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Issues That People Discuss in Therapy

People who are interested in a career as a counselor are sometimes curious: who seeks counseling? What are the most common problems that bring clients to treatment? Future counselors aren’t always certain what problems people will bring to a counseling session, and it can be difficult to imagine what kind of issues will be discussed.

There are some common problems that counselors see a lot of: couples who are having a difficult time in marriage, interpersonal conflicts between family members, depression, substance abuse. But the truth is that therapists are often amazed that even after practicing for many years, they meet clients who present new and challenging situations.

Listed below are some of the most common problems that counselors help people face and overcome. Every client is unique, and every person’s background is full of very personal details, but these are some of the issues that occur in every town, city, and state in America.

Issues Related to Children and Teens

ADD/ADHD. The disorder may have been over-diagnosed in the early and mid-90s, but it is definitely the case that counselors offer therapeutic services for kids with attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactive disorder. Counselors work with kids to improve concentration, interaction skills, and family dynamics.

Anorexia/Bulimia. Our culture promotes unrealistic expectations for our physical bodies, and self-image problems affect many young women—and young men. Counselors help teens and young adults develop a positive self-image, and discontinue injurious or self-harming behaviors.

Behavioral Problems. The term «behavioral problem» can mean just about anything, but in general, the term refers to any action that is harmful to the client, to others, or to property. Counselors provide a place for children and young adults to explore their feelings, develop coping mechanisms, and learn healthy and productive ways to interact with others.

Sexual Abuse Recovery. Many teens and young adults suffer abuse from family members, community members, or strangers. A counselor can help survivors recover from a traumatic event, return to a state of emotional normalcy, and develop healthy relationships with others.

Sexual Problems. As young adults learn about their bodies, many experience uncertainty, shame, or confusion. Some express themselves sexually in ways that are unhealthy, or even dangerous. A professional counselor can tactfully provide a safe place for young adults to share their concerns, or may provide interventions to help discontinue self-damaging behavior.

Substance Abuse. Illegal substances and alcohol are readily available in middle schools and high schools across the country. Some young adults experiment, and are relatively unharmed; others lose control and need intervention. A therapist can aid a young adult who is exhibiting addictive behaviors, and help the client develop healthy habits.

Common Problems That Adults Bring to Counseling

Anger Management. Everyone experiences anger, and many people express the emotion in a way is constructive—or, at the very least, not destructive. Some people, however, have a difficult time managing the experience of anger, and their personal relationships, professional standing, and social interactions are damaged because of it. A therapist can help a client learn new methods of expression, and assist the client in discontinuing non-productive expressions of anger.

Anxiety Disorders. Many teens and adults experience overwhelming worry, even when their concerns seem normal to others. The anxiety can grow so great as to harm personal relationships and undermine professional aspirations. A trained clinician can offer calming techniques, interventions to help the client see his or her situation in a more optimistic light, and help discontinue emotional experiences that hinder the client’s standard of living.

Hoarding. The instinct to hoard can be overwhelming, and many adults exhibit hoarding behaviors even when they wish to stop. While little is known about the biological underpinnings of the behavior, counselors can offer interventions (including motivational interviewing) that can help discontinue the behavior and return clients to a healthier lifestyle.

Depression. It is normal for a person to feel sad after receiving bad news, or when person expectations aren’t met. But some people suffer an «emotional heaviness» that pervades every moment of their lives—even when there is nothing truly wrong. Counselors are trained to help people suffering from depression, and offer a number of techniques (including CBT) that can dramatically improve a depressed person’s experience.

«Family of Origin» Issues. Even in families where there’s a lot of love, there can also be a lot of anguish and emotional pain. Some people who suffer a difficult upbringing or a traumatic childhood bring their issues into their adult lives. Some may have problems with drugs or alcohol; others may have difficulty developing healthy relationships; some may have a hard time initiating healthy sexual interactions. With the help of a trained counselor, all people are able to make improvements in their day-to-day lives, and feel more life satisfaction and happiness.

Grieving. When people hear the word «grief,» they most frequently think of the loss of a loved one. And while that is true, the sadness related to loss can mean the loss of anything truly important—a relationship, a job, or a pet. Trained therapists guide people through feelings of grief, and help clients return to a sense of normalcy.

Substance Abuse Counseling. For some people, the urge to use substances is overwhelming—and it can have a disastrous effect on the person’s life. Those who have hit «rock bottom» describe how their lives were beyond their control, and how their lives truly began once they were able to discontinue abusing substances. Counselors offer emotional assistance, often in conjunction with a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Trauma and PTSD. When a person suffers an event wherein he feels extremely threatened, he may continue to experience that feeling of terror again and again. Those who suffer from trauma and PTSD often find their lives totally unmanageable, and may lose their jobs, their homes, and their families. PTSD can be an enormous problem, and counselors offer guidance and techniques to soften the emotional experience, and create a more tempered reaction to triggers.

Sexual Trauma. It is estimated that one in five adults has experienced a sexual trauma. That is an incredibly high number, and counselors are trained to help survivors regain a sense of control and security.

Compulsive Sexual Behavior. Many people exhibit sexual behaviors that are ultimately self-harming. Some would like to discontinue the behaviors, and others do not. A trained clinician can help clients discover the circumstances that trigger dangerous behaviors, and assist the client in developing strategies to discontinue self-harming activities.

Intimacy Issues for Couples. Even the most amorous couples sometimes find themselves in «running out of emotion.» A trained counselor can help couples reignite their passion, develop a stronger relationship, and fall deeper in love.