict within an organization. It provides employees with someone to vent their problems and helps reduce the probability of work-related stress. It may also help employees identify how emotional issues may be impacting their work performance and resolve them to help improve productivity. 

  1. Anger Counselling

Anger counselling is a type of talk therapy that helps you deal with your violent impulses and control your anger. Your therapist will help you identify the negative thought patterns that lead to anger outbursts and address the underlying beliefs that fuel such behaviour.

Anger counselling or anger management therapy can help you control your impulses and react in a more socially acceptable manner. Anger management can help you in your personal and professional relationships and resolve it in a more productive manner. 

Do I need counselling?

When you try to ask the question “Do you need counselling?” you may feel that your problems are not severe enough to warrant counselling. However, due to the stigma in our society around mental health issues, you tend to trivialize the problems and not seek help until too late.

When it comes to mental health, the earlier you seek help and treatment the better your chances are of recovery. Hence instead of asking if you need counselling, the right question is “Will I benefit from counselling?” 

Counseling is the right choice for you if:

  1. You are confused about a stressful situation in your life and are unable to arrive at a solution.
  2. Certain situations in your life or your own behaviour is causing you unmanageable stress and anxiety. 
  3. You don’t have a support group of friends and family to talk to and or you’re finding it difficult to share your problems.
  4. You have suffered from a traumatic incident in the past such as a toxic relationship, physical and sexual abuse, etc. 
  5. Your life, relationships, work are being affected due to the inability to focus. 

What are the benefits of counselling?

Counselling and psychotherapy are profoundly beneficial in helping you deal with your emotional state. Counselling is helpful not just for mental health issues but can help you deal with everyday problems in your life such as life events, job loss, death in the family, grief, toxic relationships, and more.

A trained professional can be a boon as often we are unable to speak to near and dear ones about our problems for fear of being judged. If you’re facing severe social anxiety, you can even start with online psychological counselling or relationship counselling online to deal with your problem in a convenient and completely confidential manner. 

  1. You may develop more confidence in dealing with situations and in turn exhibit better communication skills and all-round interpersonal skills. 
  2. Since you let go of traumatic incidents in your past and learn to stop negative thought patterns, you’ll gain more acceptance of yourself and higher self-esteem.
  3. You will be able to identify all the toxic behaviors that are holding you down in life and break the pattern. 
  4. You will learn coping strategies to deal with negative emotions and not let them overwhelm you.
  5. Your relationships will become better and more balanced as you learn effective ways of communicating your needs and emotions 
  6. You will be able to solve your emotional problems and resolve conflicts with the tools you learn from counselling. 
  7. Marked improvement in your mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or any other illness. 

How should I prepare for a counselling session?

If it is your first counseling session, it is natural to be a bit apprehensive about the entire situation. It can be a bit intimidating and opening up might not come naturally to you. If you want to get the best out of a counseling session, you can use the following tips to prepare better. 

Schedule everything beforehand:

Being prepared and having everything scheduled can help reduce the stress of the situation. Ensure that you call up and book an appointment so that you don’t have to wait around. Also, send in your medical histories such as your current medication records, past doctor’s reports and anything you feel may help the counsellor in their diagnosis.

This eliminates the need to arrive early and get everything in order. If there is any paperwork at the office you can ask them to mail you the copy so you can do it in the comfort of your own home. 

Make a note of things:

Having it all written down can help alleviate any anxiety that you have about the appointment. Make a note of all the symptoms that you feel and all the problems that you want to discuss.

You can refer to the notepad whenever the counsellor asks you a question. It will also help prevent you from going blank when the counsellor asks you certain questions. You can also make a note of the advice or certain points that the counsellor tells you if you feel that it was particularly helpful. 

Meditate:

If you have social anxiety that makes it hard to interact with people it can help to meditate. Do some breathing exercises and at least 15 minutes of meditation to calm your nerves and collect yourself before your appointment.

Always remember you are not locked into this situation and can choose to terminate the relationship or work with another counsellor if you are not comfortable. 

Stay open and non-judgemental:

Sometimes you may have this picture in your head about what your problems are and you may not be receptive to suggestions by the counsellor.

Remember to be open to the exercises and treatment plans suggested by your counsellor. They may have some insights based on their neutral observation of you that can help you with a breakthrough. Mutual respect and trust in the relationship can help you get the best out of your counselling session.

Get someone you trust along: 

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of going to the session alone, you can ask a friend or a loved one to accompany you. The person can either accompany you in the session or if you aren’t comfortable with them sitting in, they can sit in the waiting room until your session is done.

Knowing that you have someone along to cheer you up can help you get through the session and reduce the anxiety associated with it. 

How can family help?

If a family member is seeking counselling then the most important thing is to be empathetic to their concerns. Give them unconditional love and support and laud their decision to get treatment.

You can help your loved one make the appointment, go along with them for support, and remind them regularly so that they don’t miss any counselling sessions. 

 Also, it is important to remember Counselling doesn’t just work overnight. You’ll have to ensure that your loved one consistently attends sessions and does all the exercises and adheres to the regiment prescribed by the counsellor. It’s important to be patient and understand that recovery takes time. 

You can also encourage your loved one to follow a healthier lifestyle such as diet, exercise, and other mood-boosting activities. You can also help them keep a check on their use of substances such as Alcohol, Cigarettes, or any other drugs. This will help them keep a positive outlook on life and speed up the recovery process. 

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