Learn how counselors help patients mitigate stress
Those who work in the field of Stress Counseling focus on a key concept in helping their clients, a concept that those living within the whirlwind of stress must grasp in order to take back their lives. This concept is called empowerment.
Counselors working in the mental health field treat a number of conditions, illnesses that include depression (see Depression), anxiety (see Anxiety), post-traumatic stress disorder (see PTSD), among others. Most of the conditions have stress at their roots, choking off individuals’ abilities to cope with normal daily activities, and find enjoyment in life.
These individuals feel as if stress has taken control of them, causing impossible constraints and distress. Many have encountered traumas, or live with financial pressures – job loss and home foreclosure. Still others have to deal with the serious illness or disability of a loved one. A life of chronic pain, for example, causes an individual to lose control to medications, doctors – even the pain itself.
Whatever the stressful situation or condition, individuals don’t see any way out; they blame the stress on others, fate, or simple bad luck. Things seem to go from bad to worse.
Role of the Mental Health Counselor
The role of the mental health counselor is to help individuals respond more appropriately to stressful predicaments. They help individuals place problems into perspective, developing a cognitive framework that encourages rational and objective thoughts rather than cognitions based only on emotions.
In other words, the role of the counselor is empowerment. This does not mean giving people power – they already have power. It’s having them realize that they already have within themselves the capacity to overcome life’s obstacles.
To empower individuals, counselors use therapeutic techniques to teach healthy decision making patterns because individuals struggling through stress often make unhealthy decisions. They turn to alcohol or drugs, food, and sedentary lifestyles to “ease the pain” of life’s stressors.
By focusing exclusively on the problem, and not letting past mistakes, problems, or life conditions influence a patient’s mindset, the counselor helps the patient diagram, visualize, or write out a range of options. This often means re-directing a patient’s “yes-no” mindset to include numerous possibilities and options.
For example, a counselor working with individuals suffering with chronic pain will have the patients list things they can do during painful periods to distract or take their minds off the pain. The counselor will also work with these patients on how to respond to others’ comments, concerns, or advice regarding their pain, teaching appropriate communication skills.
Empowerment also focuses on healthy alternatives to stress. Exercise, meditation and biofeedback are all self-directed activities that the individual does on his or her own to handle stress. These activities do not require medications or expensive equipment, or other-directed solutions. They are ways that individuals empower themselves to feel better, think more clearly, and release negativity from their thoughts – and bodies.
The counselor helps the individual develop a “plan.” The plan includes contingencies, solving for unseen or unexpected derailments, or new stressors. It’s as if the mental health counselor is a “cognitive personal trainer.” The patient needs some direction and instruction, opportunities to brainstorm, a reflective, thoughtful counselor to re-direct and re-engineer dysfunctional beliefs and opinions.
Stress counseling teaches individuals how to access the coping techniques that each individual possesses. Besides being integral in today’s stress-filled society, stress counseling provides the catalyst that those enmeshed in stress cannot access alone. It’s very difficult to dig one’s way out of stress when the body and mind has been continuously hammered by it. But counseling provides the tools to do the digging.
If you desire to help individuals find the tools and resources to handle stress and countless stressors, giving them back control over their lives, consider a career as a mental health counselor. Regardless of the mental health disorder, stress counseling is part of almost every therapeutic intervention.
To practice as a mental health counselor, at least a master’s degree is required. Most states also mandate state licensing. For more information, contact schools offering degrees in Mental Health counseling or schools offering psychology programs.
The Stress of Noise
Studies and surveys show that “noise” might be causing more individuals stress than many other stressors, such as crime, pollution, or inefficient government.
According to the U. S. Census Bureau, 138 million people live in neighborhoods that have noise levels considered excessive by the Environmental Protection Agency.
And British researchers linked noisy neighborhoods to residents being three times as likely to state that they were in poor health.
Andrew Steptoe, the British Heart Foundation professor of psychology at University College London, said that researchers highly correlate neighborhood stress to biological processes that promote disease.
Even noise in the home has been found detrimental to children. According to Purdue researcher Theodore Wachs, children growing up in overly noisy or chaotic environments have less cognitive growth, a delay in language skills, and increased anxiety.
Through his studies, Wachs has found that chaos in the home is often associated with childhood adjustment issues and problems.
Of course, the degree of problems varies with each child, and also among gender. Boys, he stated, typically have more trouble in chaotic or noisy environments than girls.
Experts advise keeping distractions such as televisions and radios to a minimum. Don’t have these devices turned on when no one is watching or listening. Also regular schedules, quiet or “down” times, and activities such as reading are all important ways to safeguard against the effects of noise in the home.