April is Counselling Awareness Month
Spring has arrived! How fitting that a month of flowers blooming, sun re-emerging and birds singing, is the same month celebrating a profession that encourages growth and renewal. The American Counselling Association has appropriately named the month of April Counselling Awareness Month to celebrate this profession and bring awareness to the necessity and benefits of this field.
Once considered somewhat of a taboo, seeing a counselling professional is now considered essential for a variety of issues from mental health and relationship concerns to career guidance and life coaching. Counselling goes beyond being listened to and supported through a problem. Counselling can have lasting effects on the mind and body that can change the way we view and interact in the world. Let’s dive into a few of the many benefits of counselling.
Counselling can get to the root of the problem
While medications can help to alleviate symptoms and improve functioning, counselling can help to uncover and resolve what might be causing these symptoms in the first place. Understanding the causes gives the power to make lasting changes.
Counselling can change the brain
Brain imaging studies have shown that counselling can alter activity in the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala, areas responsible for executive functioning, emotion and the fear response. Counselling can activate and change these areas of the brain that are crucial for symptom reduction, as well as improvements in emotion regulation, cognitive processing, and behavioural control.
Counselling can improve physical functioning and alleviate physical ailments
For instance, a review of several clinical trials evaluating irritable bowel syndrome showed that individuals receiving psychological therapy experience a greater reduction in gastrointestinal symptoms than those in control groups and these effects seemed to last 6 to 12 months after therapy concluded. The mind and body are inextricably linked. Psychological symptoms can increase the severity of physical symptoms and vice versa; making changes in the mind can, therefore, reduce symptoms in the body.
Counselling can improve coping and problem-solving
When experiencing stress, anxiety, or other overwhelming or difficult to manage emotions, our thinking part of the brain often goes offline making problem-solving near impossible. Counselling can help to implement coping skills that can deactivate the system and improve the ability to think things through and come up with solutions.
With counselling, you are not alone in your struggles
As much as we might want to think that we are capable of handling challenges on our own, the reality is that we are social beings and are biologically hardwired to be connected to others. This need to be connected and supported is even more activated during times of difficulty. It is in relationship with others that we find the strength and courage to take risks and the safety to explore our vulnerabilities. The relationship with a therapist has been shown to be a powerful determinant of change and also a significant source of support.
Counselling is more than simply talking about problems. The benefits of counselling are far-reaching and important for living with balance and wellness. For the month of April, let’s join in celebrating a profession that touches the mind, body, and soul.
- Beauregard M. (2014). Functional neuroimaging studies of the effects of psychotherapy. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 16(1), 75–81.
- Laird, K. T., Tanner-Smith, E. E., Russell, A. C., Hollon, S. D., & Walker, L. S. (2015). Short-term and long-term efficacy of psychological therapies for irritable bowel syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 14, 937 – 947.