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What Is a Mental Health Counselor? Plus Where You Can Find One – Healthline

Posted: January 30, 2021 at 11:46 am


In the United States, nearly 1 in 5 adults live with a mental health condition, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, but only about half of them receive treatment.

Untreated mental health conditions can affect not just the mind but also the body, and interfere with relationships and work.

If you or a loved one are experiencing distressing emotions, thoughts, or behaviors and having trouble managing them, you might consider different treatment options, including mental health counseling.

Mental health counseling isnt a substitute for emergency services.

In the event of a mental health emergency like if youre thinking about harming yourself or someone else call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 800-273-8255.

Mental health counselors are licensed professionals who treat the cognitive, behavioral, and emotional aspects of mental health and substance use conditions. They work with individuals, families, couples, and groups in a variety of settings.

Mental health counselors use a variety of techniques to:

Mental health counselors are trained to do several things.

They talk to clients about their symptoms and discuss treatment options. In some states, licensed professional counselors have the authority to diagnose mental health conditions. Other states require a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist to make a diagnosis.

Mental health professionals provide psychotherapy to help clients:

Mental health counselors may specialize in different types of psychotherapy:

Mental health counselors can work alongside other types of medical providers including psychiatrists or primary care doctors to provide holistic treatment.

For example, many effective substance use disorder treatments involve a combination of medication and behavioral therapy.

Mental health counselors also work with clients to develop goals and a treatment plan. They can refer clients to other relevant healthcare providers or social services.

Mental health counselors and psychologists may provide similar services, like psychotherapy, but there are distinct differences in education, training, and licensure.

Licensing requirements vary from state to state, but in general, mental health counselors hold an accredited masters degree in counseling and have 2 to 3 years of supervised counseling practice.

Common professional designations include:

In some states, licensed counselors dont have the authority to diagnose mental health conditions.

Mental health counselors help treat several conditions, including:

How much you benefit from counseling may vary depending on the type and severity of the mental health condition, type of treatment, and treatment adherence.

Clinical psychologists hold a doctorate (PhD or PsyD), which involves several years of research and practice. They receive training in theory, research methods, and treatment, so they can pursue careers in academic research or clinical practice.

Psychiatrists attend medical school and obtain a doctor of medicine degree (MD). Therefore, psychiatrists are able to evaluate the influence of any physical health conditions on mental health and prescribe medication if needed.

A mental health counselor may refer you to a psychiatrist to treat the biological underpinnings of a mental health condition.

Yes. Heres some research backing up mental health counselings effectiveness:

There are several ways to find a mental healthcare provider near you.

You can ask your primary care doctor for a referral, do a general internet search for providers near you, or use one of the following resources:

Remember that professional counselor designations may include LPC, LMHC, LCADC, and LPCC. When looking for a counselor, here are a few things to consider:

If you or a loved one are in crisis and need immediate support, you are not alone. Help is available right now:

The symptoms of an untreated mental health condition can interfere with your day to day. If you or a loved one need support, reach out to a healthcare provider about treatment options and whether mental health counseling is right for you.

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What Is a Mental Health Counselor? Plus Where You Can Find One - Healthline

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