Counseling has never been an easy profession, but there is no question about the fact that it is particularly challenging right now. Societal issues have rarely been so acute; in recent times, people are suffering from a range of special circumstances, from post-pandemic trauma to institutional racism and transphobia, all of which make it difficult to provide suitable care.
At the same time, if counselors are able to utilize the right tools in the right situation and do their best to help their patients, no problem is truly insurmountable. In this article, we look at the main challenges that are faced by the public, examine what counselors are doing to help their patients to deal with them, and look at the ways in which you can acquire the skills and knowledge needed to make a difference as a counselor.
The post-Covid world
As we emerge from the Covid pandemic, many people – both adults and children alike – are suffering what has been termed as ‘post-pandemic trauma’. The impact of the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictions put in place to control it cannot be overestimated; it was a seismic change that shook the very fabric of society, and many of society’s wounds are still healing.
Post-Covid trauma is wide-ranging and complex. Some of the issues were caused directly by the virus itself, including the bereavement of close family members or friends and medical issues such as long Covid. There are also other more indirect problems; it has been very difficult for many people to adjust to what is seen as ‘normal life’ after years of sheltering, high levels of stress around potentially catching the virus, and the negative stories in the press that perpetuated fearmongering strategies and concern over financial security.
Counselors can help with these issues in a number of ways. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can be used in the treatment of PTSD, and it can help patients emerge from their worst experiences. Therapy sessions can help people express their feelings in a safe setting and come to understand the way in which their issues have affected them. In each case, it is essential to understand the specific personal circumstances of the patient.
The toll of racism and prejudice
Another highly prominent issue in recent years, particularly in the US, has been that of racism. Though racism has been prevalent in America since its beginnings, the George Floyd case – amongst many others – highlighted the inequalities faced by minorities in the United States. The case prompted many protests around the globe.
While overt racism still occurs, on many occasions racist treatment is subtle and hard to pin down, which makes it all the harder to articulate and understand. It is essential for counselors to work hard to understand the many forms of racism – from institutional and system racism to micro-aggressions and racial gaslighting – and to also understand the severe impact they can have on the individual.
In addition to identifying methods to help people who suffer from racist treatment to process their trauma, counselors are also often required to encourage all people to think more positively about their peers and refrain from prejudicial thinking. Naturally, this can be an especially sensitive and difficult subject to deal with, yet it can also be one of the most rewarding.
Transphobia and acceptance
Another issue that has been especially prominent in recent years is that of transphobia. It is fair to say that the last decade or so has seen great progress in terms of trans rights, with a variety of corporate and public measures being introduced to help promote greater equality of treatment, and greater visibility for many trans people. At the same time, we have also seen a backlash against this movement, and there have been several disturbing high-profile cases of transphobia.
Fortunately, counselors have access to a wealth of literature and information on hand to help them achieve a better understanding of issues of transphobia.
A considered approach
In each of the examples listed above, it is essential for counselors to realize that a one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate. These are highly complex topics that are difficult for even experienced counselors to negotiate. In addition to background theoretical training and sympathy with their patient, they also require detailed knowledge of the issues at hand. Fortunately, there are several courses available that can help counselors develop the knowledge, skillset and training that is necessary to offer the best care in these situations. For example, master’s in mental health counseling online programs – such as the course offered at American International College – can provide its students with an opportunity to research new and old theories, as well as principles of crisis and how it is applied to therapeutic strategies for treatment.
During an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the American International College, prospective counselors can learn a scientific basis for approaches to trauma care, and examine short- and long-term counseling methods, intervention techniques and preventative measures. In addition, they also have the opportunity to learn about the most important theoretical positions in the history of psychology, examine a range of counseling techniques, and study theories of multicultural counseling and social bases of behavior, including in relation to cultural and ethnic processes, familial patterns and gender roles.
Preparation is key
There is no doubt that there is a wide range of challenges that society faces today, all of which will influence our mental health in a variety of ways. Complications in mental health can make the work of counselors more complex. Often, these issues are highly complex and require a great deal of study, knowledge, and experience to negotiate successfully. It is also important to remember that the fundamental principles of the profession remain the same. As long as counselors continue to receive the best training, prepare with the greatest conscientiousness and care, and treat their patients with the right blend of theoretical expertise, professional experience, empathy and compassion, they have an excellent chance of helping them overcome their difficulties and embark on a path to a brighter future.