How to become better at counseling? This question seldom eludes students’ thoughts after obtaining their degrees in mental health counseling since improving your counseling expertise requires certain soft skills. Graduates can earn a plethora of clinical know-how regarding the science behind therapy. But staying ignorant of these soft skills can cost you your career. What’s the magic recipe to be good at helping mental health patients in today’s COVID-infected environment? You should connect with your clients genuinely, place yourself in their shoes, and consider things from their perspective. Let’s explain these tips in further detail here.
How to become better at mental health counseling?
Even before the pandemic, American mental health was in shambles! Reports suggest that some 20% of our citizens were suffering from mental health issues. So, counselors can find many employment opportunities for kickstarting their careers. Statistics also promise an increase in counseling-related jobs in this decade. But are modern-day counseling graduates prepared for these roles in the industry? So, we need counselors to develop the right skills to become at this job. Remember that counselors must never stop learning or bolstering their skills. We have mentioned some must-have abilities that patients expect therapists/counselors to possess. Therefore, here are some tips to become better at counseling now:
- Choose a niche
Counselors should select a niche to perform to serve patients effectively. We suggest you learn about the different types of careers in counseling and associated employment opportunities. A counselor can’t become successful in this industry without choosing a specialty. You can become an addiction counselor, work with college students, or help couples maintain their marriages. Choose your niche wisely and study accordingly to enhance your academic expertise and professional experience.
- Enhance your micro-skills
What do we mean by the micro-skills counselors must develop? These aren’t just some random soft skills we’re mentioning here for content; experts have described these skills as modern-day therapists’ tools for helping patients. Let’s summarize five essential micro-skills here for you:
- Help patients find answers to their issues by making them reflect on previous experiences. A counselor should help a client find the meaning of life.
- Display attending behavior by making eye contact and leaning forward to listen better. Thus, the patient knows you’re interested in what they’re saying.
- Ask relevant questions to know more about the patient’s story. Questioning shows how you are attentive to what the patient has to say. So, make more queries.
- Focus on the problems your patients are facing. Asking questions like “What can you tell me more about yourself?” can encourage the patient to open up before you.
- In a session, you may need to confront the patient, i.e., make them aware of something they have neglected or are trying to ignore. Confrontation makes a session productive.
- Understand your clients
Americans are beginning to trust therapists today. Studies indicate that over 90% of Americans want to recommend mental health counselors to a family member suffering from behavioral problems. But the counselor should understand these patients to help them properly. How do you understand your clients? We suggest therapists communicate with them and show some compassion. Place yourself in the client’s shoes and consider things from their perspective. That’s how you understand them!
- Always be welcoming
Patients trust counselors who are welcoming, compassionate, and genuinely care about their clients in a session. You can’t establish a well-crafted therapeutic relationship with your patients unless you know how to create a long-lasting impression on people. Patients will judge your expertise based on the perception you give them. So, ensure clients don’t experience anything negative in the get-go; otherwise, they won’t return. Friendly counselors can better help their patients.
- Acknowledge their anxiety
Receiving mental health treatment isn’t a taboo anymore. However, patients show some discomfort at the prospect of seeking counseling. Statistics show that 47% of Americans believe therapy is a sign of weakness. The decision-making process that eventually convinces patients to seek therapy is nerve-wracking, so counselors must acknowledge a client’s anxiety. Acknowledging this anxiety helps patients become more confident about their problems, thus making it easier for you to help them.
- Show some flexibility
What does the term “flexibility” mean for mental health therapists? Counselors handle patients who suffer from many sorts of problems. These clients are seldom under similar circumstances, and every patient requires a solution catered to individual conditions. That’s why therapists must obtain expertise in several niches to deal with these differently-influenced patients. These areas include the family therapy niche, relationship counseling, multicultural counseling, and several other options.
- Return their calls
Do you always return your clients’ calls? Surprisingly, patients complain about therapists neglecting to return their calls. Though it may seem like a minor infraction, not returning such calls isn’t just bad practice, it’s a violation of several principles and even one standard in the ethics code. Also, you show you care when returning people’s calls, thereby establishing yourself as a professional. It’ll sound refreshing to hear a patient saying, “I tried many therapists, but you’re the only one to call back.”
- Be more knowledgeable
Obtaining knowledge isn’t fruitful without its effective application, experts believe. Our students can learn about different counseling approaches in an online course, but applying these approaches now to real-world problems will make them better at therapy. For instance, certain counseling strategies are more effective for certain mental health issues, e.g., motivational interviewing for addicts. So, educate yourself about these approaches to help your clients overcome their demons.
- Focus on self-care
Don’t forget about yourself while treating patients. How is your mental health? You may have heard jokes or read memes about how therapists need therapy as well. Well, therapists often undergo the feeling called “compassion fatigue” or professional burnout, after which they lose the ability to share a client’s pain or feel sympathy for them. So, self-care ensures that you don’t suffer from burnout or similar conditions. We suggest you take better care of yourself to become an effective counselor.
- Remember to network
We suggest counseling students start networking prematurely since these connections can help you kickstart your career effectively. So, what does “networking” mean for counselors? Develop affiliations with organizations such as ACA (American Counseling Association). Associating with these organizations can help you interact with experienced professionals to enhance your know-how. Your networking capabilities let you remain updated about industry-standard codes for better practice.
Seeking mental health counseling isn’t a taboo anymore in society. It’s estimated that 40+ million people in the country received mental health treatment in 2019. However, therapists require some skills if they wish to become more effective at helping patients. We’ve described some of these abilities you have to develop, including flexibility, knowledge, networking, and other qualities. Moreover, you should enhance your micro-skills, understand your client’s anxiety, and understand things from their perspective. That’s how you can become successful in the counseling profession. Always remain welcoming to your clients. Avoid being judgemental, and don’t forget to focus on self-care. These tips will help you enjoy a prolific career as a mental health specialist.