Therapy and Counseling Services – Why?

Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC 

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5 Reasons to Seek Therapy and Counseling Services

The phrase “You need therapy” has become quite common in everyday conversation. While it may be great advice for someone going through something tough, it may not always be necessary. With my experience of suffering from personal mental health issues such as depression and extremely low self esteem, and over 20 years of writing in this field, I want to help you understand the difference between counseling and therapy and how they can help you.

So what situations warrant seeking counseling or therapy? What issues make it necessary care? This article sheds light on scenarios that require professional psycho-emotional care. Knowing that is essential to help ensure people get the help they need and prevent over-care for those that don’t. 

Therapy seeks to help you understand yourself and your thinking, feeling, and patterns of behaviour, whereas counseling generally concentrates on a particular issue for a shorter period of time. There is some overlap and some doctors may be trained in both.

You can also reach out to Enhancement Center, Albuquerque for more help. With that said, here are a few reasons you might seek therapy and counseling.

Reasons to seek therapy and counseling

  1. In periods of grief, therapy and counseling can really help

There is nothing as sure as death. However, knowing this fact doesn’t make it an easy reality when it occurs. It is important to seek out professional services such as counseling and therapy to walk you through the grieving process. You may need help if:

  • You lose someone very close, such as a parent, child, and close friend or relative.
  • In the event where the death was sudden e.g. from an accident.
  • If you were present at the time of death.
  • In instances where the events leading to the death were traumatic.

You may also need to seek help if you have trouble coping or are finding it difficult to perform everyday activities.

  1. When you experience extreme loss

Imagine losing your job, which you’ve had for many years and is your only source of income? Also, imagine being married or in a relationship that you valued for many years, then it suddenly comes to an abrupt end. 

These two scenarios are just a few examples of extreme loss. No one is ever prepared to lose something valuable. Sometimes, the loss can hit so hard that moving forward becomes impossible.

A loss also comes with so much stress and trauma that could lead to depression. Therapy and counseling sessions come in handy in helping you tackle and eventually overcome such life incidents.

  1. Mental health issues

There exist many mental health issues and disorders. These issues often manifest as symptoms that are hostile to a person’s psychoemotional, social, financial, and even physical health. Although there are medical approaches to such issues, therapy is crucial in alleviating some of the symptoms. Examples of mental health issues that you may tackle with counseling as an intervention include:

  • Mood disorders like depression. You may include psychoemotional support even if the patient is on anti-depressants.
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. While these are complex psychological issues, counseling may address issues such as the cause thus, going a long way in the treatment journey.
  1. After big or sudden changes in life

Life is dynamic and constantly changing from time to time. However, some changes may be too or too drastic making it difficult to adjust fully. In such instances, the changes may even lead to psychological stress and trauma. Examples of such life events include:

  • Getting married
  • Moving to a new country
  • A child experiencing divorce by the parents
  • Losing everything you own

Psychotherapy is important in such incidences to reassure patients that change is normal and help them adjust to their new reality.

  1. When you have negative coping mechanisms

Life brings up new challenges every day. Some challenges are easier than others. If, when “doing life” you find yourself using negative means to handle issues, then it may be time to seek help. Examples of these may be:

  • Drug or substance abuse.
  • Self-harming.
  • Causing harm to other people or animals.
  • Overdoing good habits as a means of escape, for example, cleaning.

Engaging impulsively or for a prolonged period in something, whether good or bad, can be a symptom of an underlying issue and may prompt psycho-emotional support. Click here to read more.

Therapy vs Counseling

I asked several therapists and counsellors what they thought was the difference between Therapy and Counselling

I asked three experts who offer therapy and/ or counselling services what they believe is the main difference between the two forms of psychological treatment and here’s what they said:

Sam Lee-McCloud (MEd SpLD), a therapist and teacher from Cambridge, UK told me:

“I think for me the main difference is that counselling is a shorter course of more targeted help for a specific area of need. Whereas, I believe that therapy is a more prolonged process that helps the client to develop their own coping strategies, life skills and emotional well-being e.g. CBT.”

Sam, who has recently set up her own animal-assisted therapy business in Cambridge, added:

“I sometimes think that counselling is like dealing with the effect whereas therapy is dealing with the cause.”

Another colleague I asked, Mark Walsh (MBA CP), a counsellor also working in Cambridge, described the difference between therapy and counselling as follows:

“That’s often a question that’s asked, but perhaps it’s more helpful to frame it in terms of the work, therapists, counsellors, psychotherapists, mental health practitioners do. They all work therapeutically creating a therapeutic alliance to allow clients to explore their issues. This exploration can lead to insight, which may lead to growth which is essentially a therapeutic model: exploration, insight and growth as opposed to a medical model typically involving assessment, diagnosis and treatment usually with medication.”

Yet another expert I spoke to was Bron Lancaster, a Psychological and Emotional Support Therapist from London, UK. She answered the question in the following way:

“Therapy to me goes much deeper and creates the opportunity to investigate and solve deeper issues. Counselling tends to seek to discuss and guide without the deeper investigation.”

What do I think is the difference between therapy and counseling?

In my mind the differences between therapy and counseling are as follows:

Therapy is a deeper process that involves psychology to get to the bottom of any mental problems or issues you might have. It involves awareness of why you behave the way you do. It can take a long time to complete therapy.

On the other hand, counseling is, in my opinion, a form of guidance given by a professional including what action and steps to take to resolve an issue or to reach certain desired goals.

What other sources can help us understand the differences between the two forms of treatment?

Let’s check if this is correct by looking at the definition of these two terms and considering therapy vs counseling as alternative treatments for mental health issues.

1. “treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder.”

2. “the treatment of mental or psychological disorders by psychological means.”

Oxford Languages (oup.com)

The essential word for therapy seems to be treatment.

Now let’s take a look at the defintion of counseling:

1.”give professional help and advice to (someone) to resolve personal or psychological problems.”

2. “recommend (a course of action).”

Oxford Languages.

The key words for counseling seem to be give advice or recommend. So, I think my description of guidance above was fairly accurate. Webster (1963) also says that counseling involves using psychological methods to assess people’s interests and provide expert advice. He also adds that therapy is a form of treatment of a physical or psychological disorder.

Some such as Belkin (1980) claim that therapy involves working with the personality to overcome problems, whereas counseling intends to enable a person to take action to solves their issues.

It may be that a combination of both rather than choosing therapy vs counseling is more appropriate and this does seem to be the case. Doctors and psychologists often prescribe both therapy and counseling to compliment each other.

Counseling for Relationships

Relationships are one important area where conflict often happens. According to Open Counseling, in this article published in 2020, approximate half of married couples had attended marraige counseling. It is very successful, they claim, as it is successful approximately 70% of the time.

Negotiating relationships is one of the most difficult challenges we can face. There is absolutely no doubt that we need to work on them when they run into problems. This is where a therapist or counselor can be extremely helpful.

Couples Counseling

Often couples will seek to resolve issues between them and this is where couples counseling really helps. A couples’ counselor tries to guide and recommend a couple to consider steps they can take to resolve issues. This involves talking and expressing feelings with the support and guidance of the counselor. Unless there are underlining mental health problems from one or both of the participants, therapy is not normally required.

But a word of caution, don’t wait too long before seeking couples counseling. According to one relationship and marraige counseling expert, Dr. John Gottman, on average couples wait for six years after first experiences problems in their relationship. Waiting so long will make the problem harder to resolve and will cause so much extra pain as the problems get worse. So, get on to it as soon as you can for your own sake and the sake of your relationship!

My Own Experience of Couples Counseling

I have experienced the effects of couples counseling because I have participated in it. It did require quite a lot of work and painful sharing and discussion. We benefitted from it and perhaps it even saved our relationship. I would advise anyone experiencing difficulties in their relationship with a partner, married or not, to take the huge step of committing to counseling.

The main advantage of couples counseling that we experienced was that we were able to talk in a controlled way about topics that we normally avoided because nothing would be resolved and only argument and disagreement followed. The counselor is able to see things in perspective and point out behaviour and feelings that you may not have been aware of in yourself or in your partner that are causing conflict.

Another benefit I saw was that the counseling process can help you to open up as a couple and learn to resolve conflict in a more peaceful way. It also can teach us to stop attacking the other person instead of considering their point of view. Compromise then becomes possible where it may have seemed quite impossible before.

Difference Between Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy

In this section I want to discuss two common terms you often hear about, physical therapy and occupational therapy. What are they and what is the difference? Let’s clear this up.

According to WebMD, physical therapy is necessary to help those who have an impairment which affects the daily life activities of a patient. A physical Therapist works with your doctor to help you treat and heal your injury or impairment so that your pain reduces and your life improves.

Occupational therapy is aimed at helping improve patients who may be disabled or injured to perform daily tasks more efficiently. Through activities they seek to improve lives and the contribution that such a person can make (Aota.org).

TherapyAims of therapyBased OnWhat the Therapist Does
PhysicalImprove body mobilityPhysical RehabilitationRestore movement, reduce pain, prevent disability
OccupationalImprove ability to perform daily activitiesMental Healthcare Modify, adapt daily tasks
Differences between physical therapy and occupational therapy. Massachussets College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Conclusion

Counseling and therapy is a crucial part of maintaining a healthy psychological state. Therefore, if you experience any of the above incidences, it would probably be best to try it out. However, reasons to seek help are numerous and wide-ranging.  Therefore, you should not limit yourself to these reasons. Life can be a lot, and it is normal to seek help. Sometimes, your reason can be as simple as “I just need to talk”.

References

  • Belkin, D.S. (1980). Contemporary Psychotherapies. Chcago: Rand McNally.
  • Webster, N. (1963). Webster’s seventh new collegiate dictionary. G. & C. Merriam Company.

Website Author and Your Guide

Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.