Find top-rated personal counselors in your area

Explore Our Solution Center for Helpful Personal Counselor Articles

Go to the article: 

PTSD: Symptoms, Treatment and Prognosis

veteran with PTSD
Go to the article: 

Step-by-step: How to Actually Achieve Life Goals

blue pen writing on yellow post it
Go to the article: 

Video: Stress Management Tips from a Doctor



Grief is a part of life that everyone experiences at some point. Many people associate grief with the period following the death of a loved one, but a person can grieve over a number of issues: the loss of a life dream, an act of violence or the end of a relationship. Grief counseling gives the bereaved person the tools to work through his or her feelings in order to heal and move forward.

Grief and counseling

Grief involves a set of emotions that follow a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one, a divorce or even following a natural disaster like a hurricane or tornado. Grief counseling helps a bereaved person understand and process the stages of grief. The best grief counselors become a teacher or guide to people experiencing the mourning process. Rather than telling people how they should feel following a loss, the counselor helps them identify the emotions they are feeling.

A counselor provides information and support throughout the states of bereavement. Often a grieving person doen't understand the grieving process. Well-meaning people may try to convince the person that grieving won't help or suggest it's time to move on, but these approaches rarely help. To this end, the counselor becomes the compassionate companion that the bereaved needs to work through the process.

The grief counselor can help with practical matters such as giving advice about dealing with everyday tasks, which can be overwhelming during this period. The counselor may also refer the grieving person to a professional like a medical doctor or nutritionist if his or her health is suffering as a result of grief.

Finally, the grieving person learns how to express grief in a healthy way through counseling. Many people are confused and overwhelmed by the grieving process. Counseling helps the client understand that the feelings of sadness, guilt, isolation, numbness and loneliness associated with grief are very normal and that they fade with time.

When to seek grief counseling

Grief counseling helps people experiencing the five stage of grief as outlined by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. More specifically, this type of counseling can help a person work through the last stages of a divorce, try to move on after a loved one dies or help rebuild a life after it's shattered by natural disaster or even a violent event like an attack or a rape.

Additionally, counseling may help a person experiencing complicated grief. This type occurs when people experiencing grief cannot move past it, often in the aftermath of a sudden death of a loved one from homicide or the death of a child. Typically, a person in the throes of this type of grief lingers on the thoughts of the loved one for months and even years. He or she feels numb and often wishes to have died in place of or along with the loved one. The grieving person may consider suicide when dealing with complicated grief, and a counselor provides support for this and other issues.

Finding a grief counselor

Uou can find a grief counselor in different ways. Many of these professionals are associated with hospice organizations, hospitals, shelters, churches or funeral homes. Look to Angie's List for a listing of grief counselor in your area and peruse their certifications, affiliations, reviews and ratings.

As with most counseling situations, the bereaved should determine whether he or she is comfortable with the counselor and feels that that person is trustworthy. Grief is a deeply personal process, and even the grieving person may not feel comfortable with all the emotions that are emerging. To this end, find out what the counselor's experience is in helping a person through grief. Ask what kind of training and experience the counselor has in regard to grief.

The patient should also discuss fees and find out if the counselor takes insurance or has a fee structure that the patient can pay. If not, the patient can ask about financial aid. Additionally, the client should about initial sessions with the counselor to see if they are compatible. Sometimes a person can know whether a therapist is the right one only after a few sessions.

Finally, group counseling can also be helpful, and the bereaved can find groups at the same organizations in which he finds individual counselors. Hearing other people's stories of loss can be very healing because the grieving person learns that he or she is not alone.

Addiction Counseling

Addiction is a chronic disease that involves biochemical reward by using a substance or behavior to reach a pleasant or pleasurable state of mind or feeling. In many cases, addicts need professional help to stop.

Seeking addiction counseling

When addictive behavior causes disruption in your life and you are unable to stop on your own, addiction counseling can help. Counseling will give you the tools you need to eliminate out of control behavior.  Addiction counseling serves as an initial starting point for identifying, treating and resolving the many forms of addiction. Trained professionals can evaluate and diagnose a suspected addiction or medical problem through a variety of therapies.

Alcoholism is a common type of addiction that can cause severe lifestyle and health problems. Frequent consumption of alcoholic drinks and an inability to stop drinking or control your drinking could signal alcohol abuse. When you're in the grasp of alcoholism, your drinking is out of control and negatively affects your lifestyle and those around you. Counseling that involves inpatient medical detox as well as intense behavioral therapy sessions can alleviate or teach you how to cope with symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and help you achieve sobriety.

Drug addiction is a very serious issue that may also require treatment through counseling. Because of the addictive qualities of some drugs and their deadly side effects, detoxification and counseling are often necessary to help beat drug dependency. Examples of addictive drugs include amphetamines, cocaine, certain prescription drugs, inhalants, phencyclidine (PCP) and hallucinogens.

If you smoke tobacco, counseling can help you deal with your cravings and teach you constructive behavioral modifications. Quitting smoking can contribute to a healthier lifestyle and reduce your risk for developing cardiovascular disease, emphysema and certain types of cancer.

Some behavioral addictions and disorders may force you to seek professional intervention and treatment. These types of addictions are referred to as impulse control disorders and include food addiction, body dysmorphic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, compulsive gambling, kleptomania and intermittent explosive disorder. You may need help with learning new behavioral skills to regain a sense of normalcy in your life. Choosing help for your addiction through a professional counselor increases your chances for long-term sobriety or cessation.

Types of addiction counseling

Addiction counseling is a form of mental health therapy. A counselor will look at your past medical history, family dynamics, relationships and current mental health status. He or she will examine current lifestyle points, such as employment, financial concerns and any type of issues that could be contributing to mounting stress factors. After evaluation, the counselor will decide which type of therapy or counseling is right for you.

Counseling may include individual sessions as well as multidimensional family therapy by trained counselors who have specialized training in addiction and chemical dependency. Individual counseling includes one-on-one sessions that evaluate your addiction, discuss its severity and identify triggers that may be causing your desire to use drugs or engage in certain behaviors. This type of counseling is the initial starting point of the treatment process. Multidemensional family therapy may be initiated if you have family members you interact with daily. Problem-solving sessions will help teach them coping mechanisms and guide them through what to expect throughout your recovery.

Inpatient therapy may be needed to help assure the body detoxes safely from drugs or alcohol with minimal side effects. An addiction counselor will be on hand throughout this process and provide care both in the facility and in follow-up outpatient therapy program sessions.

Group therapy may be beneficial for long-term care. This type of open-forum setting will involve other addicts at various stages of their recovery, along with a counselor who will assist in discussing the side effects and issues involved with withdrawal. Some form of cognitive behavioral therapy may also be introduced at these sessions. This type of therapy will discuss major triggers that could cause interruptions in your recovery and will teach you how to enforce healthy habits instead of bad ones so that you can stay focused on sobriety.

Benefits of addiction counseling

Participation in addiction counseling sessions aims to acquire the skills needed to lead a productive and healthy lifestyle. Overcoming addiction includes staying physically healthy, taking your prescribed medication exactly as directed and going to all doctors' appointments. It also means plugging into a network of support, attending all counseling sessions, recognizing and reducing life stressors, learning about your addiction  and getting help if you feel a relapse coming on.

Seeking treatment can improve your lifestyle habits, allowing you to be productive with daily activities and reduce the risk of permanent health damage that could result from prolonged use of drugs and alcohol or negative compulsive behavior. The correct coping mechanisms along with an accurate diagnosis for any underlying conditions will help assure your treatment outcome for addiction is successful.

Choosing an addiction counselor

The training and requirements to become an addiction counselor vary by state, but all states require some form licensure. Some states require counselors to obtain a certification in addiction counseling or substance abuse, while other states require addiction counselors to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Tips for choosing an addiction counselor:

Referrals – Ask your doctor for a referral, or try searching online or checking Angie’s List for reviews. The Association for Addiction Professionals has a searchable database to find addiction counselors by state.

Specialization – For optimal results, choose an addiction counselor that specializes in the addiction you are struggling to overcome, such as narcotics, alcohol or food.

Check your insurance – Your insurance policy might cover addiction counseling, but coverage varies depending on the insurance company.