We’re all subject to the pressures that come with everyday life, relationships, and responsibilities. Service members and their families face the added challenges of relocations, deployments and the other challenges of military life. With everything you have to manage in your life – relatives, work, military duty and kids – at some point you or someone in your family might feel overwhelmed, face a stubborn problem or even just want to talk to a professional with a different perspective. For those times, a counselor or therapist may be the answer. Read on to learn more about the different kinds of counselors, how they’re qualified, the kinds of problems they address, and how they can help.

Medical and non-medical counseling

The words counseling, therapy and psychotherapy are often used to describe the same process. Counseling may be designated as either medical or non-medical. Medical counseling specifically addresses issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, child abuse or neglect, domestic violence, suicidal ideation and other medically diagnosable issues.

Non-medical counseling is designed to address issues such as improving relationships at home and work, stress management, adjustment issues (returning from a deployment), marital problems, parenting, and grief and loss issues.

Counseling and therapy can take place individually, with another person (a spouse, for example), with a family, in a group or in some combination of these. During counseling sessions, you work with a trained professional who talks to you about self-identified problems and helps you find ways to cope with them. For example, the counselor can help you identify patterns of thinking and behaving that either benefit or work against you.

Different kinds of counselors and therapists

Several different types of counselors who meet professional standards and licensing requirements may provide counseling or therapy for a wide range of issues, including parenting, grief, and couples and family relationships. The following information will help you better understand the different types of recognized counseling specialists and how they are qualified to help:

  • Social workers have a master’s or doctoral degree in clinical social work. They are trained to understand how people are affected by their environment, including family and culture, and can provide individual, family and group counseling.
  • Marriage and family therapists have a master’s or doctoral degree in psychology, education, or social work; postgraduate certification in marriage and family therapy; or both. They usually focus more on practical counseling and are trained to deal with personal relationships and family and couple conflicts.
  • Mental health counselors also have a master’s or doctoral degree in psychology or education. As with many counselors or therapists, mental health counselors specialize in helping people cope with a particular problem. Others may specialize in a particular area, such as educational or religious counseling.
  • Psychologists have a master’s degree – and possibly a doctoral degree – in psychology, education or social science. Psychologists are specially trained to use psychological and educational testing to help identify and resolve problems. Like other types of counselors, they work in many settings, including mental health centers, hospitals and clinics, schools and private practice.
  • Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors specially trained to assess, diagnose and treat a patient’s mental and physical condition, often working as part of a team with other professionals. They are able to hospitalize patients and, in most states, they are the only therapists who can prescribe medication. Psychiatrists treat people with more severe problems and collaborate with primary care physicians as well as therapists to implement and manage a medication regimen for clients.
  • Certified pastoral counselors are members of the clergy with specialized training in psychotherapy. All service members have access to pastoral counseling by trained, qualified military chaplains through their commands and installations. These counselors are ordained by individual religious denominations before entering the military. Once commissioned, they are further trained and certified to provide assistance to service members of all faiths and their families.
  • Licensed professional counselors generally have a master’s degree in counseling or in a related field and provide general mental health counseling services.

Regardless of which kind of therapist is right for you, the important thing is that you find the help you need when you need it. A Circle Of Warriors can provide you with further resources about where to go from here.