What Is Therapeutic Counseling?

A. Reed

Collectively referred to as psychotherapy, therapeutic counseling refers to the different ways in which mental health professionals use communicative techniques to treat psychological disorders or help clients to solve other problems of a personal nature. Therapy helps those with phobias through the use of cognitive behavior therapy, while rational-emotive behavior therapy helps a person to become aware of his or her inner dialogue, and psychoanalysis involves work with the unconscious mind. Medications are sometimes used in combination with psychotherapy sessions, which can take place in an individual setting, or in a group environment.

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis.
Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis.

Aaron Beck, a notable cognitive behavior therapist, developed a system of providing therapeutic counseling to clients suffering from disorders manifesting distortions in judgment, perception, and thought. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is most effective in the treatment of various phobias, conditions which are characterized by an intense irrational fear of a particular thing or situation, such as a small space, going outside, or flying in an airplane. It is also used to help people diagnosed with anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or panic disorder.

There are various forms of counseling.
There are various forms of counseling.

Rational-emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is a kind of CBT focusing primarily upon how people communicate to themselves, what they say specifically that is not necessarily overtly spoken but is internalized. Often referred to as "self-talk," these types of statements are changed to produce an improved outlook on life as opposed to a self-defeating existence. Developed by Dr. Albert Ellis, REBT works specifically with client beliefs, assumptions or expectations that are placed on oneself and others. REBT is used to treat depression, anxiety, and helps with solving problems relating to goal-setting.

Based principally on Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory, psychoanalysis is therapeutic counseling which presupposes that mental conflicts happen outside of one's own awareness or consciousness. Chief objectives of therapy includes revealing suppressed memories and unresolved childhood conflicts that likely play a significant role in the development of psychopathology in adult life. Transference, free association, and interpretations are common techniques employed during psychoanalysis. Psychologists of today have modified this treatment so that results are obtained in much less time, an approach generally referred to as psychodynamic therapy.

Several types of mental health professionals provide therapeutic counseling sessions, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and licensed therapists. Education and licensing does determine the type of counseling and the extent of treatment that any one professional can legally offer his or her clients. For example, a psychiatrist is also a medical doctor (MD) who can not only provide therapeutic counseling, but can prescribe medications as well as diagnose and treat any medical issues also affecting mental health. Psychologists are doctors by way of obtaining a doctorate degree (PhD or PsyD) typically in clinical psychology or a specialty field such as neuropsychology. Depending upon where he or she practices, some professionals are given the title of marriage and family therapist (MFT), or marriage, family, and child counselor (MFCC).

Fighting couples may benefit from therapeutic counseling.
Fighting couples may benefit from therapeutic counseling.

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Discussion Comments


Depending on what is being focused on for this kind of treatment, who decides what "normal" is?

It seems we now have a politically active individual headed for this treatment, sentenced by a court with a Bill Clinton appointed judge. Is it possible that such a treatment could be considered a "reeducation camp"?

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