Is Your Mental Health Counselor a Good Fit for You?
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one in five U.S. adults—around 51.5 million people—experiences some form of mental or psychological illness each year.1 That staggering statistic reveals the common and widespread nature of mental illness, as well the need for medical health counseling among large groups of the population. For people dealing with issues such as addictive or destructive behaviors, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, or other mental health conditions, seeking treatment from a mental health counselor may provide significant relief. Through various forms of therapy, counselors help people face and work through their problems.
If you have experienced mental or psychological issues and have seen a mental health counselor, you may be wondering if the treatment is a good fit for you. One way to consider the success of your treatment is to look at the mental health counselors themselves, as well as the manner of their treatment. Counselors and their methods are not all the same, and some may have better success in certain situations or with certain people. To figure out if your mental health counselor is a good fit for you, consider these five questions:
- Is your counselor listening?
You may assume your mental health counselor is a good listener, but some counselors listen better than others. Like the rest of a counselor’s training, listening skills are gained through years of study, experience, and practice. A good listener will not just wait passively as you speak. They will show nonverbal signs of interest such as head and hand gestures, an attentive posture, and maintaining eye contact. Mental health counselors will also demonstrate they are listening by clarifying, reflecting, or summarizing what you have just told them.
- Are you listening?
While your licensed clinical mental health counselor is listening, you should be too. If a counselor is a good communicator, listening will often be effortless for the patient. A counselor’s words should be engaging but also easily understood. And remember, the therapist is trying to help you, perhaps to educate and heal you. Their words are not solely meant to elicit responses from you, but they should make you think and maybe provoke you to learn and grow and improve. The give-and-take of a helpful discussion requires both parties to listen—and thus communicate—well.
- Is the counselor on your side?
As your therapist keeps a professional and objective distance, they should also work to build what is called a therapeutic alliance. This is a cooperative working relationship between the client and mental health counselor. The therapist should create a trusting bond with the patient, allowing for honest discourse and understanding. The patient should feel comfortable enough to share uncomfortable thoughts. A mental health counselor cannot be your best friend, but they can be your comforting ally as they guide you toward positive solutions.
- Is your counselor willing to learn?
As a patient, you should be open to learning and expanding your understanding, but your mental health counselor should be too. Your therapist may be expert in a particular situation, but they should also be willing to admit when they don’t have an answer—or when a certain treatment isn’t working—and be ready to learn more themselves. A patient may empathize and feel more comfortable with a therapist who understands their own shortcomings and actively works to overcome them. A mental health counselor who is constantly expanding their professional knowledge is one who may be better qualified to help you.
- Is the therapy working?
The last question to ask yourself about therapy may be the most obvious: Is it working? As the patient, you are visiting the mental health counselor to resolve certain issues, problems, or particular mental health symptoms. If the counseling is working, you may notice the beginning of meaningful change, a steady improvement in your personal condition. You may realize on your own that the therapy is working, or the mental health counselor may point it out for you. If the counseling is a good fit for you, it should produce positive results.
Be an Advocate for Mental Health in Your Community: Become a Mental Health Counselor
If you are intrigued by these five questions and are curious to see things from a therapist’s perspective, then a career in mental health counseling could be a great path for you. When considering educational opportunities, you’ll see the time and dedication that is required to become a mental health counselor. For many people, it may not be possible to drop everything to attend full-time classes. Online learning, however, opens doors to education when and where you have the time to open them.
Walden University, a leader in distance education for more than 50 years, offers an online MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program that can help prepare you to work in a variety of settings that include private practice, schools and community colleges, healthcare and social service agencies, nonprofit organizations, and government. One of the largest of its kind in the United States,2 Walden’s master’s program in clinical mental health counseling is designed to help you become the competent, compassionate counselor you aspire to be. Practice your skills in virtual simulations and hands-on field experiences as you engage with a diverse community of faculty and peers. Graduate from your program feeling confident, inspired, and ready to help your clients lead happier, more productive lives. An MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling academically prepares students to seek state licensure or certification as a professional mental health counselor.
Bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD: Walden designs its online degree programs so you can earn a degree while continuing to work and enjoy your life. The accredited university’s flexible online learning platform lets you engage in your studies on your own schedule, wherever you have an internet connection.
Bring your life experience and thirst for knowledge to Walden and find the online degree program that prepares you to step into your chosen career in mental health counseling and make a difference through your life’s work.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
2Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Based on the most recent year of completions survey data available, using CIP code 51.1508 “Master’s degree - Mental Health Counseling/Counselor.” Available at https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/use-the-data. (Retrieved May 2021; may consist of or include provisional release data.)
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
Walden University’s MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CACREP accreditation is a requirement for licensure in many states.
Note on licensure: The MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is designed to prepare graduates to qualify to sit for licensing exams and to meet the academic licensure requirements of many state counseling boards. Because no graduate program can guarantee licensure upon graduation, we encourage students to consult the appropriate agency to determine specific requirements. For more information about licensure, students should visit the National Board for Certified Counselors at www.nbcc.org/search/stateboarddirectory and/or the American Association of State Counseling Boards at www.aascb.org, and contact the appropriate licensing body. Learn more about professional licensure.
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