What Is A Counselor, And How Can They Help Me With My Relationship?

By Hailey Neu

Updated November 15, 2019

Reviewer Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

There is a great chance you have heard of a counselor in the context of mental health treatment. Even though you hear about counselors all the time through conversations, television, and the internet, some people find themselves asking, "What is a counselor? "Many people think counselors just listen to their clients talk about their problems, but this is not the case. Counselors do much more than listen to their patients vent. Their services can positively impact clients, and they provide great resources to help their clients in the future.

What Is A Counselor?

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According to the American Counseling Association, counseling is a "professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals." The term "counselor" refers to a licensed professional who has passed the requirements needed to treat clients. These requirements are a master's degree and successful testing and supervised practice in the state the counselor (also sometimes called a therapist) practices in. Counselors go through a great deal of education and training to practice.

When a counselor meets with a client, they do much more than listen to their problems. Counselors assess, evaluate, troubleshoot, diagnose when appropriate, educate, research, and use science-backed specific interventions to help clients through life's difficult moments or mental health difficulties.

What Types of Counseling Are There?

You may know that there are many different types of counseling, all with different purposes. The reason there are so many different types of sessions is so that different issues can be addressed in ways that are most helpful to those issues. It is important to understand the different purposes for each type of counseling to know which type will be the most effective for you.

Individual Counseling

When most people think of a counseling session, they are usually thinking about individual counseling. These are one-on-one sessions between a counselor and a client to help them work through personal issues. Common reasons for individual counseling sessions include but are not limited to anxiety, depression, stress management, or working through a difficult life event like a career transition, move, or loss.

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Individual counseling sessions are the most effective when the counselor specializes in their client's reason for counseling. For example, a person who has been struggling with anxiety attacks will benefit greatly from seeing a counselor who specializes in anxiety treatment. Of course, a counselor can still provide a client with helpful services even though they don't specialize in a particular area. When a counselor specializes in a particular area, it usually means they are very passionate and experienced with it. Many counselors have focused on their specialties for years, which is why clients prefer to see someone who specializes in their needs.

Family Counseling

Sometimes, families seek counseling as a group due to family-related issues like constant arguments amongst siblings, major changes that cause stress, or communication problems. A family counselor can help their clients find the root cause of friction between siblings and help stabilize a family dynamic.

Family counseling can be offered by counselors who also partake in individual counseling. It is important to look for a counselor who has experience in family issues. This is because counseling a family calls for different approaches and tools than individual counseling. For effective family counseling, experience, and knowledge are required for the counselor.

Group Counseling

Any group lead by a counselor that meets regularly to discuss their life challenges is partaking in group counseling. Some of the most popular forms of group counseling are counselor-lead support groups. This is a great method to seek healing because members feel less alone in their circumstance. Counseling groups may focus on a particular issue like anxiety, or they may be an open group simply offering support for particular problems. They may use a program or curriculum to work through as a group or be more impromptu.

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Group counseling can be a great option for people because of its low cost. Often, group counseling is about one-third less expensive than individual counseling due to the number of members paying the counselor. If the cost of individual therapy does not work with your budget, group therapy may be a great option for you.

Relationship Counseling

Every couple has experienced periods where they go through hardship, and their relationship is tested. Many couples turn to relationship counseling to help them resolve their issues and find happiness with their relationship again. In relationship counseling sessions, a couple will meet with their counselor to talk about their relationship and its issues.

Even if a couple is happy with their relationship, but feel they need more information on how to practice healthy habits, relationship counseling is a great option. Counselors are equipped with information and techniques to guide their clients to reach a level of healthy communication. Besides that, there are many other ways a relationship counselor can help couples.

How Can A Counselor Help My Relationship?

Couples counseling is a very popular form of counseling, as 40% of people in counseling say they are there because of relationship problems. Most people are not taught how to deal with conflict involving a romantic partner. Resolving problems with a significant other must be learned to have a healthy relationship, thus creating the need for a relationship counselor.

Relationship or couples counselors can be helpful to just about every couple who is wanting to learn better communication skills. A common misbelief about relationship counseling is that counseling should be a last-ditch effort before calling it quits on a relationship. The truth is, seeking help from a licensed counselor over the smallest issues can positively impact a relationship greatly. Counselors can help their clients in many different ways, but here are just a few:

Teaching Clients Healthy Communication Skills

A prominent aspect of relationship counseling is relearning how to show love, respect, and kindness towards each other. Often, relationship turmoil is caused by communication that lacks these three important things. After several years of being together, it is very common for people to forget how they used to treat their partner. A counselor can help the couple realize where they can improve their communication skills.

The goal of couples counseling is to help the couple fix their current issues and help them prevent future ones. Improving communication skills is the easiest way to prevent the rise of future conflict. If a couple does not know how to communicate effectively and healthily, it is very likely; they will have reoccurring arguments in the future. A counselor can help their clients learn healthy communication skills to better their relationship long-term.

Providing Resources to Initiate Healing

Sometimes, healing needs to take place between a couple if they are in relationship counseling. This could be because one partner has been emotionally hurtful, has had an extramarital affair, has broken trust in some way, or others. A counselor can provide a couple of information, tools, and tactics to help them find healing.

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Another way a counselor can initiate healing is by helping the couple talk about the source of the pain. One of the best ways to heal is by discussing what hurts and then taking steps to move on. If a couple is having difficulty discussing the event that caused the pain, a counselor can help initiate the conversation. Having a neutral third party can be very beneficial to keep the conversation on track and effective.

Pinpointing the Cause of Conflict

Sometimes, couples will get trapped in a negative cycle of arguments without knowing the cause. Many people need help finding the root of the problem before they take steps to fix it. Counselors are trained to help their clients do this, making them very helpful with relationship counseling. Once a counselor has pinpointed the cause of conflict, they can advise the couple on how to heal. This will put the couple on a better path to make their relationship more positive.

Supporting the Couple Through Challenging Times

A large part of a counselor's role is to support their clients. Having a support system rooting for the couple to resolve their issues can be very motivating. Many couples find their counselor's support to be just what they need when trying to heal their relationship. This is especially true when the couple has friends or family who are against the relationship. A counselor is a neutral third party who has the best intentions of both people in the relationship in mind.

What Is A Counselor?

A counselor is a support system, a positive influence, a mental health expert, and a confidant for people in struggling relationships or dealing with other problems. They can be the key to making a relationship work after many years of challenges and pain. The average couple endures six years of marital problems before seeking help from a licensed professional. This is entirely too long, as a relationship counselor can help guide their clients to a healthy and happy relationship. Seeking help from a couple's counselor can lead to positive outcomes in a very short period, so don't wait!


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