Compassion is a vital trait of any counselor; without it, it would be impossible to deal with other people’s problems and help them cope with their traumas.
Unfortunately, any profession with high emotional involvement puts you at risk of getting a burnout. This condition not only can impair your ability to heal others but may pose a lot of threats to your health as well by putting you in constant stress and generating anxious thoughts.
However, science has got good news for you!
You can significantly improve your emotional capacity and recover from burnout by providing simple changes in the way you sleep. Continue reading to know what they are.
What Is Burnout?
The term ‘emotional burnout’ was first identified in 1978 by Christina Maslach. She found that this condition among medical staff results in the triad of symptoms, such as feeling ineffective at work, emotional exhaustion, and depersonalization.
“Burnout often comes as a result of good intentions, because when you’re taking care of your clients, it’s very easy to overwork. However, a client’s emotional baggage can easily become overwhelming for you as well.”
Emotional burnout doesn’t come at once and has some common signs you can notice before it manifests:
feeling relieved when your clients cancel the session;
dragging yourself into work;
spacing out during the session and not paying attention to your client;
forcing your agenda rather than adapting it to client’s needs;
experiencing an empathy decline.
Besides these signs, people with burnout may experience insomnia episodes, anger tantrums, and anxiety.
How Sleep Impacts Your Mental Health
Sleep is not only crucial for your overall health; it can actually help you combat burnout that has already manifested.
Easily! If you’re getting the right amount of shut-eye, you’re more likely to get the following sleep benefits:
Relaxation and energy balance. The most beneficial effect of sleep is helping you restore the energy you’ve spent during the day. While you remain more focused and alert during a therapy session with your client, you can spot more details to work with and become more effective at solving their problems.
Faster information processing. Sleep is also responsible for your ability to learn and memorize things. During the REM stage of sleep, the most active areas of your brain are hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, which process information that you obtained during the day and convert short-term memories into long-term ones. Moreover, prefrontal cortex also provides you with the ability to interpret abstract ideas, which is an excellent skill for a counselor. Thus, you can see your client’s problem from different perspectives and choose the strategy that may work best for their solving.
“Good sleep also helps your brain cleanse by removing reaction products and wastes from cerebrospinal fluid. Thus, you are literally getting a ‘clear head’ every morning, which allows you to be productive at work.”
5 Steps on Improving Your Sleep
Now, after a brief introduction in how sleep can be beneficial for you as a counselor, you need to know how exactly you can achieve a therapeutic night rest.
Below, you will find five proven ways to improve your sleep quality, which can give you immunity to emotional burnout.
#1 Build a Sleeping Routine
As a counselor, you probably know that consistency is key to overcoming any issues. Sleep disturbances are no exception, and the best way to fight them is to create a rock-solid sleep routine.
Here’s what you can do to achieve that:
use your bedroom only for sleep (and sex);
try to get to bed and wake up at nearly the same time;
maintain your schedule on the weekends as well.
“Within the first week, you can experience the first effects of maintaining a schedule.”
#2 Throw the Pillow Out
This may sound counterintuitive, but in some cases sleeping without a pillow can be more beneficial for the quality of your ZZZ by putting you in a natural position without creating awkward curves in your spine. For example, people with neck and shoulder pain find pillowless sleep more relaxing.
To maintain healthy sleep patterns, try to do the following:
Expose yourself to natural sunlight during the morning. Sunlight will reset your body clock and switch you into alert mode.
Create a dark environment in your room at least 1-2 hours before bed. This will boost melatonin production and help you fall asleep faster.
Invest in a high-luminosity lamp. Such lamps are adjustable to your climate zone and mimic the natural light. High-luminosity lamp is an especially great purchase for people who live in Northern regions or have bedroom windows facing north.
“Try to limit gadgets before bed or at least use blue light filter settings on screens. Blue light suppresses melatonin production, which may result in insomnia and poor sleep quality.”
#4 Try Meditation Before Sleep
The key to both fighting burnout and improving sleep is to manage stress factors. Meditation is an excellent example of relaxing activity, as it allows you to distract from thoughts and emotional load you’re getting from clients. You can try guided meditation with a mentor or use video guides and applications with step-by-step instructions.
#5 Avoid Caffeine
If you want to improve your sleep, then caffeinated beverages are your enemies. Period.
Caffeine triggers cortisol release and puts you in an artificial ‘fight-or-flight’ mode, which, however, has pretty real consequences.
By inducing anxiety, you can increase the chances of burning out and become unfocused and distracted during work. Along with that, caffeine takes at least 6 hours to metabolize; thus, if you’re drinking it later than 3 pm, it will inevitably affect your sleep.
That’s why it’s better to switch to adaptogenic herbs and herbal teas. They will keep you alert and concentrated but won’t harm your shut-eye.
Stress and feelings of anxiety are a common struggle. The difference-maker in severity is how much of that stress we experience and how it influences our lives. Once stress begins to impact us negatively, it can overtake our minds and affect everything we do.
For many college students, stress is normalized to a point where they think it is something they should be feeling all the time and should know how to handle. Helping students identify the academic stress points in their lives and channel it into something that can bring them success is a useful skill for college counselors.
Types of Stressors
College comes with many environmental changes that are difficult to take in all at once. For many, this is the first time they are living away from family or their normal support system. As these life events coincide with such an important time in their academic career, students find themselves unable to perform well academically because of the other stressors. Some of the major stressors for college students include:
Work: The stress of balancing a part-time job (or multiple) with being a student can be overwhelming for many.
Personal life: Living away from home, financial strain and relationship issues are just a few ways a student’s personal life can influence academic hardships.
Mental health: Students who have not found ways to cope with mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety may be seeking answers for what they are feeling.
Determine a Student’s Needs
Some students require just one session with a counselor to help them work through or troubleshoot a problem. Other students desire routine check-ins to keep them on track. Sometimes figuring out what each student needs entails some teamwork between the student and the counselor. Are students just anxious about an upcoming test on a subject at which they don’t excel, or is their stress rooted in familial pressures to perform well in school? Talk to students about the other stressors in their life to help determine how best to help them.
Equip Them With the Tools They Need to Succeed
When a student reaches out for help, it’s typically because he or she is wondering “now what?” The solution to students’ stresses may be connecting them with a library study group for a class they struggle with or to a job board to ease their financial anxieties. There may also be times when a counselor can only do so much for a student who would benefit from more extensive help — medication for mental illness, for example. Whatever the case may be, your students will benefit from your help in steering them in the right direction toward a tangible solution.
As a vehicle of guidance for college students, you want to give them access to the resources they need for managing their stress.
Understand and Teach Them the Difference Between Good Stress and Bad Stress
It’s important to recognize that stress manifests itself in different ways. Helping students recognize when stress is good and when stress is bad can provide peace of mind. Remind students that good stress can play a part in making them more productive and motivated, such as the stress they might feel when they know performing well on a test or project is important. Warn students of the signs that stress is getting the best of them, which can include physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral symptoms:
Headaches and nausea
Difficulty sleeping or fatigue
Feelings of irritability, isolation, anxiety, sadness or depression
Trouble concentrating or remembering
Change in eating or sleeping habits, as well as school or work performance
As students become more aware of their options to deal with stress, they start to feel less alone and seek the help they desire. A surge of students in need of assistance and guidance requires an increase in access to counselors. Be available and accessible for students. With a bit of extra guidance, you can help make a difference in their academic careers.
Author bio: Dr. Kenya Grooms is a clinical psychologist and Dean of Student Affairs at MacCormac College, the oldest two-year, private, nonprofit institution in Illinois. MacCormac offers educational programs for court reporting, criminal justice, business administration and more. Dr. Grooms has written and presented about family life, international partnerships, personal resilience, support services for non-traditional students and many other topics in psychology.
Counseling and psychology have become an important part of sports. With an increase in students participating in sports and increased commercialization, student athletes are faced with increased demands, both in the game and away from the sport.
Students can face high academic expectations, increasing performance demands, and emotional difficulties related to sports participation.
Sports psychologists and counselors provide students with the tools and therapeutic interventions they need to overcome these common psychosocial problems. While both sports psychologists and sports counselors work to improve the overall well-being of the athlete, each specialist takes a different therapeutic approach.
Sports Psychology: This approach to the mental, behavioral, and emotional well-being of athletes is a combination of applying psychological skills and techniques within the sports industry. It requires specialized knowledge that aims to address optimal performance of athletes, developmental and social aspects, and systemic issues common in the organization of sports. A sports psychologist works with student athletes using cognitive and behavioral skills for improving performance when in the game. They work on improving team building, athletic motivation, and leadership skills and development. An education in sports psychology covers various aspects of factors including psychology, sports science, and medicine.
Sports Counseling: In comparison to a sports psychologist, sports counselors focus more on a holistic approach,taking the mental well-being and emotional needs of the athletes into consideration. While many specific goals overlap between the two, sports counselors tend to provide both in game and out of the game counseling. They focus on both personal and clinical issues in sports. Sports counseling might include developing coping skills, decision making, crisis intervention, and even family and marital counseling.
History of Sports Counseling
The first organized discipline of sports counselingof sports counseling was established in the 1960s. But, it was researched as early as 1918 by Coleman R. Griffith. However, it was the increased commercialization of sports throughout the 1970s and 1980s that really contributed to the emergence of sports counseling. It was first recognized by the Association for Counselor Education in 1985 and the Association for the Advancement for Applied Sport Psychology (AAASP), now known as the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP), was formed. In 1986, the American Psychological Association (APA) developed an entire division dedicated to exercise and sport psychology.
Lifestyle Consultation: Sports counselors focus on the individual lifestyle of the athlete, including both personal and clinical issues associated with sport performance.
Developmental: Transitional periods are often difficult when it comes to sports. Transitions occur when the athlete is moved to another team, has come to the end of their sporting contract, or will soon be graduating. Sports counselors are an effective part of identifying and working through these phase of life concerns.
Career Development: Differing life goals can affect a student athlete’s emotional health. Some might want to take their sport professional, while others want assistance transitioning into a career. External pressures from coaches, parents, and peers can also be a factor.
Stress Management: Student athletes are often under a lot of stress. They are balancing sports, school, and personal lives. They also risk facing burn-out. Sports counselors can use stress relief techniques to battle these stressors. Some common interventions might include identifying stressors, relaxation techniques, and the use of cognitive behavioral therapy to challenge faulty thought patterns.
Diversity Awareness: Counselors should be aware of individual and group differences in correlation with athletic participation. For example, women and minorities may have different needs to participate in sports. Counselors should be particularly aware of these inclusions and understand that there are diversity concernsat both the individual and group level.
Stigma and minimization of mental health in the sports industry.
Limited mental health resources available.
The confusion between sports psychology and sports counseling.
The unique competency required from sports counselors.
Lack of training models for sports counselors/psychologists.
The “mental toughness” mind frame pushing resiliency and self-reliance.
These factors can be addressed by connesting students to external support systems, outside of their coaching and training staff. Sports counselors are an important part in helping student athletes in overcoming these struggles by providing these students with a holistic counseling approach to mental health. It is estimated that 10-15% of American college student athletes are dealing with issues significant enough for professional counseling services. John C. Watson recommends that sports counselors help students overcome these barriers by being proactive. Combining both a working knowledge of these challenges and understanding the unique situations present in sports is crucial.
Pursuing a Career in Sports Counseling
There are two requirements that will lead to a career in sports counseling.
Professional Counseling or Psychology Degree: It is important to first have a strong basis in psychology or counseling before pursuing a career in sports counseling. The specific counseling techniques and skills that are learned in a counseling education program will become the foundation for a sports counselor. This requires first completing a master’s degree in counseling or a doctorate in psychology.
Certification: Following the completion of a degree in either psychology or counseling, post-graduate education should include a certification in either sports counseling or in the psychology route; a sports and exercise psychology certification. These certifications prepare counseling students for the sports specific dynamic of counseling. Counseling or psychology, with a sports certification, graduates will be trained to increase awareness of common issues in sports, develop techniques and skills for working with student athletes, and learn to proactively handle sports-related concerns.
About the author: Louis Venter Founder, Couples Help is passionate about helping couples in a vulnerable space to find good professional help and to experience love and connection again in their relationship.
You may feel that your current relationship is healthy, and indeed the idea of even entering couples’ therapy at all may be insulting to one or more parties within a relationship.
The truth, however, is that couples may be advised to seek therapy before they feel they “need” to, and that even so-called healthy relationships may benefit from couples’ counselling long before the stresses and strains begin to fully manifest themselves. Many couples arguably don’t have an objective view as to whether their relationship is “healthy”, and couples counselling can still have a positive impact even before any partnership hits any crisis point.
Here are some of the ways where even healthy relationships may begin to show signs of strain, and why couples counselling may still have a vital role to play.
Couples unable to articulate the problem
This may be the first warning sign for two parties in a “healthy” relationship – the general feeling that something is wrong, but they don’t know what to do for the best. Even if you don’t feel like your relationship has any perceived problem, a course of couples’ therapy may be the key to identifying the problem in the first place. It may be that one person in the couple has unknown feelings of resentment towards the other, but they don’t know why. Or it may be that a recent change in your relationship dynamic (a change of job, moving home, an illness) has affected both of you.
Communication/emotional intimacy has diminished or broken down
Relationships may have broken down, or couples may have in fact grown apart without knowing it. Sometimes simple facts of life such as conflicting work schedules, or a relationship’s longevity can lead to cracks appearing between a couple which may not seem immediately evident. Even healthy relationships can have problems with emotional intimacy or emotional articulacy as a result of internal or external factors.
Couples therapy can help resolve any communications issues, and an initial course of treatment may reveal some issues which you didn’t realise existed.
Frequent arguments or inability to deal with conflict
Argument can be a perfectly healthy component of a relationship, but it can also be a manifestation of future problems or potential breakdowns. It’s possible that one partner in the couple does not deal with anger in the right way, perhaps becoming passive aggressive, or lashing out unnecessarily. If these arguments are also increasing in frequency, then this could be a sign of something more serious which couples therapy can be used to treat.
Breakdown of trust
A breakdown of trust can sometimes cause ruptures in a relationship, but these may not be evident. People often associate a breakdown of trust in a relationship with factors such as infidelity, an emotional affair, or some big dark secret which risks tearing a couple apart. But healthy relationships can suffer from trust issues of their own which can, if unchecked, grow worse over time.
In even seemingly healthy relationships, trust issues can form over conflicts as seemingly trivial as arguments about money, or smaller arguments where one partner may feel like the other doesn’t trust them.
A trauma in your immediate past
Some relationships can find themselves tested by external shocks or traumas which can cause unforeseen damage to a relationship. It could be a health crisis, the death of a loved one, or even a traumatic accident. Couples counselling might not be the most obvious route for a couple who might think of themselves as strong, or able to weather most crises.
However, couples’ therapy might be worthwhile in the aftermath of a traumatic event and can help to minimise any future problems which may develop in your relationship.
About the author: Samantha (Sam) Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.
As a necessary biological function, everyone needs sleep. But, far too many people find themselves getting less than the recommended seven to eight full hours each day. The effects go well beyond drowsiness and irritability. Sleep deprivation changes the way the brain and body function, making those with chronic sleep deprivation susceptible to any number of detrimental illnesses and conditions.
How Sleep Affects the Brain
Though it is possible to push through sleep deprivation, it cannot be done without consequences. A tired brain is preprogrammed to slow down to help the body fall asleep. Neurons begin to send messages and signals at slower speeds, taking longer to process information. As neurons slow down, decision-making skills, reaction times, and reasoning abilities decrease. During sleep deprivation, the brain cannot react to outside stimuli at the same speed it normally does.
It's not just cognitive skills that change within the brain during sleep deprivation. The brain alters how and when hormones are released. The loss of even one hour of sleep creates changes in appetite control and metabolism. Ghrelin, the hormone controlling hunger, gets released in higher amounts while leptin, the satiety hormone, gets released in smaller amounts. Add to that the fact that the brain receives greater rewards for eating junk food when you're tired than when you're well rested, and you've got the perfect conditions for overeating and unwanted weight gain. For that reason, obesity and other detrimental health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, that come along with obesity are often linked to sleep deprivation.
With all of the changes that sleep loss causes in the brain, it comes as no surprise that emotions and moods alter as well. Most people have experienced a bad night’s sleep and the accompanying irritability the next day. In a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, subjects restricted to only 4.5 hours of sleep for one week reported higher levels of stress and mental exhaustion as well increased anger and sadness, supporting the idea that moods change with sleep deprivation.
Significant changes in mood influence social abilities such as listening and empathy. Processing emotional information requires the use of the prefrontal area of the brain, which has a hard time functioning effectively without adequate sleep.
With increased levels of irritability, anger, and sadness, it’s no wonder that there is a corresponding reduction in empathy and understanding. Conflict with our emotional regulation gets in the way of how we connect with and understand others.
The Sleeplessness and Stress Cycle
The causes of sleep loss can vary but one common factor for many people is stress. However, as scientists try to study the relationship between sleep loss and stress, it’s hard to identify which comes first.
Stress, whether it comes from losing a job, a change in income, moving out of state, or from family circumstances, leaves many people wide awake late into the night.
Stress-related sleep loss affects seven out of 10 adults in the United States. Of those people, three quarters admit that sleep loss increased their stress and anxiety levels about falling asleep in the first place. The cycle strengthens as the stress no longer surrounds events or situations but sleep itself. Conversely, stress levels continue to increase as chronic sleep deprivation continues.
Better Mental Health Through Good Sleep
Reducing sleep deprivation and putting a stop to the sleep-stress relationship, and sleep loss in general, requires a combination of awareness of healthy sleep conditions and developing healthy sleep habits.
For the best sleep, the bedroom must become a sleep sanctuary where outside cares can dissipate and the body can relax. Conditions in the bedroom should be:
Comfortable: The mattress should be free from lumps or dips, support the preferred sleep position, and prevent the body from overheating. Breathable bedding made of cotton or linen allows the skin to breathe and prevents moisture from staying close to the body. If you are looking at getting a new mattress, The Sleep Help Institute has an online buying guide for mattresses.
Cool: At the onset of sleep, your body temperature naturally lowers. A bedroom kept between 60-68 degrees allows the body to comfortably maintain this lower temperature.
Dark: Light exposure is vital to healthy circadian rhythms, the natural 24-hour cycles the body follows that control the sleep-wake cycle. Sunlight lets the brain know that it’s time to be awake, while darkness triggers the release of sleep hormones like melatonin. A dark bedroom helps keep the body in sync. Light from computers, street lamps, or even the moon filtering through the window can disrupt our sleep. Blackout curtains or heavy drapes can help keep light pollution from entering the room.
Habits and behaviors also affect the quantity and quality of your sleep. For better sleep try:
A Consistent Bedtime: The body loves routine. A consistent bedtime helps establish strong circadian rhythms and allows your body to regularly time the release of sleep hormones.
A Bedtime Routine: A bedtime routine can help relieve stress before bed to put a stop to the sleep loss-stress cycle and trigger the release of sleep hormones. Meditation and yoga have both been shown to reduce stress, and they both can be performed as part of a regular bedtime routine with some methods and poses being suitable for use while lying in bed.
Avoiding Stimulants: The caffeine found in coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks blocks the release of sleep hormones. Avoid stimulants at least four hours before bed to prevent sleep disruptions.
Regular Exercise: The benefits of exercise stretch far and include a better night’s rest. A body that’s physically tired is better prepared to fall asleep at night. However, avoid strenuous exercise three to four hours before bed so your body temperature can come down and the adrenaline can leave your system.
Turning Off Screens: Blue light, the kind given off my many electronic devices, has a more powerful effect on sleep than other kinds of light. It stimulates the brain, causing the brain to suppress the release of melatonin. Avoid using electronic devices at least two to three hours before bed.
Counseling refers to the collaborative effort between the counselor and client. Professional counselors help their clients increase insight on problematic issues, identify realistic goals, anddetermine appropriate solutions for improving their quality of life. Counseling can help individuals from a variety of backgrounds and experiences increase their adaptive coping strategies, social skills, self-esteem, and interpersonal relationships.
In 2002, the American Counseling Association (ACA) established April as Counseling Awareness Month to showcase and illustrate the profession and its accomplishments. For the past 16 years, they have devoted April as a month to raise awareness and promote advocacy for the counseling profession.
This year, the ACA is launching the theme, A Counselor Can Help, encouraging participants to use the #CounselorsHelp hashtag to spread awareness via social media.
Career counselors help individuals identify and define career-related goals and utilize appropriate skills for work success. They may work with college students, job seekers, or actively working professionals desiring to improve their skill set. Career counselors uniquely help their clients by exploring what they seek most of their education or career. They help individuals identify the factors or barriers impacting career development, and they help map out the next steps for achieving specific goals.
Child and Adolescent Counseling
Child and adolescent counselors help youth with difficult life changes and stressors related to school, family and peer relationships, and social environments. These counselors who specialize in child development guide children in the identification and expression their feelings and help them to develop appropriate coping skills to manage distress. Counselors may include parents or other family members in the sessions as well.
College counselors work with post-secondary students to provide support for academic, interpersonal, or mental health related issues. In general, college counselors seek to promote a safe and welcoming campus for students. Professional counselors at the college level may conduct outreach and prevention activities (such as plan trainings on mental health awareness) and assess individual students for safety risk.
Grief counselors help clients coping with profound loss, such as major deaths, terminal illnesses, divorces, or other sources of significant personal bereavements. Counselors specializing in grief may support their clients by facilitating grief groups to bring together individuals coping with loss. They also work individually with bereaved clients while providing a safe space for healing.
Mental Health Counseling
Mental health counselors provide therapeutic services to clients dealing with an array of emotional and behavioral health issues, including anxiety, depression, relationship concerns, low self-esteem, and stress. Professional mental health counselors uniquely help their clients in providing assessments and treatment planning and providing crisis management.
Military counselors provide emotional and psychosocial support for active duty military personnel, veterans, and their families. Professional counselors who work with military personnel and their families assist by providing therapeutic services for a wide range of concerns and also to help individuals transition back into civilian life.
Pastoral counseling combines theological education and training with counseling to help clients with a variety of issues. Pastoral counselors provide spiritual guidance to their clients and may also work with individuals facing end-of-life issues.
Rehabilitation counseling assists individuals with developmental, physical, mental, or emotional disabilities to lead fulfilling and successful lives. Rehabilitation counselors accomplish this by identifying problematic behaviors or obstacles and supporting clients in finding and implementing proactive solutions. Rehabilitation counselors may also help clients with job development and placement and/or assisting with the creation of reasonable plans that fit their client’s education, aptitude, and cognitive abilities.
School counseling supports students in their personal/social, academic, and career development. They provide various services focusing on their student’s well-being and academic achievement. School counselors will create relevant activities to assist students in achieving their academic goals. They will also provide crisis response in individual and small-group settings in times of need.
Substance Abuse Counseling
Substance abuse counseling supports individuals seeking treatment services and recovery for a drug or alcohol addiction. Substance abuse counselors form a trusting alliance with their clients to promote strength and hope for change while working closely with a multidisciplinary team to develop a comprehensive relapse prevention plan.
Counselor Employment Statistics
Counselors work in diverse settings serving a variety of populations. Here are some statistics for counselor employment across the United States and where most counselors were working as of May 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Other Counselors (working in sectors such as outpatient care centers, state and local government, individual and family services, and schools): 27,150 employed, mostly in Texas, California and Florida.
How Can A Counselor Help You?
A professional counselor can help individuals with many struggles including:
Acute sudden crises (death of a loved one, major tragedy, job loss)
Mental health stressors (anxiety, depression, low self-esteem)
Academic or social issues within a school setting
Spiritual or religious conflicts
Military stressors and transitions
Developmental or cognitive impairments
Counselors work collaboratively with their clients to raise awareness about problematic patterns or obstacles and determine realistic goals for change. Counselors provide their clients with the insight and coping tools needed to improve their quality of life.
Professional school counselors are master’s level school personnel who work with students in an academic setting to support their academic success, career skills, social and personal development. Through developed counseling skills and their understanding of student psychological and behavioral development, counselors play an integral role in the success of students in school. Instead of engaging in administrative, inappropriate role tasks, school counselors should be student success oriented. While they are often active in assisting students with their academic and career goals, they also provide other types of support to students. A collaborator is one of their most important roles.
Coordinating with other school professionals is an expected school counselor competency. The collaborator role is also a proven valuable factor in student academic success. When school professionals collaborate in a team setting and share expertise, the students are exposed to an academic setting that places their overall development and academic success as a priority.
Working Alongside School Psychologists
According to the American Psychological Association, a school psychologist will work with children and their families in academic settings. They provide interventions in the form of assessments, program development and evaluation services to promote a better learning environment and the healthy development of all students.
School psychologists and counselors have different academic backgrounds that both contribute to the successful development of students.
While school counselors view students holistically - considering academic, behavioral, social and career development - school psychologists provide psychological assessments and address mental health needs.
School counselors and psychologists work together in the following ways:
Individual assessment collaboration: Combine assessment training backgrounds to provide effective multidisciplinary assessments. Both professionals bring a unique background to the individual assessment process. School psychologists use quantitative measurements, while school counselors use qualitative measurements with a focus on overall student development. Using both types of assessments provides a clearer interpretation of the student’s needs.
Family counseling interventions: Parent and familial involvement is important to academic success. School counselors and psychologists can work together with parents in consultation by providing educational courses and acting as parent advocates. They can also suggest at home interventions to strengthen family relationships.
Introduction of classroom interventions: Both school professionals can coordinate and create classroom interventions that address behavioral problems between groups or with individuals.
Organization of support groups: Counseling groups can target many developmental and career concerns at once. Groups are also effective in relationship building and can be invaluable for student academic development.
School Counselors Teaming Up With Nurses
School nurses prioritize physical health, disease management and promote a healthy learning environment. They are trained in chronic health conditions, public health, chronic diseases and the assessment of learning disabilities in the educational setting.
Collaborating and including school nurses in the network of care systemic approach is necessary for an all-inclusive student support system. Children may experience difficulty in succeeding academically or emotionally if their physical health conditions are not monitored. School counselors and nurses collaborate in the following ways:
Promotion of mental and physical health: School nurses can be an effective part in building awareness of mental health and how it relates to physical health conditions.
Implementation of self-harm programs: Through programs like Signs of Suicide Prevention Program, school nurses and counselors can work together to identify the symptoms of depression, self-injury and suicide.
Safe sex and relationship development: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 50% of new sexually transmitted diseases in the United States occur among those ages 15-24. School counselors and nurses can work together on appropriate relationship development education and providing safe sex programs.
The Principal and School Counselor Relationship
The principal is often seen as the leader of the school. This leader is tasked with managing staff, the student body, daily operations of the school and being the top educator of the school. They aim to create a successful vision that guides school staff, community members and parents to provide an effective learning environment for students. Because the school principal is the leader of the school, collaboration is important for creating new strategies and measuring success. Principals and school counselors work together in the following ways:
Decision making in school wide strategies: Principals make many of the program decisions to improve and promote student outcomes. Working together can improve the chances of introducing new mental health related programs.
Collaborate on student success initiatives: Both school counselors and principals want their students to succeed. Collaboration can identify specific student body needs and develop customized programs and strategies to promote improved student academic success and developmental outcomes.
Create metrics to measure success: School counselors and principals might have differing views of what is considered student success. Before making any changes to current programs or introducing new counseling related programs, it is important to collaborate to create metrics for measuring success. This could be in the form of higher graduation rates, fewer behavioral concerns, or an increase in college acceptance rates.
How School Counselor and Teachers Collaborate
Teachers are the first line of intervention with students. They usually spend the most time with them during the school day. Utilizing their skills and developed understanding of student development, school counselors can help teachers maximize their student’s academic success. Together, the school counselor and the teacher can collaborate in the following methods:
Classroom management techniques: The school counselor and teacher can work together to identify and handle behavioral problems that halter academic development. School counselors are trained in behavioral assessment and may be called on to assess the seriousness of a problem or to tackle problems before they get out of hand.
Provide academic and career resources: Academic and career resources that are personalized to the student can help them overcome learning barriers and improve the individual student’s success. Often, these resources can be useful when working with students who have intellectual, developmental, emotional or behavioral disabilities.
Guide students in decision making skills: A student’s academic career can be overwhelmed with important decisions. The school counselor and teacher can guide the student in these important decisions by using reframing skills and exploring alternative decision outcomes.
Integrate counseling into the classroom: Collaborate to create lesson plans that integrate both academics and personal/social development increasing character development, problem solving and critical thinking skills.
According to the Wallace Foundation, education research shows that most school variables, considered separately, have at most small effects on academic learning. Collaboration between school professionals allows each system to combine unique backgrounds with varying interventions, ultimately leading to personal and social development, career and academic success and an effective learning environment for all students.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that many people who struggle with substance use disorders also struggle with mental illnesses and vice versa. This phenomenon is known as “comorbidity,” and it is essential to understand the risk factors and treatment options available to those who may be struggling.
Statistics of Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that 43.6 million Americans (18.1%) of the adult population have experienced some form of mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, within their lifetimes. Over 20 million adults have a substance use disorder. Within these two figures, however, 7.9 million have experienced both a mental illness and substance use disorder simultaneously.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of American reports that 20% of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder have a substance use disorder.
The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs reveals that more than two out of 10 veterans with PTSD have a substance use disorder, and almost one in three veterans seeking treatment for a substance use disorder has PTSD.
The National Eating Disorder Association reports that up to 35% of individuals with a substance use disorder also have an eating disorder.
Research from the Schizophrenia Bulletin indicates that nearly 50% of people struggling with schizophrenia also present with a lifetime history of substance use disorders.
Mental illnesses and substance use disorders can both impact and exacerbate one another.
Someone struggling with a substance use disorder may experience mental health symptoms as a result of repeated use. This can include bouts of depression, irritability, anxiety, sleep problems and paranoia.
On the other hand, some people use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate the uncomfortable symptoms (depression, low self-esteem, ruminating thoughts, paranoia) often associated with mental illness. The mood-altering substances can provide a temporary escape and numbing sensation to avoid coping with the intolerable distress.
Both mental illness and substance use disorders are associated with numerous devastating consequences that can severely impact an individual’s mental, physical, financial health. In fact, if left untreated, severe comorbid conditions can be fatal. In 2016, there were over 64,000 drug-related overdose deaths. Each year, nearly 45,000 Americans die by suicide (123 average deaths per day). While it is impossible to pinpoint exact reasons for these deaths, comorbid conditions remain a pressing source of concern for all Americans.
Biopsychosocial Factors and Their Influence
Rather than focusing on a singular origin, most professionals endorse that a range of biopsychosocial factors can influence one’s likelihood of developing a mental illness or substance use disorder.
Biological and genetic factors can certainly play a role. Children who have at least one parent with a substance use disorder are 8x more likely to develop an addiction when compared to children whose parents do not have an addiction.
Research from the National Institute of Health reports that recent studies found genetic risk factors in five mental disorders: bipolar disorder, major depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, and autism.
Environmental factors also to play a role in mental illness and substance use development. For example, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network reported that more than 70% of adolescents receiving substance abuse treatment indicated a history of trauma exposure. Trauma exposure varies, but it can include neglect, family conflict, difficulties in school or friendships, bullying, poverty or medical illness. While substance use can temporarily conceal the uncomfortable feelings in the wake of trauma, they can also exacerbate more trauma, as addiction is often associated with dangerous, risky behavior and environmental circumstances.
A Need for Specialized Treatments for Comorbidity
For individuals struggling with both mental illness and substance use disorders, specialized treatment can provide the needed stabilization and support for recovery. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) suggests that the best treatment entails an integrative and comprehensive approach, meaning that individuals with comorbid conditions receive proper care for both disorders.
Some individuals will begin their treatment processes in a detoxification center, where trained medical staff can provide safe monitoring during acute withdrawal stages. Professional supervision becomes especially important when the individual presents with a severe mental illness symptoms, such as suicidal thoughts or psychotic behavior. Successfully detoxing from drugs or alcohol alone, however, is not a sufficient form of treatment. Simply “getting sober” does not adequately prepare individuals with the distress tolerance skills and coping strategies needed for sustained recovery.
For this reason, many individuals benefit from structured inpatient or outpatient care via psychotherapy, psychiatric medication and ongoing support. The level of care will depend on both the severity of the comorbid condition and the individual’s treatment history.
For most people struggling with comorbid conditions, recovery represents a two-fold process. The mental illness symptom management ideally reduces the cravings to use drugs or alcohol or “numb” problems when they arise. Similarly, committing to sobriety can make it easier for people to focus on implementing the self-care skills needed to maintain sustainable mental and physical health.
The relationship between mental health,violence and traumatic events is undoubtedly complicated and emotionally charged. The aftermath of such experiences may weigh a heavy physical and emotional toll on a variety of people - direct victims, loved ones, rescue workers and even working professionals involved in providing trauma treatment and resources. With so many people experiencing trauma in their lifetimes, it’s important to know the risk factors associated with such incidents.
Domestic Violence and Your Mental Health
Domestic violence remains a huge part of our society. In fact, the National Domestic Violence hotline reports that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men report experiencing physical violence, rape, or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
In general, over 12 million adults experience some form of domestic violence each year.
Not only does this type of violence present with numerous short-term risks, such as physical injury and sickness, poor mental health, and risky behaviors like substance use, but it also can lead to many long-term potential consequences.
In 2015, several authors of Violence Affects Physical and Mental Health Differently: The General Population Based Tomsø Study found that exposure to both psychological violence (being threatened, stalked, or tormented) and physical violence resulted in poorer mental health status, increased risk of musculoskeletal pain, and general physical health hazards. Such abuse is also associated with reduced quality of life, increased mortality, injury and disability, chronic pain, substance abuse, reproductive disorders, and pregnancy complications. Psychological effects can include feeling heightened feelings of depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide compared to people who have not been abused.
Furthermore, research from Zlatka Rakovec-Felser shows that a history of domestic violence presents with a higher correlation of substance use disorders, eating and sleep disorders, poor self-esteem, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and self-harm.
The presence of abuse in the household can impact physical, cognitive, and emotional development. Children may experience more behavioral problems, sleep disturbances, and developmental regression. They may also be more likely to learn and believe that violence is an acceptable way to cope with adverse feelings.
Many victims of domestic violence have repeated patterns of abusive relationships, and it can be very challenging to break this cycle. It’s important for these individuals to receive both physical and emotional support in their recoveries.
Student Mental Health When Their Safety At School is Threatened
Since 2013, there have been nearly 300 school shootings, averaging at about one per week over the past five years. There’s no doubt that school shootings are devastating, horrific and traumatic for victims, loved ones, and the surrounding community.
In general, research shows that mass shootings are associated with several adverse psychological symptoms including heightened fear and decreased sense of safety. In its studies examining school shootings, the National Center for PTSD found that between 10-36% of witnesses to mass shootings met criteria for postdisaster diagnoses (predominantly PTSD) after the incident. While everyone responds to trauma differently, very few students interviewed after surviving school shootings reported having no symptoms. After the Columbine shooting in 1999, nearly all students reported feeling numb and then intensely guilty, irritable, or nervous within the subsequent weeks afterward.
The American Psychological Association recommends several coping strategies students can take in the wake of a school shooting.
Taking Care of the Physical Self: This refers to eating well-balanced meals, getting plenty of rest, and exercising regularly. It also refers to avoiding mood-altering substances, such as drugs and alcohol, which can suppress feelings. Physical self-care can enhance overall distress tolerance, which is important in the wake of trauma.
Talking About It: Students should feel safe to reach out and talk about their feelings with peers and loved ones. Simply talking about shared experiences or concerns can create a sense of community and connectedness.
Limiting Media Use: Even though it may feel tempting to stay updated, 24/7 saturation of nonstop news can become draining and actually increase stress levels. Schedule regular breaks to turn it off.
Honoring Feelings: School shooting witnesses can experience a vast range of emotions in the subsequent days and weeks after the trauma. It is important to acknowledge that all feelings are okay and normal.
Staying Productive: Students can feel more empowered after school shootings by focusing on others and becoming involved in local advocacy or community support.
The Far-Reaching Impact of Terrorism
Within terrorism lies the word terror, and terrorism refers to the use of violence to invoke fear and to compromise the safety and security of people. Acts of terrorism are deliberate and intentionally aimed at civilians or public figures, which can result in intense community feelings of helplessness, fear, anger, and depression.
Research from the National Center for PTSD reports that individuals who are most directly exposed to terrorist attacks are especially vulnerable to developing PTSD.
September 11, 2011, America’s largest single terrorist attack, impacted tens of thousands of people. These included direct victims, loved ones, rescue workers, colleagues, friends, emergency medical and healthcare providers, and media personnel. After two months of the incident, PTSD rates in nearby New York cities prevalence hovered around 8%, and depression was around 10%. Two years later, up to 201% of employees working in the Pentagon were found to have PTSD.
Terrorism can also seriously impact children and their mental health. Research from the British Journal of Psychiatry reported that up to 60% of New York parents reported that their child displayed post-traumatic stress reactions six weeks after the September 11 attacks.
Today, in our increasingly connected society, it’s easy for people to receive 24/7 instantaneous news all around the world. Technology advances provide an option for people to watch terrorism unfolding from their smartphones or social media feeds. While research has not yet examined the long-term effects of the relationship between technology and such violence, it is possible that how we understand, cope, and contextualize terrorism will evolve over the years.
Final Thoughts on Violence and Mental Health
As researchers and mental health professionals continue to examine the relationship between violence and mental health, our society will ideally develop more preventative measures and appropriate interventions for helping trauma victims. Continued education and understanding of the short-and long-term psychological implications of violence remain essential for everyone.
In our increasingly interconnected world, the relationship between mental health and technology continues to evolve. Even with more and more people turning online for support and information, technology invariably has its pros and cons to mental health awareness and treatment.
How Technology Helps Your Mental Health
Technology has undoubtedly made it easier to access pertinent information and obtain resources for mental health education, awareness and even treatment.
Using Mobile Applications and Outreach Support
Today, there’s an application available for everything from managing your finances to editing your selfies to ordering your favorite restaurant takeout. And yes, with that said, there’s also an application to manage your mental illness.
You can receive professional support from licensed therapists via Talkspace, manage your trauma symptoms with PTSD Coach and even track your daily mood with Pacifica. Mobile applications continue to evolve and even change the way we integrate mental health treatment and recovery into our overall daily living.
This relationship between technology and mental health helps to provide those with limited or no access to standards mode of therapeutic treatment due to location or financial hardships. Mental health guidance may just be a few fingerprint swipes away. This is even true for major crises, like suicide intervention. Those struggling with life-or-death decisions no longer have to speak on the telephone speak; there are options to text or chat in real-time with trained professionals for crisis intervention and treatment referrals. Today, your app store offers many different kinds of supportive applications with mental health guides, live chat options, forums, self-paced education and more.
When you’re online, you’re never really alone. This could be one of the driving reasons why 15% of Internet users connect through online message boards and forums. T human connection is an important part of our development and life. When you have the ability to communicate with others on nearly any issue, from struggles with infertility to depression to weight loss, that connection evolves.
Applying Virtual Reality to Treatments
Virtual reality (VR) technology continues to advance in helping users simulate real-world environments. Applied to mental health treatment and recovery planning, this type of technology development has begun to change traditional approaches.
In fact, a virtual reality lab at the Ottawa Hospital is experimenting with motion-assisted, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in veterans. The results have been promising. Engaging veterans in this mode of active therapy provides an unconventional mode for decreasing the anxiety in response to triggering sounds and images. The University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies has implemented its Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan exposure therapy approach in over 60 trained locations. These technologies allow clients to undergo safe, evidence-based exposure therapy via virtual scenarios guided by a trained therapists.
As technology advances and improves over the years, many experts hypothesize that we are only on the brink of the virtual reality iceberg.
Harming Self-Regulation - Negative Effects of Technology on Mental Health
Unfortunately, there are negatives that come with increased technology use, and it can be revealed as a form of self-regulation problems and mental illness development.
A recent longitudinal Duke study shows that adolescents who spend more time on their electronic devices experience more conduct problems, such as difficulty paying attention and increased fighting and lying. And, that’s not to mention the raising rates of internet addiction. The Associated Press found that people spend nearly 11 hours per day engaging with electronic media. These numbers continue to rise with the rampant usage of smartphones.
While the American Psychiatric Association has not formally listed Internet Addiction as a mental illness in the latest DSM-V, they acknowledge the growing number of people showing internet addictive tendencies, in the sense that users depend on the internet for social interaction, entertainment and shopping.
After all, we turn to our phones for everything - it’s often the first thing we reach for in the morning and the last thing we touch at night.
Social media can play a grim role in technology’s impact on mental health for both teenagers and adults.
A recent Scope study found that 62% of Facebook and Twitter users felt “inadequate” compared to other social media studies, and 60% reported feeling jealous. In their recent Stress in America study, the American Psychological Association found that 44% of “constant online checkers” feel disconnected from family as a result of their electronic habits. The “constant online checkers” also reported being less likely to spend time in person with friends and family.
Are we becoming more connected or disconnected? This philosophical debate doesn’t actually seem to have a clear answer. Yet, we all know that being “plugged in” all the time can make it harder to stay present with friends and family in the real moment.
Even the powerful, social media company, Facebook, released its own newsroom research, indicating that passively consuming information (reading without interacting) can lead people feeling worse afterward.
The overarching consensus? Too much of anything can be a bad thing.
Integrating Technology into Your Mental Health Treatment
The National Institute of Mental Health recognizes the growing relationship between technology and mental health. As technology continues to evolve, this trend will continue to emerge. It’s important for both mental health clinicians and consumers to understand the benefits and risks associated with electronic media.
In the future, mental health treatment and technology will likely be even more interlinked, as more consumers turn to online applications and augmented, virtual reality therapies for treatment. With that said, research should continue exploring both the short-term and long-term risks associated with increased technology dependence.
*Please note that the authors and editors of this article are not medical professionals. You should consult with your doctor if you have a mental or medical health concern.