What Do Counselors Do? Determining If A Counselor Can Help You (And Your Relationship)

By Kristina Speciale

Updated November 27, 2019

Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC

Seeking help in the form of counseling is a great step toward improving your situation. For many, however, walking into the unknown, such as a counseling session, can be stressful. If you've never experienced counseling or even had a brief conversation with a counselor, you might be hesitant to determine if it is the right move for you or your relationship. Breaking down a counselor's role can educate you on what you might expect and help you to determine if a counselor can help you and your relationship.

Upon understanding what counselors do for their clients, you might feel more prepared to seek assistance if needed. You will come to grasp the idea that counselors are there to help in a variety of scenarios, complications, and personal struggles. When it comes to relationship counseling, a counselor will make an effort to work with each individual as one half of a pair, in addition to the two as a couple.

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What Does A Counselor Do?

A counselor's main role is that of offering guidance to those in need. This guidance is regarding mental health and wellness in a general sense. For some, it might be a singular problem that only requires a session or two to discuss and move on from. In many cases, counselors offer guidance by simply getting individuals to open up about what he or she is feeling, then offer solutions to the problem. Those solutions might consist of planning out reasonable goals, certain approaches to improving mental health, or even referring the client to a medical doctor.

The tasks mentioned above taken on by counselors are vague and likely scenarios for almost any counselor. However, a lot of counselors specialize in a specific area. Drug abuse and addiction, family and relationships, mental health, and troubled or at-risk children are a handful of specializations that counselors might focus on. Each area of expertise requires a different approach.

Addiction can grab ahold of people of all types. Teens, men, women, all races and ethnicities, war veterans, and those with a stable career can find themselves addicted to drugs or alcohol. Whether or not these individuals sought out drugs or found themselves addicted to a prescription, counseling can help.

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An addiction counselor's job is to find the root of the problem - when their client feels the need to use drugs, what they feel during this time, who they are with, and help the person to approach those situations differently. Sometimes sessions would include loved ones so that others know how to handle a relapsing (or potentially relapsing) addict. Being involved in the addiction counseling of a loved one can help both the addict and the addict's relationships.

Relationship counseling is another common form of counseling. This can include relationships of all types: premarital counseling, marriage counseling, and family counseling. Couples counseling is seen in movies frequently, but often makes people wonder, does it really work?

Current success rates of couples counseling are placed around 75%. This number was found to be true within two years of completing counseling. The most success has been found with EFT, also known as Emotionally Focused Therapy. EFT is designed to help couples to develop a healthy emotional attachment. This counseling tactic is great for several relationship issues, from struggling with a child's illness to a loss of trust. Guiding couples through this is a large part of a counselor's job.

Mental health counselors are those that help people with depression, self-worth, and stress management. Talking clients through their thoughts and anxiety can be a big help to someone just looking for someone to listen. It helps the individual to untangle the mess of thoughts he or she experiences and can also put things in a different perspective. A big part of treating mental health concerns with counseling is the lack of medication. For many, improving mental health without the use of prescription drugs is vital.

How Can Counseling Help Your Relationship?

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Everyone has faults: no one is perfect. Many faults can be improved upon with treatment. Whether the counseling you seek is for your relationship or just for yourself, it can help in many ways.

Who experiences our concerns, problems, and overall issues more than a loved one or significant other? This means that counseling intended to improve your challenges as an individual can have an impact on your relationship just as couples counseling would.

When you are in a relationship, it is standard to think of the two individuals separately as well as the two people as one. For example, if one member of the relationship has severe trust issues or fears of commitment, their faults would affect the relationship. While the particular problem only exists in one part of the relationship, it affects both. Seeking help for those problems as an individual would benefit the relationship. It is likely that a supportive partner would notice and appreciate the changes made to better the relationship.

A supportive partner would also learn how to behave towards the struggling individual. Consider someone with low self-esteem. It might seem as though sharing negative thoughts and feelings about something your partner has done to upset you would only serve to damage his or her already fragile self-esteem. While it might be difficult, it is important to learn how to communicate effectively with your partner, to keep from bottling emotions up. Keeping emotions in and not discussing them will ultimately lead to too much weight to bear. That can cause more problems than you started with.

Relationship counseling has a more direct effect on the joint aspect of the couple's marriage or life. In couples counseling and marriage counseling, both individuals speak with a counselor in a joint session. From the first session or two, a counselor can determine if joint sessions are effective or if a few individual sessions would be more beneficial before returning to joint counseling. Ultimately, the goal is to uncover the root of the problem and resolve it and the complications it caused.

It is not the goal to end the relationship in counseling, and no counselor would make that suggestion, even in the case of an abusive relationship. In this case, most counselors will encourage separation and work on the problem independently so that the abuser gets the help they need, and the abused is safe. If this is a reason you might be seeking counseling, do not hesitate to do so. A counselor may have the ability to save the relationship - and you.

Not only would this help you, personally, but it would also help your relationship in the long run - if solving the issue is what you want to do. That is a major aspect of counseling. You and your partner have to want to improve. Expecting a counselor to work miracles when both parties are unwilling to put in the effort is not likely to have positive results.

However, when the work is done, and EFT is used as the counseling method, the statistics surrounding the success rate is incredibly effective. In fact, between effort, proper counseling, and timing, seeking help for relationships can make a real difference.

Timing, particularly when it comes to couples counseling, plays a large part in success rates. Unfortunately, many couples wait too long to get professional help. Success with relationship counseling is statistically at a higher rate when help is sought early on. Waiting until the problem has caused even more issues is far more challenging to resolve.

Think of it as you would a terminal illness. When the problem is discovered early on, corrective action can be taken to destroy the illness before it gets out of hand. The same goes for relationship troubles - the sooner corrective actions are taken, the more likely the relationship is to survive.

Counseling has a good chance of helping relationships. As long as the individuals involved take the counseling seriously, it might be the best option for you and your partner. While the success rate is not 100%, making counseling and your relationship a priority would make your chances far better. Seeking help, to begin with, is likely a good indicator that you might be ready to take on such a responsibility.

Determining If A Counselor Can Help

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Going over the facts once more might help to make the purpose of counseling clearer. It might be difficult to determine if you or your partner have emotional challenges, but guidance is usually a welcome asset when struggling in love. If EFT benefited you, a counselor would be the professional to seek out.

A professional requires individuals that are willing to work on themselves or no amount of EFT will help. The willingness to work on oneself requires listening to the advice that your counselor gives and identify the qualities that you should work on. The hard part is often sticking to a change. While this is common in both a counseling aspect and other parts of life, putting forth real effort is the only way to improve truly. If both parties of the relationship work hard to make the suggested improvements, a counselor is more likely to help your situation.

If you feel as though counseling will help you and your relationship, seek help sooner, rather than later. Where waiting for too long might have adverse effects; getting assistance is not something that will cause further concerns. Pursuing aid is often a positive and educational opportunity to make improvements in one's life.

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