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3 common doubts people have about visiting a mental health counsellor

The importance of mental health becomes obvious when you consider the number of physical ailments that it has a direct correlation with. Stress and anxiety, if left unmanaged, can increase the risk for or worsen a number of life-impairing ailments including heart disease, diabetes, asthma, allergies, thyroid disorders and obesity. It follows then that mental health is as important as any other physical issue you could suffer from.

  1. I’ve seen practitioners labelled counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists. What is the difference? Whether you’re ‘meeting a psychologist’, going to therapy’ or ‘attending a counselling session’, it’s all the same. Counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists terms that are used interchangeably for a professional who is around to guide you through your concerns by talking and bringing all the cards to the table. “However, a counsellor cannot provide you with medical aid for your issues, that, a psychiatrist can do. If you go to a psychiatrist for anxiety or depression, they will give you an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medicine that will clear your issue on the surface. Counsellors get to the root cause of the problem by tracking back to when the issues you’re facing really started, through conversation.” However, both have their merits; some ailments can be resolved through dialogue, but some need medical help to treat effectively.

  2. What can I expect from a counselling session? “The first two sessions are just about listening and establishing a good rapport with the patient. And of course, empathy development happens where I can feel for the client, without getting affected myself, which only comes with experience.” A good counsellor is one who is a good listener and can handhold the client at every stage—it’s the most important skill that even they develop over time.

  3. Will the counsellor discuss my case with other patients/their own friends? The sensitive nature of mental health makes it harder for a patient to trust someone they don’t know with their darkest thoughts and feelings, due to fear of these thoughts becoming public knowledge. Just like any other doctor, psychologists too keep your records completely private, until and unless there is a life-threatening situation that they alone are not able to help you out of. Only then will they contact a close family member or confidante to alarm them.