Maintaining sound mental health is crucial to our overall well-being. Our ability to make decisions, connect with others, and deal with pressure are all governed by our mental health. When a person’s mental and emotional balance is disrupted, it can lead to certain mental illnesses; that’s where a mental health counselor comes in.
A mental health counselor is a trained practitioner who employs a wide range of psychotherapeutic modalities to aid those who are emotionally or mentally troubled. The importance of mental health counselors cannot be understated: Nearly 50% of American adults will suffer from a mental health condition at some point in their lives, and around one-quarter of individuals in the United States are currently living with a mental health condition.
The increasing number of people experiencing mental health disorders has increased the need for trained experts who can provide diagnosis, treatment, and prevention measures. Clients who actively seek assistance are more likely to experience positive outcomes from mental health counseling. Counselors often engage with individuals, families, groups, and communities to address mental health concerns and promote better mental health.
Diagnosing and treating mental illnesses
Most diagnoses of physical illness can be made quickly and accurately with the help of medical testing and research. Diagnosing mental health conditions, however, can often be more complex.
This is because determining the cause of a mental health problem sometimes requires a period of observation and testing. These medical tests may need to be repeated over time to get an accurate diagnosis.
Medical practitioners often use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose mental health conditions. According to NAMI’s guidelines, patients must exhibit specific signs and symptoms for a professional to diagnose them with a mental disorder. After a diagnosis, the mental healthcare team can work with the patient and other clinical healthcare teams, such as doctors and nurses, to create a treatment plan for the individual.
Mental health counselors frequently work with patients who are struggling with issues related to drug misuse and behavioral disorders. Often referred to as “addiction counselors,” these medical experts help patients deal with the emotional and mental challenges they face during rehabilitation.
Mental health counselors work to restore a patient’s sense of self-worth, interpersonal connections, and professional standing. Crisis intervention is a subfield of addiction treatment that focuses on saving the client’s life or the lives of those around them. Counselors help those who are particularly vulnerable, such as adolescents, military veterans, and those with physical disabilities.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that addiction counselors meet with clients individually and in groups. They also utilize techniques developed by 12-step organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Addiction counselors also try to avoid relapse through open communication with patients.
Counselors may need to work with social workers to strategize and implement social care plans to ensure the well-being of a patient and help them rehabilitate from their addiction and back into a healthy lifestyle.
Helping patients with stress-related issues
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) acknowledges that some stress is beneficial for building resilience. However, they also advise those whose stress levels remain unmanageable to seek professional assistance.
According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America report, money and employment are two of the top stress concerns in the country. Sadly, in today’s world, these two stress triggers are an unavoidable aspect of daily existence.
Overreacting physiologically to acute levels of stress can trigger the release of hormones that quicken the heart rate. It may also increase the rate of breathing and blood flow. Over time, an excessive stress response can weaken the immune system and increase the likelihood of developing both physical and mental health problems.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is frequently used to treat patients with clinical mental illness. According to Healthline, CBT is meant to alter maladaptive coping mechanisms and strengthen healthy ones. Patients receiving CBT are counseled to identify and address the root causes of their stress and cultivate positive relationships with loved ones. They are also advised to engage in regular physical activity, eat a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, and abstain from drugs and alcohol.
Managing family crisis
Marriage and family counselors have one of the most complex jobs in the mental health industry. The role requires putting oneself in the midst of families where members have undergone or are enduring an emotional or mental crisis. Counselors who specialize in this sector see patients who are healing from mental health issues, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, on a regular basis.
Marital and family counseling aims to provide a safe space for clients to talk about their experiences and feelings. They also get support as they work through the challenges of coping with issues such as separation or loss of income.
A family counselor’s primary responsibilities are to assist clients in making sense of their feelings and providing tools for adapting to and overcoming changes and difficulties in their personal lives. With the help of social workers, counselors may need to implement care responsibilities for any children involved and provide other forms of practical assistance, such as helping with housing solutions.
Helping the elderly manage their mental health
There has been an uptick in the demand for the services of mental health experts who focus on treating elderly individuals. This could be associated with the breaking down of the social stigma attached to seeking help for emotional or mental health issues.
According to WebMD, there are around six million adults over the age of 65 living in the United States who are depressed. The deteriorating mental health of the elderly is exacerbated by factors such as relocation, financial constraints, and the presence of persistent physical illness.
With many elderly patients already under social and healthcare care plans, other healthcare professionals, such as social workers or physiotherapists, may notice mental health issues and bring in a counselor to diagnose and treat them.
Helping sufferers of abuse
Counselors work with social care and crisis teams that aid people suffering from abuse. A person who may be in a domestic abuse shelter might access a counselor who can help them overcome the trauma and mental issues caused by abuse.
After suffering abuse or emotional distress, a person may attribute it to themselves. A victim of domestic violence may rationalize the abuse by saying that they deserve to be treated harshly. A therapist or counselor might work with such a patient to identify the disrespectful behavior of the spouse as the root cause of the distress.
Working in a clinical healthcare team
When it comes to providing treatment for patients, interdisciplinary teams are a crucial part of the healthcare system. Teamwork in health care is described as the cooperative effort of two or more individuals toward a shared objective. With the help of a leader who ensures continuity while fostering open communication, they come together to solve problems creatively.
Researchers recommend integrating services from several health providers to treat underserved individuals and areas with inadequate health care effectively. By working together toward a similar objective, the conventional responsibilities of healthcare providers are broadened.
Meetings and other forms of communication are also useful for discussing patient outcomes, sharing data, and debating ways to enhance performance. Care for patients in a decentralized health system with several health workers at different levels requires a high degree of teamwork and coordination.
A healthcare team may consist of a wide range of specialists, each of whom brings unique skills and expertise to the table. These interdisciplinary groups work together to find effective treatments for medical issues.
When caring for a patient, it’s important for the care team to ask pertinent questions, conduct an initial evaluation, and come to a consensus on a course of action. Teams can also work together to create illness prevention and health promotion programs.
The importance of teamwork
Teamwork is becoming increasingly important in healthcare settings. Clinical treatments are becoming more and more complex and specialized, making it necessary for medical staff to cooperate to overcome new challenges.
The rise of chronic illnesses has compelled medical professionals to adopt a more complete, interdisciplinary approach to patient treatment. Managing patients with numerous health issues is a common challenge for medical teams in developed nations such as the United States.
Providing more people with easy access to medical care is a priority in every nation. In Brazil, for example, medical teams receive extensive preparation to meet their patients’ cultural and community demands.
Studies have shown that teamwork improves patient safety by decreasing the incidence of medical mistakes. Having fewer causes of burnout is another benefit of working in a team. Today, healthcare is coordinated not by a single individual but by a group of professionals working together to provide the best possible outcome for each patient. By reducing bureaucracy and centralization, health teams allow individual healthcare providers to gain greater influence.
Finally, since effective communication is at the heart of collaboration, patients who are treated in localized healthcare settings in which teamwork is used effectively often report feeling more at ease, are more accepting of treatments, and are more likely to be happy with their care. As a result, health professionals report higher levels of job satisfaction.
Mental health counselors in healthcare teams
Many mental health counselors frequently collaborate with professionals from other fields. For this reason, they must master the intricate dynamics of teamwork without losing sight of their client’s needs at any time. When providing a service, interdisciplinary situations necessitate the participation of experts and non-professionals from several fields working together.
Mental health counselors often consult and collaborate with medical practitioners to ensure their clients receive the best possible care and therapy. They may also collaborate with teachers and other mental health counselors. Mental health counselors can help shape policies and practices that directly impact their client’s well-being. A mental health counselor may also choose to visit patients in a group environment, where they can get support from their peers in addition to professional help.
Learning the benefits of teamwork in medical school
Preservice educators today recognize the need to emphasize teamwork and team training. Learning collaboration within the framework of the medical curriculum will make students more equipped for the challenges faced when working in the real world. A clinical mental health counseling master’s online course, such as that offered by St Bonaventure University, develops this team training through clinical practice and prepares students for a professional career in counseling whilst also offering flexibility around schedules with the option for online learning.
Students benefit greatly from learning the foundations of collaboration and collaborative care, especially in settings where social and health problems are common. For example, in India, nurses caring for people infected with HIV are educated to provide a range of services, including counseling, laboratory work, and community outreach.
The World Health Organization encourages the rapid incorporation of cooperation ideas into classroom instruction. Many programs emphasize problem-based learning, which encourages students to collaborate, share knowledge, and find solutions to clinical problems as a group.
Mental health counselors work hard to ensure their patient’s care and mental well-being are being properly diagnosed and treated. Ensuring an interdisciplinary approach to patient care is followed by counselors is paramount in providing the best health outcomes. Whether it be family crises, abuse, addiction, or depression, counselors seek the best treatments alongside other healthcare teams and social workers to ensure treatment plans are thoroughly constructed and implemented to help the patient through their recovery and back into a better life.