There are several factors that make counseling unique from other ways of seeking help. I love that there are many avenues of help for someone seeking mental health treatment. Growing up, I don’t ever remember hearing anyone talk about depression, anxiety, trauma, or any other mental health concern. Now that we are talking more about our mental health, it’s important to know about the different types of treatment available. Let’s talk about some ways that people seek help so you can decide if you need counseling to address your specific mental health concerns.
I read ______ book, do I still need counseling?
There are an abundance of self-help books available on the market today! Any type of concern or question you have, there are probably hundreds of books out there that can help. Reading self-help books is considered psychoeducation. Psychoeducation is any type of informational learning about mental health concerns, treatments, and diagnoses.
Psychoeducation is an important aspect of counseling. All the time I give clients information, materials, and book recommendations as part of their treatment. Psychoeducation or reading a self-help book alone is not going to provide the same care as meeting with a counselor. Counseling is all about the personal relationship between a client and a counselor. That counselor tailors treatment to meet your specific needs. A book cannot do that.
Counseling is all about the personal relationship between a client and a counselor.
I follow ______ on Instagram, do I still need counseling?
There are so many incredible and skilled counselors and therapists that I follow on Instagram also! They may be a counselor, but they are not YOUR counselor. Following them on Instagram will not replace personal counseling. The material they provide on social media is considered psychoeducation as they are providing information and education about mental health.
They may be a counselor, but they are not YOUR counselor.
I have great friends and supportive family, do I still need counseling?
That is wonderful! There are a lot of people who do not have friends or supportive family, so I am happy that you have a great support system. Friendships and family relationships are considered two-way relationships. There is care and information shared between both parties freely. The relationship is not focused more on one person or the other.
Counseling is considered a one-way relationship. You go to counseling to talk about yourself and your needs. Many times you will know very little, if any, information about your counselor’s personal life. In counseling, you do not share information freely between both parties as you would in a relationship with a friend or family member. You are there to receive a service (counseling) that the counselor is providing.
I have the wisest mentor, how is counseling different?
Most people also do not have a wise mentor, so that is great! Many, but not all, mentor relationships have the dynamic of a two-way relationship where you are freely hearing about the mentor’s life and you both know each other well. Many mentor relationships happen naturally within your community by reaching out to someone who you want to teach you something, guide you toward a goal, or just walk alongside you at your current phase of life. Many informal mentor relationships have not agreed that you are going to keep information shared confidential. Mentoring can happen in many informal settings, such as a person’s home or a coffee shop.
I think mentoring is wonderful, but counseling is different. Counseling is confidential*, takes place in more formal settings, like an office, and your counselor follows a specific treatment plan guided by a counseling theory to help you reach your goals.
How is counseling different from psychiatry, medical care, or psychology?
A psychiatrist is someone who prescribes mental health medication. They do this by diagnosing and treating your mental health diagnosis. A counselor also diagnoses and treats mental health conditions. A counselor cannot prescribe medication. A psychiatrist has been through medical school, medical residency, has a doctorate degree and a medical license. A counselor has a master’s degree and a state license for counseling or social work.
Many medical doctors, including general practitioners, prescribe medication for mental health diagnoses. Most do not have time to talk through your symptoms or develop a treatment plan besides the medication treatment. They will continue to check in with you to see how the medication is working, but many are limited to 15-30 minute visits every few weeks or longer. Counseling generally takes place in 45-60 minute meetings every week or every two weeks.
Psychologists have a doctorate degree. They have special training in running diagnostic tests, along with the further education of that doctorate degree. Psychologists generally cannot prescribe medication. In some states psychologists with extended education in medication management can prescribe medication. At this time, Nebraska is not one of those states.
Side note: I fully support people taking medication to address mental health care needs. I have seen it work wonders in people’s lives. I recommend clients meet with a doctor to discuss medication if their symptoms are impacting their daily functioning. Please go to your doctor and have regular check-ups as well.
Do I need counseling?
Ultimately, that is up to you to determine. If it feels like something is holding you back, counseling may help you figure out what changes you need to make in your life to live more freely and confidently.
Counseling has the formality of setting specific goals to meet your particular needs. A counselor follows a code of ethics, specific theories of treatment they follow, and ensures that the time in session is focused on you and your needs. Continue reading your books, following helpful social media accounts, be in relationships with friends, family members, and mentors, and take your medications as directed by your doctor. If you think you need another type of care, counseling may be able to help you reach your mental health care goals.
If this post resonates with you and you want to see if I would be a good fit counselor to meet with you, please contact me today.
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*Similar to any healthcare provider, there are always exceptions to confidentiality, like if someone says they are going to hurt themselves, hurt someone else, or if abuse or neglect of a child or vulnerable adult is disclosed, etc. In those cases, other professionals, such as law enforcement, need to be notified in order to protect the client or others. Your counselor will always tell you what the limits are to confidentiality.