The importance of mental health counseling and treatment has increased over the years, and many institutions and countries have begun to pay attention to it. This attention has made it easier to earn a psychology degree and has also increased the requirements for becoming a licensed mental health counselor. However, even with all the improvements that the mental health sector has seen in recent years, there are still a few problems facing this important, yet often overlooked sector of health care.
Honesty and openness are two of the essential requirements for a proper mental health counseling session. These two factors make it easy for a mental health counselor to diagnose and treat a patient as accurately as possible. More often than not, a therapist would have to work with a patient that is not willing to open up fully about their problems or is being dishonest about their problems. There are several reasons for a patient’s reluctance, and some of them include diffidence, guilt, regret, embarrassment, doubts about the process of therapy, and forced treatment. For instance, teenagers or patients that are forced to get mental health counseling would likely not be willing to share their deepest and darkest fears or secrets. It can, therefore, be hard for a mental health counselor to accurately diagnose a patient and give the appropriate advice or counseling in situations like this.
Lack of funding
One crucial aspect of mental health counseling is time. A mental health counselor needs time to get to know the patient before finally understanding them. It is after this period of acclimation with the patient that the mental health counselor finally offers the appropriate counseling required by the patient.
The only problem here is that every session with the therapist needs to be paid by the patient or covered under their health insurance. In the United States of America, for instance, most health care insurance plans do not fully cover mental health counseling or might require that the patient visits only counselors in their insurance circle. The lack of funding for most mental health patients makes it impossible for them to attend multiple counseling sessions. Therefore, when patients cannot routinely attend fixed counseling sessions, the treatment offered by the mental health counselor becomes less effective.
Personal judgments of the counselor
Over the years, through education and practice, mental health counselors are usually taught to put their prejudice aside and focus on the patient, but that is not always easy. The problem is that, just like the patients that they treat, mental health counselors are humans too. And just like their patients, they also have upbringings and personal preferences. Therefore, it can sometimes be hard for the therapist to look at the problems faced by a patient objectively, especially if they go against every core value of the therapist.
It is, however, necessary for a mental health counselor to view the problems of a client based on the terms of the client. This way, the client’s point of view can be respected and used as a yardstick in understanding why the client made certain decisions. Even if the way of thinking of the client needs to be changed, the change should not necessarily be based on the beliefs of the counselor. Instead, the counselor needs to use properly researched theories and methods as a way of treating or counseling the patient.
Disjointed Mental Health System
Using the United States of America as a case study, as well as many other countries that rely on similar mental health systems used in the U.S, there is a disjoint in the health care system across several programs. There is no streamlined or properly regulated set of services offered to those who need mental health care. Especially if they have been through different programs. Such programs include schools, juvenile detention centers, criminal justice systems, various substance abuse programs, and even hospitals. All of these programs and institutions offer some form of mental health care and do not have a baseline for the minimum qualification of a mental health counselor.
Therefore, a patient who has gone through various programs could have been given different advice on how to deal with their mental health problems. Many of the counseling previously given to the patient can make the patient less willing to open up about their problems and also skeptical of the new counselor. The advice previously given to the patient can be quite conflicting that it could render any new therapy useless.
The solution to this is that there needs to be a regulated system for mental health care institutions and services that ensures that a patient gets a certain type of mental health care, regardless of what program or institution they find themself.
Counselors needing counselors too
Many mental health counselors neglect their own mental health either because they think that they do not need it or just think it would be ridiculous for them to see a counselor too. Many pieces of research have shown that just like the patients that they see, many health counselors suffer from depression, fatigue, and anxiety. But a large percentage of them do not bother to see a mental health counselor.
The reason for this negligence has a lot to do with the pride and sense of responsibility that some mental health counselors carry. Mental health counselors often feel that their patients come to them because they are supposed to have the answers to their problems, and for this reason, they think that they just cannot have any problem. Most therapists believe that the moment they also begin to see a therapist, then it means something is wrong with them, and they probably cannot perform their obligations to their patients effectively.
Mental health counselors must remember that outside of their job, they are just like every other human, and more than anyone else, they need to know when to seek help. After all, how will they be of help to their patients if they have not dealt with their mental health problems as well?