10 things to know about professional counselors:
1) Counselors have a Master’s or Doctoral degree in counseling. Graduate school programs offer courses for specializing in school, clinical, marriage and family, addictions, etc. It is highly beneficial to find a counselor who specializes in what you are seeking help for, however, isn’t necessary in all cases because counselors have a wide variety of training and experience treating issues.
2) Counselors emphasize multicultural competence and respect for diverse worldviews.
3) They focus on wellness, career development and client empowerment in a proactive approach to mental health.
4) Encourage people to be genuine and to work to find their own authentic self, even if that authentic self is somewhat different than dominant culture norms.
5) Assist with issues caused by typical life stressors, such as grief and loss, relationship problems, trauma and disasters, transition from military life to civilian life, etc. Counselors can also point you into the direction of other, non-therapy services by networking and through referrals.
6) Can diagnose and or treat mental disorders. Personally, when appropriate, I like to discuss with my clients about the stigma and labels of mental health, in order to break barriers and help people see that it is okay to talk with a counselor.
7) Serve as a frontline resource in schools, as the eyes and ears for early signs of emotional distress caused by bullying, harassment and other forms of abuse and trauma. It is terrible when schools don’t recognize signs or take enough action against bullying. School counselors are well-equipped to serve students and reduce these issues. Large schools should hire more than one counselor, so that there is a smaller ratio of students to counselors.
8) Provide assistance in various settings with diverse populations, such as college campuses, agencies and hospitals, to help them address issues that may have effect on their mental health and overall well-being.
9) Adhere to the updated American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics. This is the standard code that most states have adopted. It’s the first code that speaks to the ethics of using social media with clients.
10) Are passionate, diverse and committed to helping people from all walks of life and all depths of despair to survive and thrive in today’s world. Since there is a diversity of counselors, before choosing one to work with, it is best to look into their specialties and approach to therapy. Find a counselor who seems best fitted to your needs and whom you will feel comfortable speaking with.