Counseling is a type of treatment that is focused on helping individuals with mental, behavioral, or general life concerns.
The counseling process is focused on learning about yourself and acquiring new skills to help improve your life. Being mentally healthy has a lot of benefits, and treatment can help you get there. If you need help with mental health or any other areas of your life, attending counseling sessions can greatly help your coping skills and overall well-being.
The terms counseling and therapy are often used interchangeably. However, both terms refer to the professional relationship between a counselor and client to collaboratively create goals and improve problem areas in the client’s life.1
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Counseling is a process of using various therapeutic techniques to help people:
Part of the process is about meeting with a counselor to determine problem areas, identify goals, and develop skills to help meet those goals. There are many areas that can be addressed during the therapy, including:
Each therapy process is different for each individual, but all forms of therapy should help you to identify your goals and work on the appropriate steps to get you to reach those goals.2
There are generally four types of counseling that can occur depending on the need of the person seeking therapy.
Individual therapy is a one-on-one type of treatment that involves only the individual and the therapist. The purpose of this treatment is to provide the individual with the opportunity to receive personal support and experience growth during a challenging time. The focus of these sessions will be on the individual, their goals, and addressing any problem areas or challenges.
Group therapy involves two or more people, along with the therapist, who may be experiencing similar issues. The purpose of group therapy is for the people in the group to come together to resolve challenges or issues. Group therapy also offers people the opportunity to see they are not alone and learn ways to support themselves as well as each other.3
Group therapy can help people who are struggling with:
Though there are many benefits to receiving therapy in a group setting, there are some disadvantages as well. Some of the downsides to a group setting may be that a person does not get the same amount of individual attention as individual therapy.
Also, although steps are taken to protect everyone’s confidentiality in group therapy, a therapist cannot guarantee all members will maintain confidentiality. This may make people more reluctant to share in a group setting.
Family counseling is a type of therapy that involves working with the family unit to help an individual in the family resolve specific issues. Family therapy may also be used to improve relationships between family members. The purpose of this treatment is to focus on helping family members improve communication and resolve conflict.4
Family therapy is a way to improve the support an individual family member may need to handle challenges. This type of treatment is often used to help with:
This type of treatment may be sought after a life change or stressor that is affecting the family structure or communication style.
Couples or marriage counseling is a type of therapy focused on helping an individual and their partner improve their relationship. Couples therapy can be used to help any stage of a relationship regardless of age, marital status, sexual orientation, race, or faith.5
The purpose of couples therapy is to assist partners in reconnecting in their relationship and learning new ways to communicate. This type of therapy can be used for any relationship issues, from basic concerns of stagnation to serious aggressive behaviors.
Not only are there different forms of counseling, but there are also many different approaches that can be used in therapy. There are an increasing variety of therapeutic approaches that can be used based on a therapist’s training and focus, as well as the needs and goals of the individual, family, or couple. These approaches tend to fall into five broad categories.
This type of approach is often associated with Sigmund Freud. The focus of psychodynamic approaches is on changing problematic thoughts, feelings, and behaviors by uncovering their unconscious meanings and motivations.6
These types of approaches emphasize the individual’s capacity to make rational choices and develop their greatest potential. Humanistic approaches also emphasize looking at the whole person and their uniqueness. The three main types of humanistic therapy are:7
Behavioral counseling focuses on observable behaviors rather than thoughts and feelings. It centers on how learning can contribute to the development of both normal and abnormal behaviors. The behavioral approaches to therapy often focus on the use of conditioning and predicting behavior with the use of stimulus and response association.8
Some common types of behavioral treatment include:
Cognitive therapy emphasizes how people think rather than their behaviors. The belief in this type of approach is that dysfunctional thinking leads to dysfunctional emotions. By changing their thoughts, people can change how they think and behave.
One of the most common types of this type of therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on thoughts and behaviors, as well as how challenging negative thinking patterns can improve emotions and behaviors.10
Many therapists do not stick to one approach. They often will use various approaches and techniques to address the individual needs of the client. They may also incorporate more holistic approaches, such as meditation and mindfulness, as an addition to other therapy.
Seeking help from a mental health expert is something that should be considered for those who are:
Regardless of the reasons, counseling can have benefits for all people. According to the American Psychological Association, 75% of people who enter therapy show some benefit. This means that for the majority of individuals, there is some positive in engaging in treatment.11
Therapy is a great way to manage mental health. It provides opportunities to develop coping skills and address any issues or concerns that are happening in life. Seeing a therapist can help reduce problems in the short-term but can also have a more lasting effect on your life, even after stopping therapy. The other major benefits of counseling include:
One of the biggest benefits to therapy is learning and developing ways to cope. Working with a therapist helps to manage stress and address difficult parts of everyday life. Learning and using coping skills can improve functioning as well.
Therapy can help build and improve support systems. This can be done by improving communication and building stronger relationships. Support is one of the most important things to have when experiencing mental health concerns or dealing with life difficulties. The benefits of improving social support include:
Struggling with any issues can be difficult to do alone, but therapy can help you gain healthy support systems.
Another main benefit to mental health services is the reduction of symptoms. Those who attend therapy are more likely to have improved mental health over the long term. People who attend therapy also have a greater reduction in symptoms for longer periods of time than those who don’t. The benefit is to assist in reducing symptoms of:12
There are many other conditions that therapy can help with as well.
Not only does treatment improve mental health, but it is also associated with improving physical health and well-being. Mental health and physical health are very connected. When someone is physically unwell, they are more likely to experience mental health concerns. Of people with severe symptoms of mental health problems, 37.6% also have long-term physical conditions.13
This means that improving mental health with treatment may also have the added benefit of improving physical health.
Attending mental health treatment can help improve self-esteem, confidence, and empowerment. A therapist can help you to recognize and reduce negative self-talk that is affecting confidence and self-esteem. You will also learn how to use self-compassion and set goals, thereby improving confidence as well.
Since mental health and behavioral problems are the primary drivers of disability worldwide, anybody could benefit from treatment. For example, globally, it is estimated that 5% of adults suffer from depression.13
Therapy is often stigmatized and seen as only for those who have severe mental health problems. But that is not true. Anyone looking to make improvements, develop healthier relationships, and increase well-being can benefit from therapy.
Therapy is a great way for anyone to engage in self-exploration to gain self-awareness and gain perspective. This makes it beneficial for anyone. But those struggling may find the biggest benefits in these services. Those who could benefit from treatment may include:
Therapy is a guided conversation by the therapist who works with you to find out what concerns or issues you’d like to address and what goals you would like to achieve from the therapy. These sessions are often between 45 to 90 minutes long and can be anywhere from once a week to once a month.
You, the counselor, and the insurance company often determine the length and frequency of the sessions. The format of the sessions may also determine the length, as group sessions can sometimes occur longer than individual or family sessions.
Starting out, the therapist will either ask you questions or have you fill out a form providing information on your history and concerns that you may be experiencing. The first few sessions are usually used for getting to know you and understanding what brought you to therapy.
From there, you and the therapist will work together to develop a treatment plan that will include the goals you want to work on.
Showing up to therapy is the first step, but there are some other things that you can do to make the most out of the sessions. This includes:
Don’t settle for any therapist. Make sure the therapist is right for you. This could mean researching specialties and qualifications. It might also mean attending some sessions with different therapists until you find one who you are comfortable with and fits your needs.
When you’re in the session, you don’t want to be concerned about things like fees and insurance. Make sure you get any issues or payments squared away before attending therapy.
Many people believe the therapist is there to fix all of their problems. However, therapy is a collaborative effort. The therapist may be the guide, but you’re the one who carries the responsibility of doing the hard work to make the changes.
Therapy is about being open and honest. It is the place to talk about anything difficult that you may be experiencing. It may be hard, but verbalizing your struggles is beneficial for the process.14
Sometimes, it may be difficult to notice change in counseling. This can affect the therapy process because you can become discouraged if you believe you are not seeing change. Work with the therapist to agree on indicators for change and celebrate when you reach them.
The counseling process does not stop when you leave the therapist’s office. To get the most benefit, it is important to do any homework assigned to you and to practice what you learned in the session, outside of the session as well.
Counseling is a safe space, so it is important to protect it. Sometimes, well-meaning family and friends may ask what you’re talking about or doing in therapy. You are not obligated to answer if you are not comfortable doing so.
At Horizon Services, our mission is to help you discover an improved sense of wellness. We provide a wide range of services for a variety of mental health conditions, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Our goal is to provide comprehensive support for those struggling with mental health conditions while also offering support to families and loved ones.
The compassionate counseling staff at Horizon Services consists of a team of psychotherapists, registered addiction specialists, psychiatrists, and registered dietitians that are here to provide you with the support to get the most out of your treatment. We will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan.
We treat a variety of issues using comprehensive, evidence-based approaches. If you or someone you love is in need of counseling services, Horizon Services can help. Contact us today to find the right treatment for you and make sure you’re getting the help and counseling care you need.