Behavioral Health Services

Who Needs Counseling?

Times have changed! Knowledge and understanding of mental health and counseling services have come a long way in the last 50 years.

The current generation of older adults grew up at a time when counseling for mental health problems was not as available and accepted as it is today. People believed they had to handle difficulties alone or only with the help of a close friend or family. Sometimes attitudes prevented people from seeking counseling. There was the fear that seeing a counselor was a sign of personal or moral failure or weakness; losing his or her mind or “going crazy.”

Today, counseling is sought by people of all ages. It helps one to handle a variety of difficult situations and personal concerns. Often just a few visits are all that is needed. Before deciding to seek counseling, it is advisable to ask for a consultation to discuss the situation and decide with the counselor whether counseling is needed.

What happens when a person sees a counselor?
Counselors cannot read minds, nor can they magically solve problems. What they do is listen attentively and with care to the person, and together try to find solutions to the problem. They may provide information, offer ideas on getting along with others, help him or her to think through a decision and suggest community services. Psychiatrists may prescribe medication, which can help. Many professionals are licensed to provide counseling, including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, pastoral counselors, psychiatric nurses and marriage/ family counselors.

Is all counseling alike?
No. There are many types of counseling. Counseling may treat an individual, a couple or a family. It may be specialized for certain problems, such as depression, alcohol or drug abuse or marital problems. Group therapy or self-help groups for those with common problems may be beneficial.

Who can benefit from counseling?
Those who are facing major changes in life often benefit from counseling. Some examples are:

  • A man who is diagnosed with an illness. He will need to learn to cope with the illness, make short- and long-term plans, and deal with family relationships.
  • A person who has been the victim of a crime. In one case, a woman was robbed and physically assaulted. She thought she was doing fine, but a few days later a friend came by to visit and saw a look of terror and panic on her face. The friend pointed this out and suggested she see her family doctor, who arranged for short-term counseling.
  • Couples facing major decisions. Financial or housing decisions, problems with family members or changes related to retirement might be reasons for a couple to see a counselor.

What other kinds of problems indicate a need for counseling?
Counseling may be indicated if a person has major changes in behavior:

  • Withdrawing or refusing to participate in normal, everyday activities
  • Being too anxious or panicked to participate in activities
  • Displaying sudden outbursts of anger without a good reason
  • Hearing or seeing things that aren’t actually present
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Having constant feelings of sadness and disappointment
  • Wishing to be dead or expressing suicidal ideas

It is difficult to know for certain whether counseling is needed. Only a trained professional can diagnose and determine the need for treatment.

What does counseling cost?
This varies considerably. It is important to find out about the cost, because fees are based on a number of factors. Medicare covers some outpatient treatment, and some insurance policies include mental health benefits. Be sure to ask about all payment possibilities.

What can I do if I think my friend needs counseling?
Share this page with your friend and talk about your concerns and why you think your friend might benefit from counseling. It is, of course, your friend’s decision whether to seek counseling. You can make it an easier one by getting information about available services and providing direct assistance such as transportation for your friend.

If you are really worried about the safety of your friend, contact a mental health professional or a crisis telephone line for guidance on how to handle the situation.

Am I doing the right thing?
The important thing is your concern and caring for your friend. There isn’t a simple, single answer for how to help in this type of situation. Trying to help, getting information, talking openly and honestly with your friend- this is what counts. It's hard to see a friend in emotional distress and suffering. It's good to know that counseling is available and can make a difference.