Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Health Care and Mental Health Counseling

Mental health counseling used to be a very secretive health care issue, as most individuals who were seeking treatment were stigmatized as "crazy", "nuts", "loony", or just plain insane. Over the past few years, those characterizations have slowly vanished as a general social opinion as counseling for mental health have become more accepted. Occasionally, someone under the care of a counselor, psychiatrist, or psychologist may be accused of these monikers. However, mental illness is more prevalent in today's society, and counseling is now more recognized as an acceptable form of treatment.

According to Dallas Whole Life Counseling, statistics aside, nearly one hundred years of experiential evidence has been gathered regarding the efficacy of psychotherapy. Mental health professionals have documented case after case in which mental and emotional distresses were successfully overcome, stubborn medical issues resolved and the general quality of life vastly improved. These statements are not as easy to prove through strictly statistical means, although much empirical research has been conducted that does support the efficacy of psychotherapy. (This is why more and more insurance companies are increasingly covering mental health treatment these days.) That said, although the majority of therapy clients report significant benefits from treatment, therapy is not for everyone. In the spirit of scientific investigation, the only way to genuinely evaluate the efficacy of therapy may simply be to keep an open mind, try a few sessions, and see for yourself.

If you or someone you know is in need of mental health counseling, you should find a qualified Mental Health Counselor. According to the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), clinical mental health counseling is a distinct profession with national standards for education, training and clinical practice. Clinical mental health counselors are highly-skilled professionals who provide flexible, consumer-oriented therapy. They combine traditional psychotherapy with a practical, problem-solving approach that creates a dynamic and efficient path for change and problem resolution. Here are a few statistics:

•According to the report, "Mental Health, United States, 2004" published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 100,500 mental health counselors are licensed or certified for independent practice in the United States.

•The majority of national behavioral health managed care companies reimburse clinical mental health counselors for services they provide.

•The median cost per session for clinical mental health counselors is $63, compared to a median cost of $75 for psychologists, and $60 for clinical social workers and marriage and family therapists, according to a January 2006 study by Psychotherapy Finances.

•All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico license or certify mental health counselors for private practice.

•Clinical mental health counselors adhere to a rigorous code of ethics and professional practice standards.

Clinical mental health counselors, according to the AMHCA, offer a full range of services including:
•Assessment and diagnosis
•Psychotherapy
•Treatment planning and utilization review
•Brief and solution-focused therapy
•Alcoholism and substance abuse treatment
•Psychoeducational and prevention programs
•Crisis management

In today's managed care environment, according to the AMHCA, clinical mental health counselors are uniquely qualified to meet the challenges of providing high quality care in a cost-effective manner. Clinical mental health counselors practice in a variety of settings, including independent practice, community agencies, managed behavioral health care organizations, integrated delivery systems, hospitals, employee assistance programs, and substance abuse treatment centers. The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) is the professional membership organization that represents the clinical mental health counseling profession. Clinical membership in AMHCA requires a master's degree in counseling or a closely related mental health field and adherence to AMHCA's National Standards for Clinical Practice. Graduate education and clinical training prepare clinical mental health counselors to provide a full range of services for individuals, couples, families, adolescents and children.

The core areas of mental health education programs approved by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) include:
•Diagnosis and psychopathology
•Psychotherapy
•Psychological testing and assessment
•Professional orientation
•Research and program evaluation
•Group counseling
•Human growth and development
•Counseling theory
•Social and cultural foundations
•Lifestyle and career development
•Supervised practicum and internship.

Licensure requirements for clinical mental health counselors are equivalent to those for clinical social workers and marriage and family therapists, two other disciplines that require a master's degree for independent status, according to the AMHCA. A licensed clinical mental health counselor has met or exceeded the following professional qualifications:
•Earned a master's degree in counseling or a closely related mental health discipline;
•Completed a minimum of two years post-master's clinical work under the supervision of a licensed or certified mental health professional; and
•Passed a state-developed or national licensure or certification examination.

The earliest signs of progress in therapy often manifest as increasing awareness of the various ways in which one is "stuck." Relatively early in treatment, according to Dallas Whole Life Counseling, one may likely begin to recognize self-defeating patterns or habits of thinking, feeling and behaving without necessarily being able to change them immediately. Later, after watching these habits at work and discussing with the therapist the causes and effects of these habits, the individual is able to make changes and let go of old patterns. As this self-actualization process deepens, one begins to feel more natural, spontaneous and at ease in all areas of life. Genuine emotions come more freely and relationships deepen. Old patterns of worrying and obsessing become much less disruptive. Rather than being obstacles to the treatment process, these times of increased anxiety, frustration and confusion can propel the therapeutic process to higher levels of self-awareness and more satisfying life experiences. To make the most of such difficulties, however, the client should openly discuss these feelings with the therapist so that seeming treatment obstacles can be used adaptively to further the process.

Mental health counseling has many forms and treatment options based on the issue you may be experiencing. It is best to consult with professionals who can guide you to the best therapist or counselor suited to handle your particular concerns, fears, anxieties, or other mental issues.

Until next time.

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