Counselling is therapy that can help you cope with personal, psycological and emotional issues, or mental health conditions, by talking through them.
A qualified therapist will encourage you to talk freely about your feelings and emotions without judgement. The role of the counsellor is not to give advice but rather to help you understand your own thought processes and feelings better and to equip you to find your own solutions to problems.
Counselling often involves talking about very sensitive issues and revealing personal thoughts and feelings. It is, therefore, vital to see a reputable and accredited therapist who is registered with a professional organisation.
You may also be able to access free counselling services through various charities and voluntary organisations. These organisations usually specialise in a particular area, such as couples counselling or bereavement counselling.
Mental Health Conditions
In some cases, counselling alone may be sufficient to address mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder, or helping you deal with difficult life events, such as bereavement or a physical illness such as cancer.
In other cases, a combination of therapy and medication may be needed to address more complex mental health issues such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. In such cases it would be necessary to see a doctor or psychiatrist in conjunction with a counsellor.
Mental health conditions may be caused by a vast spectrum of emotional, situational, psychological, and personality-related problems. Commonly treated mental health problems include:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Bipolar disorder
- Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
- Personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder (BPD), antisocial personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
- Dissociation and dissociative disorders
- Eating problems
- Hypomania and mania
- Postnatal depression and perinatal mental health
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
- Recreational drugs, alcohol, and addiction
- Low self-esteem
Treating Mental Health Disorders
Mental health disorders can have a physiological or psychological cause, or both. Your therapist and/or doctor will decide on the best course of treatment for your specific mental health issue.
Counselling can take place face to face, in a group, telephonically, or online. Based on your therapist’s assessment, you may need a single session of counselling, or a short course of sessions over a few weeks or months. People with complex issues may need ongoing therapy, for months or even years.
One or more of the following treatments may be used:
- Medication used to treat mental health disorders commonly include antidepressants, anti-psychotics, mood stabilisers such as lithium, sleeping pills and tranquilisers.
- More severe mental health issues are occasionally treated with procedures such as vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
- Herbal- and complementary remedies, such as using St John’s wort to treat depression.
- Dialectical behaviour therapy is a type of talking therapy often used to help people with borderline personality disorder or another emotionally unstable personality disorder. This therapy aims to teach you how to accept and regulate difficult emotions so that you can change any harmful or unhealthy behaviour.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy is a very common form of psychological treatment that is effective for a range of problems including anxiety disorders, depression, alcohol and drug use problems, eating disorders, marital problems, and severe mental illness. The treatment aims to change both thinking and behavioural patterns.
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is designed to help people who suffer recurring bouts of depression and chronic unhappiness. It combines the ideas of cognitive therapy with meditative practices (such as yoga) and attitudes based on the cultivation of mindfulness.
- Arts and creative therapies are treatments which involve art activities within therapy sessions. These therapies are designed to encourage you to communicate thoughts and feelings that you find difficult to express verbally.
Frequently Asked Questions
Stress is how we react when we feel under pressure or threatened. It usually occurs when we find ourselves in a situation that we struggle to manage or control.
OCD comprises two parts - obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted thoughts, images, urges, worries, or doubts that repeatedly appear in your mind. Compulsions are repetitive activities that you do to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsession.
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that can be defined as an extreme form of fear or anxiety. It is triggered by a particular situation or object (such as spiders).