A counselor is a masters level mental health professional in the field of personal counseling. The personal counselor holds sessions with clients, helping the individuals work through difficulties such as stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma. Counselors differ from psychiatrists on a number of points, the main one being that a psychiatrist is a practicing doctor, while a counselor cannot prescribe medication. Therefore, there are curriculum-based differences between the two fields of study. Instead of a medicine, counselors hold degrees in psychology, social work, or counseling.
Those who work in personal counseling services help clients realize behavioral patterns and, possibly, how to shift them. Much of this is based on working through conflicts to create stronger relationships. By talking together, the client and counselor brainstorm ways that the client can see his or her problems from a different perspective and discuss possible behavioral changes to overcome them. The result is a judgment-free environment where clients can openly discuss what is bothering them and where the counselor will support the clients through the process of self-discovery.
Anything shared between the counselor and client is confidential. However, the counselor has the duty to report certain information: if a client threatens to harm himself, if the counselor suspects child abuse, or if the clients records are subpoenaed for a court case.
Types of Services
Most counselors offer an array of personal counseling services. Yet each has individual specialties. There are personal counselors for nervous disorders, stress disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, children, married couples, college students, post-traumatic stress, etc. Finding a counselor is a delicate balance of choosing someone with the right expertise and someone with whom you feel comfortable discussing deeply private issues.
While meeting with a client individually is one option, some counselors recommend forms of group therapy. If a client has issues with a parent, a spouse, a child, or a friend, the counselor may suggest meeting with both parties together to help them resolve the blockage in their communication.
The most popular form of group therapy is marriage counseling, where the spouses meet with the counselor together to discuss and resolve issues within the marriage. Finding a marriage counselor may seem easy, as there are dozens of counselors listed in the average phone book. However, choosing the right counselor for you and your spouse is a delicate, and often time-consuming, process. Both parties must be comfortable with the counselor.
Will the husband feel judged if he opens up to a female counselor? Will the wife feel free to express her opinions with an older counselor? Does the couple want someone who will provide ample advice, or do they merely want someone to listen to their grievances? These and many more questions need to be addressed before you begin finding a marriage counselor who will successfully help both parties. It is best to interview several candidates before settling on the perfect match for everyone involved.
If the issues extend beyond the couple to include children, a family counselor may be needed. These counselors engage the family in family therapy activities, such as role playing, art projects, and journal sharing, which allow all family members to have a voice in the counseling process. For families with small children, family therapy activities are even more necessary, as young kids may not have the vocabulary to express their emotions or the confidence to voice concerns in front of their parents. It is best to seek out a family therapist who is experienced with children if you decided that including your entire family is necessary.
Attending therapy sessions no longer carries the stigma it once did. Personal counseling is a viable option when experiencing delicate struggles. Having a disinterested party who can provide techniques and activities for improving your lifestyle and relationships can only lead to self-discovery and fulfillment.