Does Counseling Work?

A few years ago following an injury to my back I was face down on my chiropractor’s table with him adjusting me back into normalcy when he began talking to me about my profession. The standard, what do you do and where questions. I proudly replied, “I’m a professional counselor.”

He made some sort of rumbling noise and offered, “A few years ago my church sponsored a nonprofit counseling center, but we stopped because it was a bit of a money drain and there’s really no research to show that it works. It’s just talking.”

Had I not been pinned to the table being popped and prodded I would’ve bounced right up to tackle this argument toe to toe and eye to eye. I replied, “And you’re just making miniscule adjustments, like cracking knuckles, but here it is, working.”

Counseling does indeed have a wealth of research support. As a profession we struggle to be heard over the drone of much louder and better-funded medical research. So when you’re thinking about counseling or your friends or family say, “You could just talk to me!” – here’s some information to support you choice to seek out some professional guidance through life’s ups and downs.

1. Counseling is research supported to treat many mental health problems including but not limited to depression disorders, anxiety disorders, grief and bereavement, PTSD or posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and schizophrenia.

2. Specific approaches like DBT or dialectical behavior therapy are clinically proven to help alleviate suicidality, borderline personality disorder, and self-injury. Solution-Focused Brief Therapy is also clinically supported for treatment with an array of issues.

3. Therapeutic alliance is the number one factor in successful therapy outcomes. This means that finding the counselor you “click” with best is vital in a successful outcome in treatment.

4. Counseling has been shown to help people wishing to cease the anxiety medications known as benzodiazepines.

5. Counseling can work with medication and when clients wish, without it. Counseling is an effective alternative to medication and an effective adjunct therapy that works with medication. In fact, a recent study shows that CBT is just as effective as medication.

6. Counseling isn’t just talking! It’s true, you can “just talk” to friends. Friends and family may have a stake in your life and your decisions, and so there may be things you feel you can’t tell them, or they may give advice that benefits them, even if unintentionally so. Counseling will challenge you in good ways, and the interventions therapists use are often innovative and creative and don’t just include couch-sitting until your buns are numb!

Read all about finding the right counselor on my ACA blog here.

For my research lovers, check out a couple of my favorite studies (but this isn’t by any means ALL of what is there to support many forms of counseling):

Butler, A., Chapman, J., Forman, E., & Beck, A. (2006). The empirical status of cognitive-behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses [Electronic version]. Clinical Psychology Review, 26, 17-31. doi:doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2005.07.003

Westra, H. A., Constantino, M. J., Arkowitz, H., & Dozois, D. A. (2011). Therapist differences in cognitive–behavioral psychotherapy for generalized anxiety disorder: A pilot study.Psychotherapy, 48(3), 283-292. doi:10.1037/a0022011

Driessen, E., Hollon, S., (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy for mood disorders: Efficacy, moderators, and mediators. DOI 10.1016/j.psc.2010.04.005

Halverson, J.L., Bienenfeld, D., Leonard, R.C., & Riemann, B.C. (2014). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for depression. Medscape.

McHugh, R.K., Whitton, S.W., Peckham, A.S., Welge, J.A., & Otto, M.W. (2013). Patient preference for psychological vs pharmacologic treatment of psychiatric disorders: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2013

Safran, J.D., Muran, J.C., and Proskurov, B. (2009) Alliance, negotiation, and rupture resolution, in Handbook of Evidence Based Psychodynamic Psychotherapy (eds R. Levy and S.J. Ablon), Humana Press, New York, pp. 201-5.

Ackerman, S. and Hilsenroth, M (2003) A review of therapist characteristics and techniques positively impacting the therapeutic alliance. Clinical Psychology Review, 23, 1-33.

Ardito, R. B., & Rabellino, D. (2011). Therapeutic Alliance and Outcome of Psychotherapy: Historical Excursus, Measurements, and Prospects for Research. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 270. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00270

Dorsey, S., Briggs, E. C., & Woods, B. A. (2011). Cognitive Behavioral Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Children and Adolescents. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 20(2), 255–269. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2011.01.006

*If you’re counselor shopping in Texas contact me! I offer both online and in person services 🙂

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