What is counseling?


Counseling is professional guidance to help a person, family, or group of individuals recognize and deal with issues that are interfering with their mental well-being. Counseling involves regular meetings (sessions) with a qualified counselor, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed professional counselor, or clinical social worker.

Counseling, which may also be called psychotherapy or therapy, can be done on an individual, family, or group basis.

What types of counseling are used to treat depression?

Therapies that are helpful for people with depression include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT teaches you how to change the ways you think and behave.
  • Interpersonal therapy. This looks at your social and personal relationships and related problems.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). In ACT, you work with a therapist to learn to accept your negative feelings but not let them run your life.
  • Mindfulness-based therapies. Mindfulness helps you focus on what is happening at the moment without trying to change it.

Other treatments that may be helpful include problem-solving therapy and family therapy.

You will work with a mental health professional such as a psychologist, licensed professional counselor, clinical social worker, or psychiatrist. Together you will develop an action plan to treat your depression.

What type of counselor or therapist should you work with?

The terms counselor and therapist cover a variety of trained professionals. The differences between therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors may not be as important to you as finding someone with whom you are comfortable.

Professionals who might provide counseling services include:

  • Social workers (MSW, ACSW).
  • Psychologists (PhD).
  • Licensed professional counselors (LPC) (MA, MEd, EdD).
  • Psychiatrists (MD).
  • Marriage and family therapists (MFT).
  • Psychiatric nurses (BSN, MSN).
  • Members of the clergy.

Some insurance plans do not cover all types of therapists. Check with your insurance company for details.

How can you choose a counselor or therapist?

When you call to make an appointment, ask to speak with the therapist or counselor, if possible. Explain what you want help with. Then ask if they have experience with this issue and what their views are. If you go to a therapist and don't like what happens, try again with someone new.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.