The role of a mental health counselor

 Every day, people struggle with anxiety and various forms of stress. This is often the result of busy schedules, tight deadlines and family or work problems. There may come a time when the pressure becomes overwhelming and leaves a feeling of depression, worry or just an overall feeling that something is not right.

When feeling ready to implode with emotional or mental distress, it may be a good idea to consider meeting with a mental health counselor. Mental health counselors are trained professionals who will listen and offer advice, help improve self-esteem issues, encourage wholesome communication with others and support clients in developing a better quality of life and wellbeing.

Over the past few years, mental health public awareness has risen due to the increase in the need for support. Counselors who meet the requirements to practice in their respective states are vital to addressing the growing mental health crisis. In dense cities with high populations, such as New York, there is an even greater need for mental health support.

The role of a mental health counselor 

Every year, more people are diagnosed with mental health conditions, such as insomnia, eating disorders or substance abuse, to name a few. When diagnosed, even in mild cases, mental illnesses affect a person’s quality of life and their loved ones. Proper care, treatment and quality support are essential to recovery.

The counselor aims to guide and help patients to heal through methods such as talk therapy. They will ask general questions to get to know the patient, assess the situation to diagnose the condition and put together a treatment plan. They will ask about the patient’s lifestyle, friends, work and home environment alongside other questions relevant to the problem.

It’s important to feel comfortable with the counselor. An individual should not feel bad about choosing a different counselor if they are not satisfied or do not feel at ease with their current counselor. Trust is a vital component of the success of treatment. The trained expert’s approach to counseling sessions is important when they assess the patient’s needs and challenges.

Responsibilities of a mental health counselor 

A mental health counselor’s role is to provide guidance and help identify the causes of a particular mental condition. Their goal is to help patients improve their quality of life by overcoming negative emotions and critical thinking.

Mental health counselors are trained professionals who help people in specialized areas, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse

Becoming a clinical mental health counselor 

As the demand for counselors rises, scholars studying psychology may consider how to become a licensed mental health counselor in NY. Mental health counseling is a specialized field that requires a relevant master’s degree that can be earned after acquiring several years of supervised clinical working experience. One option to consider would be a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at a reputable institution such as St. Bonaventure. This program is designed to prepare you for the professional counselor exam by covering core areas such as advanced human growth and development.

General requirements to become a licensed mental health counselor in NY include:

  • An ethical and moral character
  • At least 21 years
  • Meet minimum education and experience requirements
  • Pay the license and registration fees
  • Pass the examination
  • Complete training and assignments identifying child abuse and reporting through a New York state-approved provider

Educational requirements to acquire a license to become a mental health counselor practitioner in NY:

  • Register with the New York State Education Department
  • Complete an accredited clinical mental health counseling program with 60 semester hours by the Commission on Accreditation of Counseling Related Education Programs (CACREP) or an acceptable accrediting agency that the Department has determined as a substantial equivalent of the registered or accredited program.

The Department will verify the required course content to assess whether the scholar completed a supervised internship as part of the degree program.

Mental health therapeutic techniques 

Many therapeutic communication techniques are offered for quality care in mental health and emotional support. For effective treatment, counselors master the necessary skills and techniques to assist those with different needs. Not all treatments will work for everyone. Counselors focus on the patient’s personal feelings and use those attributes to treat the underlying issues. However, over time, therapeutic techniques and treatments have become more advanced. Below are some of the types of therapy commonly used by mental health counselors:

Behavioral therapy

Behavioral therapy involves examining the patient’s life experiences, with the goal of understanding their behavior and guiding successful treatment. For instance, a child who grows up in a violent and abusive environment may show the same or similar tendencies in their actions later on in their life, resulting in negative consequences.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on the relationship between thoughts, emotions and behavior rather than examining the influence of actions. Talk therapy is a conversation approach to help identify and work through negative thoughts or feelings. If a patient can openly share their social anxiety, they can start developing a positive attitude toward their lives and develop new thought patterns to improve the quality of their life, such as relieving stress.

Thoughts create emotions, and those emotions drive behavior. This therapy is effective in identifying and correcting negative thoughts and influencing emotions to transform the thinking process into one that is more positive. A CBT counselor can help a patient with social anxiety by encouraging communication skills such as eye contact, listening, and interacting in therapeutic conversation.

Dialectical behavioral therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is similar to CBT, except it focuses on how emotions connect to thoughts and behavior instead of the way thoughts affect emotions. Therapy of this nature considers the concepts of acceptance and awareness, helping patients to let go of situations that are beyond their control.

DBT allows patients to accept unpleasant situations where they can learn to live peacefully with themselves. Communication techniques between the counselor and the patient can assist their daily living and form the basis of trust and a successful therapeutic bond.

Integrative therapy

Integrative theory combines the behavioral, cognitive and humanistic approaches. Professionals analyze patients’ mental health needs from several viewpoints, including age and life experiences, to help the counselor find the best treatment. It focuses more on helping patients gradually improve rather than finding a visionary cure.

Client-centered therapy

This is also known as person-centered therapy and is a humanistic therapy that rejects the idea that the counselor is in charge of the session. The patient is allowed to take control of the session, but the counselor will act as a guide, striving to help the patient understand their emotions and inner struggles. The non-directive approach allows the patient to explore their thoughts and emotions freely. This form of therapy values acceptance and empathy. It encourages the patient to dive into their desires, thought processes and emotions without the counselor’s input or direction.

Gestalt therapy

A humanistic form of therapy where the counselor expresses unconditional acceptance and displays empathy, encouraging the patient to remain focused on the present. The goal is for the patient to discover self-awareness and acceptance of their current reality. The counselor may act as a guide and not direct the conversation in a specific direction, allowing the patient to grow in their own time. They will heal and improve on their own without direct influence or interruption by the counselor.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a fairly new method of therapy designed to help patients who have post-traumatic stress disorder or a related issue. EMDR helps the patient cope with the trauma and abuse they experienced by lessening the distress embedded in their memory. The counselor will have the patient focus on external stimuli to prevent the brain from becoming overwhelmed, such as therapist-directed lateral eye movement, hand tapping or audio stimulation.

Prior to a therapy session, some tools can help improve overall wellbeing. Yoga is a popular form of relaxation and can have a calming effect. It can help calm those who battle with anxiety disorders, panic attacks and stress. A clear head and relaxed body will help with the next therapy session. Self-care is also an important part of therapy. Set time aside each day to relax, exercise or read a book.

Advantages of technology for mental health treatments

The use of technology to help treat mental health disorders holds impressive benefits. There has been rapid growth in the use of technologies to help counselors effectively assist patients irrespective of their location, disorder, accessibility and personalized treatments.

Mental health counselors can explore inventive ways to make use of technology to improve the outcome of treatment.

Easy access to mental health practitioners

Technology has made it easier for people to contact health practitioners without the hassle of a physical consultation. People who find traveling difficult or live miles away can remotely engage with a mental health counselor. This can be done through video conferencing, smartphones or online chat services. This is particularly advantageous for those who struggle with social anxiety or specific phobias.

Remote patient engagement 

Mental health apps have made it possible for patients to manage their condition and symptoms and track their progress. Communication with their healthcare practitioner has never been easier, thanks to the availability of smartphone apps. People may be embarrassed or shy and not want others to know about their condition, and this will enable them to participate in treatment from the privacy of their living room.

Personalized treatments

Each person has unique needs, and technology enables the counselor to personalize their treatment. Virtual reality makes it possible for therapy to be tailor-made to the patient’s condition and to provide an individualistic approach. Computer algorithms are used to analyze patient data and can monitor the patient’s symptoms and develop treatment plans.

The stigma of mental health therapy

Some patients may feel ashamed if others discover their mental health disorder, particularly disorders with phobias. Online support will empower patients to engage with their counselor confidentiality, and they have the option to join online support groups and talk to others with the same disorder — either anonymously or with their given name. This provides a safe and secure space for the patient to discuss their mental health disorder.

Different types of advanced technology

The internet is a world of information and is growing at a fast pace. Treatment has never been as accessible, and patients are more willing to reach out for professional help. Here are some of the types of advanced technology being used to support patients:

Teletherapy

Teletherapy effectively connects patients with mental health counselors, usually through video conferencing, social messaging or phone calls. Some popular methods include WhatsApp groups and texting.

Mobile applications

Mobile apps are one of the most successful methods of communication and engagement. This helps patients keep track of their mood, health, and coping mechanisms and contact their health counselor at any time. Smartphones have a variety of choices and provide easier access than a computer.

Virtual reality

 

Virtual reality (VR) technology can be used to create simulated environments that can improve a patient’s willingness to attend therapy sessions. The simulation can be created so the patient feels at ease in a controlled space that is relaxing and stress-free. It has helped treat conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a variety of anxiety disorders.

One of the many benefits of VR is that it provides exposure therapy that progressively exposes patients to the cause of their fear or anxiety. Patients can be exposed to stimuli that are difficult to replicate.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has transformed technology radically, and this, in turn, has transformed mental health treatments. Personalized data-driven treatment is a possible method for treatment depending on the mental condition or disorder.

AI can analyze patient data and personalize treatment based on real-time information. It can identify patients who may be at risk of suicide or someone in need of immediate assistance from a mental health counselor.

Although technology has proven to be helpful, and the potential is limitless, it cannot replace traditional therapy. Counselors should be mindful and make use of technology sparingly to ensure patients get the right help they need.

Mental health counselors are key to quality of life

The counseling process is similar to a learning experience, where an individual has a mental health problem with no knowledge of their condition. Symptoms will emerge until the individual decides they need professional help. With the assistance of a mental health counselor, the individual will benefit by gradually improving their situation with the right treatment.

People tend to deny they have a mental health need. When the problem worsens, the individual may accept they need help. Everyone has the right to feel healthy, happy and complete. Trained counselors are skilled in assisting people who need support and in helping them improve their quality of life.