Importance of Counseling/ Psychotherapy
Current research suggests that various modalities of counseling and psychotherapy change not only one’s mental state but also the state of one’s brain, including increased blood flow and normalized activity in the parts of the brain that regulate emotion, such as the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Talk therapy has been shown to change the brain in ways similar to antidepressant medication.
According to neurobiologist Candace Pert¹, every emotion we feel circulates through our bodies as chemicals called “neuropeptides,” short- chain amino acids or proteins that talk to every cell of our body. Pert’s research suggests that these molecules of emotion play a significant role in guiding what we experience as perception and conscious choice. According to Pert, “Our emotions decide what is worth paying attention to. The decision about what becomes a thought rising to consciousness and what remains an undigested thought pattern buried at a deeper level in the body is mediated by the receptors of our body-wide, biochemical, information network.”
So, why do we keep getting into the same kinds of relationships, having the same kinds of arguments, encountering the same kinds of bosses? According to Pert, when receptor sites are repeatedly bombarded with peptides, they become less sensitive and require more peptides to be stimulated. Receptors begin to crave the neuro-peptides they are designed to receive. In this sense, our bodies are addicted to emotional states. When we have repeated experiences that generate the same emotional response, our bodies will develop an appetite for these types of experiences. Like addicts, we will draw experiences toward us that give us a fix.
Can we change?
Are we hard-wired for life? According to Pert, the answer is no. While the brain was previously thought to stop developing in early childhood, exciting new research shows that we continue to produce flexible and regenerative new cells and rearrange the existing connections between cells throughout our lives. We can change because neurons are inherently flexible and regenerative. This applies to the molecules of emotion.
Our world is increasingly becoming more interconnected. This globalization highlights the need for highly trained mental health professionals to address trauma, addiction, depression, academic and career concerns in clinics, hospitals, schools, and universities. According to the American Counseling Association “Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education and career goals.”
Clinical Psychologists/ psychotherapists are highly-trained professionals assisting people to live more joyful, productive lives. No one would seriously doubt that life is challenging and, at times, heart-breaking—we need only to look around. Then, there are others issues that while seemingly less pressing, can be very big concerns for the person grappling with them. A good example of such concerns involves career and vocational identity issues. Clinical Psychologists help students and adult clients address career and employment concerns through testing, interviewing and, of course, counseling. Good career “fit” certainly is an asset to optimal mental health and, conversely, people unhappy in their job (or those unemployed) likely will be depressed.
The average length of a counseling session is between 45-50 minutes. Each counseling experience is unique just as every individual is unique. What happens in individual, couples or family counseling sessions depends on the unique needs and contributions of the individual(s) seeking help. Counseling is challenging work and maintaining one’s own physical and mental health is critical for success in the profession.