Does Mental Health Counseling Really Work?

mental health counseling

In a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mental illnesses constitute a huge proportion of disability in developed countries than any other group of diseases, including heart disease and cancer. In the United States, around one in five adults struggle with a mental illness, and around one in two adults will have at least one mental illness during their lifetime.

There is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental illnesses despite developments in approaches and treatments. However, one must be more open to discussing personal health. Such examples are engaging in mental health therapy or mental health counseling.


What is the process of mental health counseling?

Mental health counseling is a person-centered approach to psychotherapy. It is also commonly referred to as clinical mental health counseling as it uses effective techniques based on sound research. It is a formal partnership between a patient/client and mental health professional with its main focus on strength and wellness, regardless of clinical pathology. This means that this approach focuses more on personal development, such as coping abilities, rather than curing some kind of mental illness.

According to the American Mental Health Counselors Journal, this treatment approach is an interdisciplinary, holistic process of promoting healthy lifestyles, identifying individual stressors and personal levels of functioning, and preserving or restoring mental health. Since this approach is an interdisciplinary process, a mental health counselor closely works with health professionals such as psychiatrists, social workers, support groups, and other long-term treatment services.

What happens in mental health counseling?

Mental health therapy usually discusses the patient’s background and the issues that led them to seek professional help. After this, counselors make a primary assessment, and they will then discuss with the patient and agree on the details of the treatment, such as schedule, place, duration, goals, etc. Some of the things to expect from this counseling are: 

  • assessing and diagnosing patients that are experiencing symptoms of mental distress
  • talking to clients about their experiences, emotions, and thoughts
  • overseeing  group sessions with families
  • working with patients in setting their goals and developing a strategic treatment plan according to their needs
  • striving to work with patients in updating and adjusting treatment based on insights gained through the current plan
  • working with clients in identifying situations, behaviors, and thoughts that interfere with their daily functioning, wellness, and recovery
  • investigating and examining issues that may influence a client’s mental health like peer pressure, bullying, substance use, bias or prejudice, work-related stress, financial challenges, health issues, and others
  • referring clients to health professionals and specialists and other accessible resources and institutions that will help in maintaining or restoring the patients’ mental health, such as social services and support groups 

Individuals experiencing mental illnesses like depression and anxiety may opt to see a mental health counselor for counseling and therapy services. Additionally, mental health counselors can help individuals who are struggling socially and emotionally and those who are wrestling with addiction and substance abuse, grief, self-esteem issues, and even familial and marital challenges.

Why is cognitive-behavioral therapy effective?

There are a lot of approaches to clinical mental health counseling to achieve not just a healthy mental state but also overall wellness. One of them is Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. It is a type of psychological treatment that proves to be effective for a range of issues such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, marital problems, eating disorders, and other severe mental illnesses. CBT is based on several principles, which include:

  1. Psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking.
  2. Psychological problems are based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.
  3. People suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them, thereby relieving their symptoms and becoming more effective in their lives.

This treatment usually dwells on changing the problematic thinking patterns, which eventually affect behaviors toward certain situations or stimuli. Here are some of the strategies listed by the APA that is used in this type of therapy:

  • Learning to recognize one’s distortions in thinking that are creating problems and then to reevaluate them in light of reality
  • Gaining a better understanding of the behavior and motivation of others
  • Using problem-solving skills to cope with difficult situations
  • Learning to develop a greater sense of confidence is one of an individual’s own abilities

Capabilities of CBT

Some of the concrete techniques used in CBT may include learning to calm the individual’s mind and body, facing fears instead of avoiding them, and using role-playing in preparation for possibly problematic interactions with other people or situations.

Overall, cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses more on the present situations of the patient’s life rather than investigating the past events and experiences that caused the current struggles. This approach empowers individuals to be their own therapists by developing healthy and effective coping abilities to achieve and even improve daily functionality, eventually leading to a better quality of life.

It is important to note that cognitive-behavioral therapy has a basis on research and clinical practice and has supporting scientific evidence. An ample amount of studies suggest that cognitive-behavioral therapy leads to significant improvement in a patient’s day-to-day functioning and overall quality of life. Moreover, various research pointed that CBT is as effective as, or even more effective than, other existing forms of psychiatric medications. 


Does mental health counseling work?

Since psychotherapy is often referred to as ‘talk therapy,’ its effectiveness is often questioned. There is one early and frequently cited study where researchers found that two-thirds of participants either improved or recovered on their own within two years, regardless of whether they had received therapy. However, in numerous further researchers, it was found that talk therapy can improve and supplement the overall wellness of clients. Some studies even cite the importance of having this type of service in institutions like schools and universities, as this helps maintain and improve the mental health of their constituents. It all boils down to the good relationship between the counselors and the clients. 

Apart from the good partnership for a fruitful therapy, APA also listed the three key factors that increase the likelihood of this treatment to be helpful and effective:

  • Qualified and duly licensed psychotherapists are trained professionals with specialized education and experience in understanding psychological problems.
  • Psychotherapy focuses entirely on the patient’s welfare, focused solely on the patient’s needs for symptom relief, problem solutions, or lifestyle changes.
  • It also involves a formal commitment to meet regularly at a designated time, talks just about the patient’s concerns, and continues meeting as long as it serves the patient’s best interests.

Many psychotherapy approaches prove to be effective in addressing various issues. Some of them are:

  • Diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses
  • Marriage and family issues
  • Coping with stressful events or situations
  • Tackling mental health needs of the elderly
  • Handling


Does therapy really work?

Various types of such therapy have been proven to help people on their road to their own well-being, address difficulties of daily living, and reshape thinking and behavior patterns in effective and helpful ways. A skilled counselor recommends a treatment approach that will fit the patient’s particular needs and issues. Then, they adapt and modify their procedures to suit the patient’s situation, personality, and other factors affecting the effectiveness of the approach. Is mental health therapy based on pseudoscience?

Although clinical mental health counseling is a relatively new approach to treating mental distress, it is based on evidence and scientific knowledge. It is through research and clinical practice that this approach continues to flourish and advance. 

Having said this, mental health therapy’s success will still rely on the partnership of the mental health professional and the client, as with any treatment. This is why it is vital to find a mental health counselor that a patient/client can connect and be comfortable with. Having a collaborative and purposeful working relationship will immensely help in getting a better understanding of the problem to develop a treatment strategy fit for the patient’s needs to improve and even restore their mental health and overall well-being.

Counseling saves and restores lives. If you or someone you know is looking for some of the best mental health counseling programs, we highly encourage you to get in touch with us at Roots Through Recovery in Long Beach, California. A Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy session may also be a mental health treatment option that you or your loved one can take. We want you to have choices that will give you the best outcomes. Feel free to contact us on 866-766-8776 for any of your questions and immediate concerns. We are here to help.

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