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What is Counseling?

Katelyn Hagerty

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 7/26/2021

Whether it’s calling up a friend to complain or laugh about a new development at work, or reaching out to family for comfort through a challenging situation you’re working through, one thing is certain: talking through a change or the everyday routine of life is a process that often leaves us feeling better.

However, there are instances where the dry humor from your friends, or the tender love from your family, may not be enough to get you through a demanding phase of your life. 

In such cases, professional guidance may be required — which is where counseling and the directives of a counselor come in. And developing a professional relationship with your counselor is an important part of the process.

Read on for everything you need to know about counseling, the expectations you should have when engaging the services of a counselor and the areas of life where counseling may help. 

What is Counseling? 

Counseling is a form of talk therapy. This means it requires two people: a patient and professional counselor, to engage in conversation where life challenges are identified and ironed out.

Counseling gives individuals a safe space — a hallowed ground of sorts — to air their grievances, talk about their concerns and outline their hopes for the directions they aim for their lives to take. 

As we mentioned, this safe space is usually shared by a counselor who is a mental health professional with the skills to evaluate a person’s mental health, and knowledge of the techniques necessary to make improvements towards their patients’ wellbeing. 

This mental health professional may also help with assessing, diagnosing, and treating more severe psychological symptoms.

Depending on the reason you decide to engage in counseling, the ultimate takeaways you should leave with are a reduction in the symptoms you started the sessions with, as well as an improvement in the way you think, feel and live your life.

What Problems Can Counseling Help With?

A number of life challenges may be addressed during individual counseling sessions. 

They include matters that border on employment status, environmental influences, lifestyle dilemmas, relationship issues and many, many others. These other issues include (but are not limited to):

  • Career goals or work strains

  • Making career transitions such as retirement or drastic location transfers

  • Dealing with learning disabilities

  • Major life changes such as divorce

  • Stress management techniques

  • Living with physical disabilities or chronic injuries

  • Coming to terms with your true identity

  • Marital and other relationship difficulties

  • Poor social skills

  • Poor coping skills

  • Mental disorders such as depression and anxiety

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What to Expect in Counseling

Counseling looks different for everyone.

Depending on the plan drafted and agreed to with your counselor, your therapy session may last around 50 minutes. Likewise, how often you see your counselor, and the number of appointments you meet for may be discussed and mutually agreed to by both of you.

To get you through difficult feelings or whatever challenge you may be experiencing, you may meet up with your counselor in a formal setting like an office or clinic, while more laid back meeting points may take place at other locations (or even in a digital setting) depending on what’s most comfortable for you.

During these sessions, you can expect your counselor to employ the techniques of their profession to get you through the difficulties. 

This may involve specific exercises designed to guide you through the problem. Other times, the counselor may instead choose to speak broadly, and have discussions about how you’re feeling to get to the root of your challenges.

Regardless of the approach your counselor takes, however, you can expect empathy and a freedom from judgment when discussing the matters that are most pressing to you.

In determining when to call an end to counseling, this usually depends on the length of time it takes to completely treat the challenge that brought you into therapy. 

At other times, your sessions with a counselor may be terminated when your condition has been brought to a manageable level, or when your goals for counseling are met.

Counseling may also not be a thing that ends. Plenty of people use it for the long-term, even if it winds up meaning reducing sessions to once every month or so.

The point is, it really all depends on you and your needs. 

What are the Types of Counseling?

Depending on the areas of concern, counseling services may come in different forms. These include:

Individual Counseling

This form of counseling can help you cope with issues at work, with relationships or other dealings with people. 

It can help you manage serious issues like substance abuse, eating disorders, anxiety and depression, stress management, conflict resolution, etc.

Couples Counseling

Couples counseling can help treat the issues between you and a partner or spouse, usually by fostering better communication skills. 

Speaking with a professional may assist to identify strengths, while pinpointing any weaknesses that may be contributing to relationship issues.

Group Counseling

Meeting with a group of people in sessions moderated by a counselor, much like individual counseling sessions, can help provide guidance in areas of difficulty in your life. 

This is especially because these groups usually consist of people with similar challenges. 

Group sessions may teach first hand methods to manage challenges from the shared experiences of members within the group.

Benefits of Counseling

If you can’t tell by now, counseling is an extremely valuable and effective tool in helping everyday people sort through our everyday experiences. When it works, it offers a ton of benefits. Notably:

  • Counseling helps to improve a sense of wellbeing, and can encourage a return to normalcy in people with physical, emotional, and mental health issues.



  • By taking part in counseling sessions, the feelings of distress that may have encouraged the search for a solution may be resolved.



  • Counseling may be used as an alternative to medication when treating certain conditions. In other cases, it may be used in combination with medication for the best results.



  • Counseling and other forms of talk therapy may be useful for helping to address issues like negative ways of thinking, or difficulties at home, at the office or in our interacting with people.

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Counseling and Your Mental Health

Talking about our challenges can be an effective way to get through them. 

Having a professional to help guide us through these challenges can oftentimes make all the difference between holding onto these experiences in harmful ways and learning how to let go of the things that aren’t helping us move on with our lives.

In addition to being an alternative to medication, counseling is most effective as a means to change negative attitudes and ideas about life to encourage a more positive outlook.

If you’re all set to try out your first counseling session, take the leap from the comfort of your home with our online counseling sessions with trusted professionals.

6 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Nami.org (n.d) Types of Mental Health Professionals. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Types-of-Mental-Health-Professionals
  2. Apa.org (2008) Counseling psychology. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/counseling
  3. Counseling.org (n.d) What is professional counseling? Retrieved from: https://www.counseling.org/aca-community/learn-about-counseling/what-is-counseling
  4. National Alliance on Mental Health. (n.d.). Treatment Settings. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Treatment-Settings

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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