What Is a Mental Health Counselor?

mental health counselor client couch

The basic definition of a mental health counselor is simple. Understanding all of what the term can mean, however, is more complicated.

Mental health counselors are licensed professionals who help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with family and other relationships, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They communicate with clients to understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives.

Depending on the context, “mental health counselor” can refer to a specific license rather than the actual work. Mental health professionals can earn the proper mental health counselor license, but their daily work might not involve counseling. Before or after their clinical work, many become administrators, educators, or consultants. Nonetheless, most professionals who advertise themselves as mental health counselors provide mental health support as their primary source of income. Continue reading What Is a Mental Health Counselor?

The Imperfection of Perfectionism

pyramid red blue berries

Many people strive for some form of perfection. Whether in their work, in their appearance, in their relationships, in their expectations of others. There are a number of problems with perfectionism not the least of which is that it is simply not possible. Perfection is an ideal, which, almost by definition, is unattainable. Like trying to stand in the middle of a rainbow; as it’s approached, it recedes.

The other problem is that the criteria used to gauge perfection are suspect. How did we arrive at the criteria? Is the criteria valid? And, even if we were to judge the criteria as valid, will it remain so through time? If our expectations change, then how perfect could the criteria have been in the first place? Perfection suggests no room for improvement. It’s the ultimate, the top of the line, can’t get any better. It’s perfect! The irony of perfectionism is that to hold such a high standard, as an ideal, is an imperfection; it is an irrational and illogical standard by which to gauge and determine success or happiness. Continue reading The Imperfection of Perfectionism

Single Moms: Celebrate Yourselves on Mother’s Day

young daughter kissing mother's cheek

When I was a single mom, I started a tradition of buying myself a pair of sandals on Mother’s Day. My kids were too young to take me out to brunch. Instead we went looking for sandals for Mommy.

I began this ritual because the thought of Mother’s Day brought up a storm of negative emotions: Regret that I’d decided to end my marriage, guilt that my kids didn’t have happily married parents, and self-pity that I didn’t have a spouse to make my day special. Sandals represented the optimism that accompanies the warmer, longer days and joys of summer. My new shoes were a reminder to stay positive on a day that, for single mothers, can be fraught with a myriad of negative emotions.

Obviously I’m not suggesting that all single moms should run out and buy sandals on Mother’s Day. I’m sharing my story to encourage single moms to create their own strategies for optimism and joy, especially on days when it’s common to experience negative emotions.

The buildup and hype surrounding Mother’s Day can be emotionally challenging for moms parenting on their own. As someone who works with and on behalf of single mothers, here are some insights I’ve learned along the way about regret, guilt, and self-pity. Continue reading Single Moms: Celebrate Yourselves on Mother’s Day

Am I a Good Person? A Borderline Personality Perspective

woman psychiatric hospital cell illustration

As part of May’s Mental Health Month, we’re sharing stories that raise awareness about mental illness and empower those who suffer from it. This piece is part of our Darkest Day series, a collection of stories from people who’ve made it through the worst of their illness and now light the way for others. #LightYourWay

Am I a good person? It’s a question we all ask ourselves from time to time, but for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, it carries special significance.

As someone living with BPD, I’ve heard all sorts of negative comments about those dealing with the condition: we’re manipulative, angry, selfish, unable to empathize, incapable of maintaining long-term commitments — the list goes on. While it’s true that many people with BPD do exhibit some of these qualities at various times, they don’t describe all of us, at all times.

I’d love to say that I’ve never exhibited any of these qualities, but BPD, like most mental health disorders, exists on a sliding scale of severity. It’s a spectrum, one that changes depending on the amount of pressure being applied.

I’ve never been under as much pressure as I was in 2014. My second marriage fell apart in February (seemingly overnight, but was actually the result of many years of neglect and denial). In the weeks that followed, I enjoyed a tryst that ended horrendously (another story for another time). Then, on a rainy April afternoon, I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child (I’d spent the two years leading up to that moment on a waiting list to get my tubes tied). Continue reading Am I a Good Person? A Borderline Personality Perspective

Talkspace Therapists Weigh in on Data-Driven Therapy

hand smartphone data app

The verdict is in: Therapy is becoming more data-driven. Because of advancements in psychology metrics and the gradual spread of feedback-informed treatment [FIT], an increasing number of therapists are relying on data to improve their performance and clinical outcomes. There is already evidence that using data can decrease the number of clients who leave therapy or see a deterioration in their mental health.

But with some advances in a field comes resistance, criticism, anxiety, skepticism, division, and debate. The majority of in-person therapists do not use FIT or any formal system of data in their work. Some believe data has no place in something as artful, personal, and private as therapy. Every client and therapeutic relationship is different, so therapists are often not confident in the ability of data to account for this variance.

At Talkspace we are at the forefront of data-driven and online therapy. We frequently survey clients and use the anonymous feedback to work with their therapists to improve the quality of treatment. Nonetheless, we understand the perspectives of therapists who are weary of big data’s role in therapy.

To start a positive and productive dialogue about the role of data in therapy, we sent our therapists this article about data-driven therapy. We asked them to read and respond with comments and constructive criticisms regarding the use of data and FIT in therapy. Continue reading Talkspace Therapists Weigh in on Data-Driven Therapy

Mental Health Warriors: An Interview with Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington headshot

Throughout Mental Health Month, we are focusing on ways to empower individuals to “light their way” to better mental health, happiness, and improved well-being. As part of this celebration, we are profiling “Mental Health Warriors,” individuals who have been outspoken in their advocacy and support for mental health issues. To kick this series off, we caught up with Huffington Post founder and Thrive Global founder and CEO, Arianna Huffington.

Talkspace: You’ve been vocal about your history with burnout and exhaustion and “the fall” that precipitated a complete life overhaul. Can you talk a bit about what the state of your mental health was like as you were approaching this crucial turning point?

Arianna Huffington: When I collapsed, I’d just come off a week of very little sleep – having taken my daughter on a college tour, during which I was staying up late every night working. But my mental state was – I thought – fine. I’d done plenty of weeks like this in the past and so to me this was just a slightly more extreme version of business as usual. But that’s what exhaustion and sleep deprivation do to you – one of the many aspects of your physical and mental health that gets impaired is your own judgment about the state of your physical and mental health. So just because you feel like you’re doing fine on four or five or even six hours of sleep per night, it doesn’t mean you are. The science that tells us otherwise is much more reliable.

TS: At any point did you seek out help before this moment? If not, what was keeping you from getting it? Continue reading Mental Health Warriors: An Interview with Arianna Huffington

Different Types of Anxiety Attacks: Understanding the Factors

woman drowning anxiety

Classifying different types of anxiety attacks can be difficult. “Anxiety attack” is not an official clinical term. You won’t find it in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” the handbook most mental health professionals reference. There is also the issue of both mental health clients and professionals confusing anxiety attacks and panic attacks.

“Anxiety attack” is a colloquial term clients created to describe intense or extended periods of anxiety. On a scale of intensity, an anxiety attack is between mild feelings of anxiety and a panic attack. Because of its frequency, many mental health professionals adopted it. To learn more about what an anxiety attack is and dispel any confusion, read our piece on anxiety attacks vs. panic attacks.

Unlike repeated panic attacks, anxiety attacks are not necessarily a sign of a mental health condition. If you are experiencing a lot of stress or going through a rough patch in life, it’s natural to have intense anxiety that occurs frequently. Experiencing many anxiety attacks without an apparent cause, however, can be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Despite it not being an official clinical term, there are types of anxiety attacks. Many therapists recognize they are legitimate mental health issues. We decided to classify them based on the factors that determine how people experience an anxiety attack. Continue reading Different Types of Anxiety Attacks: Understanding the Factors

How Working at Talkspace Has Improved My Mental Health

Talkspace therapy bubble event

Before I started working as the Content Marketing Manager and Staff Writer at Talkspace, I was unemployed for about 11 weeks during the summer of 2015. After taking a historic financial hit, my parent company had to lay me off, along with almost everyone else in our startup.

As if it was some scene from “Up in the Air,” a woman who looked a bit like Anna Kendrick flew to our New York office, pulled me aside, and told me what I already knew was going to happen. It was all so blatantly unnecessary. Rather than feeling better after talking to her, I wondered why someone whose job it was to fire people was more important to the company than my coworkers and I. A letter or email would have sufficed.

The unemployment period was difficult and fraught with other unfortunate events. Bed bugs infested my apartment and pooped all over my bedroom walls. My building was able to handle the situation without kicking me out of the apartment, but it still took a financial and emotional toll on me. I had to throw out all of the sentimental items the bed bugs had crapped on, including a thoughtful gift my girlfriend had bought. Throwing everything out and buying new linens depleted a lot of my savings. Continue reading How Working at Talkspace Has Improved My Mental Health

I Wasn’t in Therapy as a Kid, But I Should’ve Been

teen girl couch therapist

While Talkspace is not available to people under 18-years-old, we recognize the importance of providing support for the parents of children with mental health issues.

As an adolescent in high school, I didn’t feel right.

I was always angry and miserable. I felt overwhelmingly sad and hopeless and alone. I spent an unnerving amount of time thinking about suicide. I would punch walls until my knuckles bled. I would have increasingly frequent mental breakdowns.

But I didn’t know why. And I didn’t know what to do about it.

Nobody I knew voiced that they felt similarly and I didn’t hear of anyone feeling extremely sad for no apparent reason. I hadn’t even heard of anyone I knew killing themselves. I thought the word “depressed” was simply a synonym for sad. I didn’t have an explanation for what was going on in my head. I felt completely trapped, with no one to talk to, no one who would understand.

Because I didn’t understand myself and couldn’t put words, terms, or definitions to how I felt, I would have regular panic attacks. At night when gloomy and confusing thoughts would take over, I’d sob and shake and sweat, my heart racing. I didn’t have an understanding of what was happening. I thought I was insane. Continue reading I Wasn’t in Therapy as a Kid, But I Should’ve Been

The Mental Health Impact of the AHCA (Trumpcare)

cut out of family heart stethoscope

With the passage of the American Health Care Act in the House of Representatives, we may be approaching a mental health care crisis unlike anything seen before. Included in the bill is a provision to allow states to strike key provisions protecting Essential Health Benefits.

Whereas the percentage of uninsured once hovered around 16% of the nonelderly population, the ACA brought that figure down to 10.9% in 2015 — a record low. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that 24 million Americans will lose coverage by 2026 under the first replacement plan, 14 million in just the next year. Without giving the Budget Office time to score the new bill, the House passed the measure by a slim majority.

The bill will dramatically affect mental health parity — the historical divide between coverage requirements for mental and physical health — by allowing states to define Essential Health Benefits. Prior to the ACA, the lack of parity meant insurers could limit or deny coverage for mental health services, letting insurers limit the number of therapy sessions per year as well as treatment for substance abuse. The Essential Health Benefits of the ACA helped correct this discrepancy. Continue reading The Mental Health Impact of the AHCA (Trumpcare)