Whenever we’re going through a difficult phase in life and want to reach out for professional help, questions about the benefits of counseling, therapy, and guidance weigh on our minds. Could it be the life-changing experience it is made out to be?
First, let me tell you having an education and having life skills are two different things. While school gives us an education, it’s at home we learn life skills like doing household chores, cooking, paying bills and negotiating terms with the plumber and the car mechanic.
But despite the training at home and in educational institutions, there are times we find ourselves at certain junctures in life where we feel that we need help to navigate through the situation but we don’t know who to ask for help. That’s when a psychological counselor or a life coach comes in.
A counselor could point you in the right direction by which you can solve your issues yourself and reap the benefits of counseling. And in the modern world, it is easily possible to avail of counseling online.
The findings of this meta-analysis provide strong support for the adoption of online psychological interventions as a legitimate therapeutic activity and suggest several insights in regard to its application.
Be it online or face-to-face therapy our aim is to discuss the benefits of counseling and guidance in this article. You will see how psychological therapy has the capacity to bring out the best in people.
What Is The Importance Of Counseling?
We were talking to 9-year-old Sushant Sharma the other day. He was very happy that his friend Dikhsha had got a privilege card in the class for good behavior. Sushant was great friends with Diksha and it pained him that she was always jumpy, got scolded in class, got really low grades but she was a kind child who always shared her tiffin with Sushant and brought him small gifts like pencils and erasers.
“But since the time she started attending counseling sessions in school she has become calmer, her grades have improved and I am really happy she got a privilege card today,” said Sushant.
The proven benefits of counseling in school are improvements in communication, concentration and better academic performance. Counselling also helps in integration into peer groups, dealing with neglect or abuse at home and better handling of anger and outbursts.
Life coach Joie Bose said, “I handled a case recently when a little girl came to me because she was having serious behavioral issues. She was not good in academics but I realized what she hated was that she was written off in her joint family as a non-performer who would just get married.
“After months of counseling, she now writes poetry, is the secretary of her school book club, and ranks within the top 10 in her class.”
In addition to the benefits of counseling for the youth, the ambit extends to a wide spectrum of life situations, difficult circumstances, and of course, mental issues. One of the biggest advantages of guidance and counseling is that you work with a trained professional to work through these issues.
The importance of counseling lies in the fact that it helps people navigate trying circumstances and cope with setbacks such as loss of a job, toxic relationships, death of a loved one, divorce, work or school-related stress, and much more.
Your counselor, slowly but surely, equips you with the necessary insights and tools that help you cope with such situations better and manage resulting mental health issues such as depression and anxiety more effectively. In short, it empowers you to lead a healthy and more fulfilling life, even when your circumstances are far from ideal.
Who needs counseling?
Apart from the question of why go to counseling, another important aspect that needs to be addressed is who can benefit from counseling. Often, people continue to grapple with their issues thinking that their problems are not big or pressing enough to warrant professional help.
Anyone who is through a challenging situation in their personal or professional life as well as people struggling with existential questions, searching for their place in the world, can avail the benefits of counseling.
The advantages of individual counseling are that it can help you process your emotions, identify triggers that may be subconsciously fueling certain behavior, break unhealthy patterns, and get back on your feet, feeling empowered and in control.
To identify the specific scenarios where counseling can be beneficial, we spoke to psychotherapist Dr Aman Bhonsle. Here are five top scenarios he lays out where people can benefit from counseling:
1. Family disputes
When we talk about the benefits of counseling for relationships, the scope extends far beyond couple relationships and romantic partnerships. Any form of dispute between family members, especially parents and children or even siblings can be managed better with a help of the right guidance.
There are instances where parents feel disappointed in their children, or children feel misunderstood and unheard by their parents. Generational gaps and differences in outlooks can further fuel the sense of resentment.
A counselor can act as a bridge that closes the gaps. Or at least help both parties break free from the burden of expectations, obligations, approval and validation.
2. Marital disputes
Of course, couple’s therapy ranks high among the benefits of counseling for relationships. When spouses are not on the same page or baggage of past issues is driving a wedge between them, going into therapy can help process feelings more pragmatically.
Often, stressful life situations such as a financial crisis, healthy issues, relationship problems, broken relationships, strained ties with a friend or family member can become triggers for anxiety. A trained psychologist can help you process these feelings emphatically, and give you a fresh perspective on such situations.
With the right tools, exercises and coping mechanisms, you can learn to cope with anxious emotions better and begin the work to rebuild your life after a loss or a setback.
4. Grief or trauma
The benefits of counseling for depression can be especially ground-breaking when it is triggered by certain life-altering events. Death of a loved one, job loss, miscarriage, an accident that affects your physical abilities – such instances can have a deep and far-reaching impact on the mental well-being of anyone.
Often, people are ill-equipped to process the quantum of sadness, grief or sense of loss that comes in the wake of such setbacks. Bottling it all up and powering through isn’t always the right approach.
A counselor can help you get in touch with the feelings of pain or loss that you may be avoiding dealing with, process them, and learn to live them in a way that they don’t interfere with your day-to-day existence.
5. Indecisiveness or confusion
When we talk about the benefits of counseling for the youth, its role in addressing indecisiveness is particularly worthy of a mention. A lot of times, young people struggle with confusion over career choices, life plans and a vision for the future.
In one’s growing up years, these choices are influenced by parents’ viewpoint and upbringing. As a person comes into their own and develops their own world view, their own choices can conflict with what they were taught to be right or aspirational.
This can lead to an existential crisis where people begin to question their place in the world etc. Likewise if someone feels like they’ve got a raw deal in life or weren’t given their due, confusion and a sense of dejection can creep in.
Counseling can equip you to put these extremely confusing, often contradictory, feelings in perspective.
What Are The Benefits Of Counseling?
The benefits of counseling are immense. While schools and other educational institutions have woken up to the importance of counseling, individuals are also availing counseling to ensure course correction in life.
Counseling can be of various kinds – psychological counseling, couples counseling, pre-marital counseling, children and parents counseling and counseling for intimate and sexual issues.
What is the science behind the benefits of counseling? In a study, all of the empirical articles published up to March 2006 that examine the effectiveness of online therapy of different forms were collected and a meta-analysis of all the studies reported in them was done.
These studies involved a total of 9,764 clients who were treated through various Internet-based psychological interventions for a variety of problems, whose effectiveness was assessed by different types of measures.
Life coach Joie Bose says, “I believe my work is to channelize the inner voice of the person who has come to me. I have to figure out what the person really wants. They are usually confused about their own feelings and it is my job to bring clarity. Being non-judgmental is the key and being there to help them to negotiate the situation is the other aspect of counselling,” she said.
The counselor is the person who holds your hand and helps you to overcome the situation you are in. People who have gone in for counselling have most of the time reported very positive results.
Deepa Sarkar found her 10-year-old daughter withdrawing into a shell after her divorce. She visited a counselor along with her daughter.
“She gave me an idea of what my daughter could be going through and I could understand her better and she helped my daughter deal with all the negative emotions. Both of us are in a better space now.” This is proof that divorce counseling can help spouses and children immensely.
Dr John M. Gottman, who has saved many marriages in the US from divorce by marriage counseling, said that marriages end because people don’t access counseling earlier. When they do it’s often too late.
The best part is people can access online marriage counseling in the privacy of their homes so there is always a possibility of timely intervention if the person is willing.
Related Reading: Relationship Counselling: I Feel Very Sad We Couldn’t Make It Work
9 Research-Backed Proven Benefits Of Counselling
Positive Psychology says there are empirically proven benefits of counselling. More and more people are opting for counselling. While corporates are going for work counselling for their employees, schools are getting great results with student counselling.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic happened and schools moved online, teachers are also being given online counseling to deal with their new schedules and changed teaching techniques. In fact, since the coronavirus crisis happened and people have been grappling with mental issues in lockdown, they have been also availing online counseling to deal with the situation better.
Family and parental counseling are helping parents to deal with their children better and group counseling has immensely helped people suffering from anxiety, depression, terminal diseases and addiction & substance abuse.
The benefits of counseling are many but here we focus on the 9 most important benefits of counseling:
1. Improvement in communication skills
As we know most relationship or mental issues arise from a breakdown in communication. When people cannot communicate and express their feelings there is a buildup of negative emotions that could lead to frustration, anxiety and even depression.
Counseling helps you to improve those communication skills, set your own relationship boundaries, and express yourself better. With improved communication skills people feel more empowered. The cobwebs start gathering in a relationship because of the things that are left unsaid.
Better communication helps to clear those cobwebs. You can begin by simple communication exercises with your partner to work on your communication issues.
Psychologist Kavita Panyam says, “Effective communication means that you choose the right words to speak. You have to remember you are responding and not reacting. Recently a husband came to me with his wife and among the many complaints one was he didn’t like the tone of her speech. I told her how saying a simple ‘Thank You’ for a glass of water makes a lot of difference in a relationship.”
2. Better self-esteem
Low self-esteem often leads to constant self doubt and performance anxiety. Students cannot perform in academics because of low self- esteem and this often leads to behavioural issues and inability to blend in a peer group. Low self-esteem leads to workplace issues and even reflects on interpersonal relationships and in some cases leads to inability to establish intimate relationships.
Counseling immensely helps in instilling confidence and self-esteem and hence better performance in all spheres of life.
Dr Aman shares an example of the advantages of individual counseling in dealing with self-esteem issues. “I once had a patient who wanted to be a digital artist but wasn’t confident enough to put this work up online, as it thought it’d come across as boastful.
“As I worked with him, we uncovered that this reluctance to put himself out there was a result of low self-esteem that could be traced back to his childhood days. His mother was overly critical of him. She’d constantly compare him to his brother, and put labels like ‘idiot’, ‘stupid’ and ‘good for nothing’ on him.
“Over time, I helped him learn how to stand up for himself in front of his parents. At the same time, set boundaries and stop being 100% transparent with them and reporting every little development in his life to his mother. Most importantly, I helped wean him off the need for validation from his mother, which he never got,” he says.
3. Deal with symptoms of anxiety and depression
In the present world, no one is immune to stress and anxiety. Sometimes the situation escalates into depression. In the US almost 46.6 million people are suffering from mental health issues, which means one out of every five adults has mental health issues.
A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that 7.5 percent of the Indian population suffered from mental health issues and it is predicted to reach 20 percent this year (2020). In India, most people don’t go to professionals because of the stigma attached to it so online counseling could be the way forward to reap the benefits of counseling.
Anxiety is a modern-world issue that many people are dealing with and from dating anxiety to texting anxiety, the issues are manifold. The benefits of therapy and guidance are immense for dealing with anxiety.
Kavita Panyam told us that it is the fear of the unknown, the apprehension that creates anxiety. One needs to think about the moment instead. “Anxiety can be handled through mindfulness and we use therapies by which the fear is removed and rational thinking is incorporated in its place.”
Dr Aman recounts how counseling helped a woman manage anxiety better. “Her husband was abusive and used to hit her now and then. These beatings became a trigger for her anxiety. At the same time, she didn’t want to walk out of the marriage because she was worried that her parents wouldn’t be supportive of her as she had fought with them to marry this man.
“The husband had convinced that these beatings and abuse are for her own good. He’d complain that she still acted like a college girl and spent her free time talking to her friends rather than help his mother shoulder domestic responsibilities,” he says.
With some tools and exercises, she learned how to manage and rein in her anxiety as well as stand up to her abusive husband
4. Ability to change behavior and habits
Abusive or alcoholic partners, people suffering from drug addiction or even compulsive liars and kleptomanics often find the motivation to deal with their behavioural issues.
It is very hard for this kind of people to change but it has been seen that with therapy it is possible. Finding the motivation to change one’s own behavior and habits is one of the biggest benefits of counseling.
5. Effective management of stress
Stress is a part and parcel of our daily lives. From a person working at an office to a housewife doing the cooking and cleaning, everyone is stressed in some way or the other. But it entirely depends on how we handle stress. Sometimes when we are unable to do that on our own therapy helps.
Dr Aman had a client who was extremely stressed out about an upcoming promotion. “He said that he was not confident at giving presentations and was worried that it might interfere with his chances of getting the promotion.
“Upon exploring deeper, we realized that this lack of confidence was the result of his boss telling him, as a young professional, that he was capable of public speaking. And it was best suited for a desk job. By helping him free himself from the clutches of one man’s opinion, I was able to set him on the path of regaining his confidence. This, in turn, helped him manage the stress he was under.”
Radhina Mehta, a working professional, says that torn between her job and her 10-month-old baby she wasn’t able to handle the stress. When she started having panic attacks she sought the help of a psychological counselor.
“It was a life-changing experience. I learnt how to stop micromanaging and fretting about small things and focus on the bigger picture. I am a much calmer person now, feel less guilty, I spend quality time with my kid and I recently got a promotion at work.”
Psychotherapist Meghna Prabhu says that stress level is so high these days that people are facing burnout in the late 20s itself. “This is affecting relationships. So I advise people to think of taking up other job opportunities and changing the work environment, exercise and eat healthy because stress management is a necessity now.”
As a dating, relationship and premarital counselor Meghna has observed that people are becoming more and more stressed about handling relationships these days. Constant fights, being blocked by a partner on social media, stonewalling or even ghosting have adverse effects.
“Talking to me helps them find an objective perspective and they can deal with their emotions better.” New-age relationships are tougher to maintain than one would think.
Related Reading: Is premarital counselling necessary for both men and women?
6. Improved conflict resolution ability
As soon conflict happens most of us have the tendency to become irritated and angry and express ourselves negatively. But conflict is inevitable in every step of our life but how we handle conflict decides on what kind of individuals we will be. One of the biggest benefits of counselling is attaining the ability of conflict resolution with objectivity and calmness.
Apologizing does not come in easily anymore and people often have trust issues. Conflict resolution discussion often takes a route to blame-shifting and couples end up saying hurtful things which is more due to aggression rather than intention.
Mukherjee Dar Bou (Mukerjee Da’s Wife) is a recent Bengali hit film that explores the relationship between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. They couldn’t tolerate each other and were always fighting so they were finally sent to a psychological counselor for conflict resolution.
As the sessions progressed the counselor taught the two ladies to see everything from the other person’s perspective. In the end, the two became great friends and companions.
Dr Aman cites the example of a mother and daughter to drive home the point that not all conflict resolution is about burying the hatchet. Sometimes, you have to learn to accept the difference. “My client was a young girl who wanted to be an artist and move to Goa to live with her boyfriend.
“Of course, these life choices conflicted with the mother’s value system and worldview. As a result, they were not able to see eye-to-eye. In this case, a strategic separation was the best recourse to resolving the conflict.
“I guided her to make an informed decision and become financially independent to support the decision. Eventually, she learned to make peace with her mother’s opinions of her, even though neither agreed with the other,” he says.
7. Better management of emotions
“I want to talk to someone about my feelings,” this is statement that counselors often hear. People often feel that they do not have anyone around them who would understand their emotions and feelings and refuse to talk about it. This results in bottling up of their emotions that has an adverse effect in the long run.
A counselor not only listens to a patient, through therapy they help a patient to understand their own feelings and handle their emotions better.
8. Increase in happiness quotient
When we pursue happiness as a goal it eludes us often. A person might have everything – a loving partner, beautiful kids or a great job, but despite that they might feel lonely and unhappy.
Joie Bose gives the example of a lady who got into an extramarital affair. “She started feeling extremely guilty about it and for the affair, the relationship with her husband and teenage children became very strained. She was so sad that she was on the brink of depression.
“I counseled her for six months and told her to move on from the guilt to self-love. Things happen and we are not always responsible for that and it’s her own body and mind and she should have agency over it. There is no point in being judgmental about it. She is a much happier person now and has got over the guilt.”
So therapy and guidance come with positive effects.
9. Better interpersonal relationships
Counselling helps immensely in building better interpersonal relationships. People often opt for counselling as a last resort when the relationship has hit the abyss. But people should go for relationship therapy as soon the knots appear because it’s easier to detangle it at an earlier stage.
If marriage counseling helps in saving marriages, counseling also helps people to move out of abusive marriages or understand and deal with emotional abuse. Counseling does help people to build better interpersonal relationships.
Dr Aman says that communication is the bedrock of healthy interpersonal relationships. But more often than not, couples are unable to communicate their simplest needs effectively. Citing an example, he says, “There was a case where the wife was unhappy that her husband didn’t do anything special for her whereas as the man thought grand gestures were unnecessary.
“He argued that his parents never went out of dinner dates or bought each other expensive gifts, and yet, they had a happy and long marriage. Explaining to the man the need to keep up with changing times was the first step in helping them connect better.
“He was advised to be more demonstrative of his feelings and emotions. Gradually, things improved in their marriage.”
Thanks to the tech revolution the benefits of counseling can be accessed online. Kavita Panyam tells us a heat warming success story of online counseling.
“This lady contacted me online. She was in an abusive marriage, which led to an extramarital relationship and she was very depressed. It’s been three years since I have been counseling her over the phone. I have never met her. But now she owns a company, is taking care of her kids financially, and is going to the UK on a scholarship. Counseling success stories like this are really satisfying.”
Do you have an issue you would like to discuss with our counselors from the comfort of your home? Avail online counseling at affordable rates from professionally qualified counselors in the privacy of your home at a time decided by you and let us help you make your life better.
The ambit of counseling extends to a wide spectrum of life situations, difficult circumstances, and of course, mental issues. One of the biggest advantages of guidance and counseling is that you work with a trained professional to work through these issues. Your counselor, slowly but surely, equips you with the necessary insights and tools that help you cope with such situations better and manage resulting mental health issues such as depression and anxiety more effectively. In short, it empowers you to lead a healthy and more fulfilling life, even when your circumstances are far from ideal.
If you’re dealing with any specific issues, look for a counselor who has special training and experience in dealing with them. Unless they specialize in the area which you need to work on, you won’t be avail to avail of the full extent of benefits of counseling.
No, there are no known disadvantages of counseling. However, it can prove counter-productive if you don’t find a counselor who is capable of helping you with your issues.
If you’ve dealt with a setback in your personal or professional life, have troubled family ties or dysfunctional relationships in your life, are unable to move on from a bad breakup, struggling with mental health issues, have low self-esteem or are in a confused place in life, counseling can help.