Research tells us that some counselling techniques are equal or better than medication; others are not.
The big question is “how” does counselling work? How can a weekly discussion at a counsellor’s or psychologist’s office help with treating serious conditions like depression, trauma, anxiety and grief?
In my role of providing training to psychologists and counsellors, there is a combination of “what” type of counselling works best and “how” the therapist provides the counselling.
What types of Counselling work best?
If you have heard of IPT or CBT then these are types of counselling that are brief (under 12 sessions) and effective for the majority of mental health conditions. In both types of counselling, the content of the counselling will involve:
- Sharing about events that have caused distress. These events then form the basis of a discussion around “how” to approach things differently.
- Sharing specific examples of thoughts and communications during stressful events, and the the provision of new ways to think or communicate.
- Working with what is wrong now, rather than what has been wrong in the distant past.
- Information on health behaviours can reduce distress. Poor eating habits, drinking alcohol or staying up at night on the computer are examples of behaviours that cannot be “fixed” by medication, but through different personal choices. Sometimes implementing health behaviours can drastically affect mood and resolve things much more quickly than medication.
There are hundreds of variations of evidence-based counselling strategies. Not all strategies are effective all the time, and not all conditions can be treated by counselling. Long term depression which has lasted longer than 2 years, for example, is a type of depression that would be better treated initially by medication than by counselling alone.
How Does Counselling Work to Help?
- The decision to visit a psychologist helps, even before you attend the first session. Merely the act of planning to attend causes the mind to problem solve and improve things.
- Talking for an hour about challenging things can stimulate the mind and release neurotransmitters that improve positive feelings. This is particularly useful for those that are feeling alone or isolated.
- Many clients will share the feeling that being understood is important. Sharing deeply about your life can help by feeling that therapist resonates with your world view and provides emotional support for situation or decisions. This works well when individuals have few supports that are similar to them, or share their world view.
- The expectations of change is high when people attend counselling. Just believing that you will gain insight, and trusting the person you see for counselling, can have a profound effect on what you get from your counselling experience.
If you are keen to find out more about whether counselling would help you or someone you care about, please read through our website. Or book an appointment so that I can meet you and discuss your needs.
Author: Vivian Jarrett, B Psych (hons), MAPS, MAICD.
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