What is professional counseling?

From the American Counseling Association

“I don’t need to see a counselor. I’m not crazy.” Even if those exact words aren’t used, it’s what most people seem to think. That’s unfortunate, because it shows a lack of understanding of what professional counseling really is, or how important counseling can be in helping someone function better in daily activities and relationships and to live a happier life.

“One of the misconceptions that many people have about professional counselors,” noted Dr. David Kaplan, Chief Professional Officer for the American Counseling Association, “is that someone must have a mental illness of some sort in order to need the help of a counselor.”

“This simply isn’t true, and it vastly underestimates the role that counselors play in this country,” continued Dr. Kaplan.

Dr. Kaplan pointed out that the focus isn’t on “mental illness” but rather on accomplishing “mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.”

“It’s important to note,” continued Dr. Kaplan, “that the definition calls for a ‘professional relationship’ rather than on a counselor performing some action or plan to make things better.” Changes come from the counselor and client together identifying problem areas such as low self-esteem, emotional turmoil, improving communication and coping skills or similar issues, and finding the means to overcome those problems and move on to a more fully functioning and happier life.

Today there are more than 53,000 professional counselors who are members of the American Counseling Association and who provide services to individuals, families, couples and groups.

Deciding to see a professional counselor does not have to be difficult but it does require taking that first step, which usually just means a phone call to a licensed professional counselor in your area. Use that phone call to interview the counselor, to describe what problems you may be facing, and to find out if that counselor feels like the right one for you. There’s never a charge or obligation for such a call and it’s an important way to make sure that you are finding a counselor who can help you.

There are a variety of ways to locate a counselor. Your local yellow pages or an online search for counselors in your area is one starting point. If you have a local mental health center, they can offer recommendations. You can also locate a counselor near you by visiting the American Counseling Association website at www.counseling.org. Click on the “Learn More About Counseling” link and it will take you to the page with a “Find A Counselor” link.

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