When to Seek Counseling and Who to See


Keep calm and call a counselor

** Please note this post is a copy from my previous blog and was originally posted in May 2014**

Research estimates that 1 in 5 adults and 13-20% of children living in the United States will experience a diagnosable mental health disorder within a given year. Although mental health diagnoses are real, common, and treatable, there still remains a stigma around counseling. Some common concerns people might have are: If I go to a therapist does that mean I am crazy/weak/a failure? What will other people think? What if I am seen coming out of a therapist’s office? Unfortunately, as a result of the stigma of therapy, many people decide not to pursue counseling despite significant stress.

To clarify, most people in counseling do not have a serious mental illness; rather, they are experiencing serious life challenges or are going through a difficult transition period. Examples of life challenges include: experiencing chronic work-related stress and/or career issues; family conflict; and/or academic issues. Examples of difficult life transitions are: death of a family member, friend, or pet; ending a romantic relationship or close friendship; family/couple changes related to the addition of a baby; getting married or divorced; becoming a caregiver due to illness or disability; as well as the decision-making challenges due to those life choices.

The following are signs that it may be beneficial to seek counseling:

In Adults:

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears and worries
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Dramatic changes in eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Delusions and/or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Denial of obvious problems
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Substance abuse or dependence or other addictions


In Adolescents and Young Adults:

  • Substance abuse, dependence, or other addictions
  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
  • Significant changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments
  • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite and/or thoughts of death
  • Frequent outbursts of anger or sadness


In Younger Children and Pre-Adolescents:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Excessive worry or anxiety (i.e. refusing to go to bed or school)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

Types of Mental Health Professionals:

Psychiatrist: A medical doctor with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional illnesses. Psychiatrists have the ability to prescribe medication.


Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist: A medical doctor specifically trained in the diagnosis and treatment of emotional and mental illnesses in children and adolescents


Psychologist: A professional with a doctoral degree in psychology and two years of supervised professional experience who is trained to make diagnoses and provide individual and group therapy.


Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): A counselor with a master’s degree in social work, and is trained to make diagnoses and provide individual and group counseling


Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC): A counselor with a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or closely related field who is trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling.


Licensed Marital and Family Therapist (LMFT): A professional with a master’s degree, with special education and training in marital and family therapy, and is trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling


Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC): A counselor with specific clinical training in alcohol and drug abuse and can provide individual and group counseling


Pastoral Counselor: A member of clergy with training in clinical pastoral education trained to provide individual and group counseling.

The most important thing is to find a knowledgeable professional that is the best fit for you and your therapeutic needs. It is a good idea to call several professionals and ask questions about their education, experience, and approach to counseling before picking the best fit for you.

Ultimately, counseling is an investment in your emotional, mental, and physical health and wellness.

If you decide to seek out counseling, some good resources to find a counselor are by asking your primary care physician, school counselors or counseling centers, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or Human Resources (HR) department, your insurance provider, or Psychology Today.


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