The current era represents a pivotal moment in the mental health care industry, as society is increasingly recognizing the harmful consequences of unaddressed mental illness and emotional distress. Luckily, there are various treatments available to help minimize or even eliminate this damage. In response, healthcare providers, governmental officials and community organizations are coming together to raise awareness and reach out to individuals who require assistance.
As a result, clinical mental health counselors are playing a crucial role in these initiatives, and those with the appropriate qualifications are in a prime position to pursue this essential work.
What does a certified mental health counselor do?
Trained professionals provide clinical mental health counseling services to clients who seek help in addressing various issues that negatively impact their lives. These issues, as described by the American Psychological Association (APA), can be personal problems or concerns related to behavior, emotions, marriage, career, rehabilitation, education or life stages. Counseling services are offered to groups, families and individuals through government, mental health and social service agencies. Clinical mental health counseling involves clinical diagnosis and treatment and is a comprehensive approach to helping individuals improve their overall wellbeing.
Advantages of clinical mental health counseling
Qualified counselors have the ability to provide immense mental health benefits to their clients by drawing on their years of experience and professional training.
Clinical mental health counselors collaborate with support groups, psychiatrists, social workers and long-term treatment services to design and carry out comprehensive care plans that help people overcome the challenges they face. Counseling services can be applicable to a variety of areas, including those of a behavioral, emotional, marital, vocational, rehabilitative, educational or life-stage nature, according to the American Psychological Association.
Overall, clinical mental health counseling involves a range of services aimed at clinical diagnosis and treatment in the following areas:
• Tackling substance abuse
Clinical mental health counselors often work with clients who are dealing with substance abuse and behavioral disorders. Sometimes referred to as addiction counselors, these professionals provide guidance to clients on how to manage stress and overcome the challenges that can arise during recovery from long periods of debilitating substance abuse. The overall goal of these counselors is to help clients rebuild their self-confidence, repair personal relationships and regain control of their professional lives. Counselors in this field often work with vulnerable populations, such as teenagers, veterans and individuals with various physical disabilities.
• Marriage and family counseling
According to U.S. News & World Report, the role of a marriage and family counselor is one of the most complex tasks in the mental health field due to its multidimensional nature. This work involves immersing oneself in the midst of families who are undergoing or have undergone emotional or mental crises. Family and marriage counselors regularly interact with clients who have experienced various traumas, such as abuse, infidelity, grief, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
The objective of family and marriage counseling is to enable clients to talk about their experiences, express their feelings and help them adjust to challenging family situations such as divorce or financial problems. The primary focus of family counselors, according to the BLS, is to assist clients in processing their reactions and to provide them with coping strategies for dealing with life’s challenges and overcoming them.
• Helping to diagnose mental illness
While diagnosing physical illnesses typically involves relying on medical tests and studies, diagnosing clinical mental health conditions is a more intricate process that demands patience and greater attention to detail. This is because the diagnostic process for mental illnesses may require a monitoring and testing period to ensure that the condition is not related to an underlying medical issue. What’s more, the accuracy of these medical tests may require extended periods of time to ensure precision.
Health professionals often use specific criteria, such as symptoms, behaviors and feelings that patients must haveto meet an official diagnosis of a mental illness. After receiving a diagnosis from the counselor, the patient’s mental health team can create a treatment plan and provide the patient with information about the plan and potential risks involved.
• Helping patients deal with stress
Experiencing significant stressors can trigger a physiological overreaction that can make patients feel trapped and hopeless, feeling that they have no way to get out of feelings of depression. This reaction is caused by the release of hormones that accelerate the heart rate, increase breathing rates and promote blood flow. Prolonged activation of this stress response can weaken the immune system and increase the likelihood of physical and mental health issues.
To help manage the effects of stress, counselors recommend patients strengthen their relationships with loved ones, engage in regular exercise, eat a nutritious diet, get adequate rest and avoid drugs and alcohol. Additionally, counselors encourage patients to focus on positive thinking and eliminate negative thoughts. Clinical mental health counselors are skilled at incorporating cognitive therapy techniques into a comprehensive treatment plan that is easy for clients to follow.
Clinical mental health counseling certification can lead to a rewarding career
There has never been a more exciting time to pursue a career in the mental health profession, as the need for clinical mental health counselors continues to grow, and early outreach efforts and reduced stigma associated with mental health issues are leading to better mental health treatment outcomes.
The American International College’s mental health counseling degree online program provides an excellent foundation for a career as a clinical mental health counselor. The program’s integrated curriculum provides thorough training in theory, research and clinical skills, enabling graduates to become skilled and competent counselors.
With flexible enrollment options and online coursework, the program is an ideal choice for working professionals who want to study at their own pace without having to travel to a physical campus. The program’s field placement services are also invaluable, as they assist in locating internships and practicum sites, saving time and effort.
Whether enrolled full-time or part-time, the program’s CACREP-aligned curriculum ensures that graduates are well-prepared for licensure in most states.
Mental health counselors strive to improve their clients’ overall wellbeing by addressing their internal struggles and difficulties through various techniques. Talk therapy is a commonly used method in which counselors listen to their patients’ concerns and work collaboratively with them to find viable solutions.
The specific activities that a counselor undertakes on a daily basis will vary depending on factors such as their work setting and the patient population they serve. However, obtaining an online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling ensures that a counselor can efficiently identify the underlying issues affecting their patients and help them achieve their desired outcomes quickly.