Over the course of our Nation’s history, attitudes and perspectives on mental health have been in a state of constant evolution. While there was a time when those with mental health and emotional challenges were dehumanized, mocked, and locked away from society in hospitals and sanitariums, we now live in a time when perspectives have started to shift. Now, we have an entire month of every year devoted directly to highlighting counseling awareness.
About National Counseling Awareness Month
Every year, the American Counseling Association (ACA) designates April as Counseling Awareness Month, “a time of advocacy for the profession and celebration of the outstanding efforts of counselors in myriad settings as they seek to facilitate the growth and development of all people.”
By participating in service opportunities, spreading the word about counseling, and encouraging good mental health practices, women and men around the country are getting involved in the celebration. You don’t have to be a counselor or someone who is currently in counseling in order to support National Counseling Month. Anyone can become a friend and advocate by stepping up and getting involved.
Counseling Trends in the United States
There’s a reason why National Counseling Awareness Month is for everyone. Given the mental health decline seen in the United States recently, it’s clear that promoting maintaining good mental health will greatly benefit a wide margin of people.
According to the CDC’s latest mental health statistics:
- More than 50 percent of all Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime
- 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year
- 1 in 5 children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness
- 1 in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression
While early adverse life experiences (such as trauma or abuse) can lead someone to be at higher risk for developing certain mental illnesses, anyone can develop a mental illness or suffer a crisis at any time. While we can all play a part in supporting people with mental health challenges, the ones who are best equipped to be on the front lines are trained counselors.
Professional counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals. (ACA)
While professional counseling is often critical to recovery, not everyone who needs counseling is getting it. Unfortunately, “only 19.2 percent of U.S. adults received any mental health treatment in the past 12 months, including 15.8 percent who had taken prescription medication for their mental health and 9.5 percent who had received counseling or therapy from a mental health professional.”
Reasons why people don’t receive counseling tend to vary, but may include any of the following:
- They have no frame of reference for the process
- They view seeking help as a sign of weakness
- They fear what others might think of them
- They worried about the stigma
- They don’t know how to articulate what’s bothering them
- They wonder what might happen if they tell someone what’s really going on with them
- They don’t know how to find a counselor
Fortunately, that last hurdle is easy to overcome.
How to Find a Counselor
Finding a licensed professional counselor is often simpler than you think. A great place to start is by visiting the American Counseling Association’s website and checking out their Therapy Directory to connect with counselors in your area. You could also consider connecting with local faith or community leaders, who are often able to refer you to professional counselors. Additionally, if you know someone who’s been in counseling or therapy, reach out and ask them a few questions about their experience. Friends, family members, and colleagues can often provide you either with a direct referral or with tips and suggestions they used to find help for their own needs.
When choosing a counselor and preparing for your first session, be sure to think about your counseling goals ahead of time and make sure to ask pertinent questions both about the counselor’s experience and about issues related to the reason you’re seeking counseling in the first place. Ask questions such as:
- Is this counselor licensed?
- How much experience do they have counseling people with your specific issue?
- How many sessions/what kinds of treatments do they generally recommend for people in comparable situations?
- What are their rates and do they accept your insurance provider?
- How soon do they anticipate that counseling may start helping you to feel better/see changes?
If the answers to these questions prove vague or unhelpful, it may be a sign that you should move on and consider someone else. Though this step requires a bit of time and effort, finding the right person before diving in with counseling can make a big difference in the long run.
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