Mental health counseling is growing in popularity within healthcare circles, and for good reason. As awareness is spreading about the damaging and pervasive effects of untreated mental illness, more individuals are seeking assistance from competent mental health counselors. According to the American Psychological Association, nearly half of American households have had someone seek mental health counseling in 2022.
Although various factors contribute to this massive uptick, The Hill reports that an increasing trend towards mental illness de-stigmatization and a significant surge in virtual care access are among the primary reasons for the increase. Often, humans do not have someone with whom they can share their innermost thoughts and feelings entirely. While speaking with friends and family can help, most cannot speak frankly about their deepest emotions, and sometimes, it can become a barrier to discussing problems and issues openly.
Thanks to mental health counseling, individuals from different walks of life can move past that barrier and navigate emotional and behavioral challenges, change self-defeating behaviors and battle depression effectively. Mental health counseling also allows patients to recognize distorted thinking, manage stress and improve their conflict resolution abilities.
Clinical mental health counselors: What they do and how they can help
Numerous individuals face mental health issues. In the US alone, more than 20% of US adults experience a mental health disorder diagnosis annually, making illnesses such as depression and anxiety increasingly common. Further research reveals the nation is currently facing a drawn-out mental health crisis exacerbated by uncertainties and fears.
Clinical mental health counselors are trained medical professionals who evaluate and care for people with emotional, mental and behavioral health disorders, life challenges and relationship issues. Using numerous psychotherapy methods, clinical mental health counselors work with patients to create meaningful behavior changes, offer coping strategies and provide support and guidance for navigating life’s struggles.
Clinical mental health counselors who have earned a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Online from reputable institutions such as St. Bonaventure University learn to apply a variety of mental health counseling approaches, including psychodynamic counseling, interpersonal counseling and existential therapy. Depending on the patient’s needs and requirements, the clinical mental health counselor may focus therapy sessions on better coping skills or recovery.
Women make outstanding clinical mental health counselors
Women make outstanding clinical mental health counselors for various reasons. This is because they go through several emotional and developmental experiences starting in childhood that prepare them to manage and deal with the emotional rollercoaster of counseling and, unfortunately, unlike men, children and girls are free from societal pressures to express many feelings. That nurturance, responsiveness and understanding can be critical in helping patients process their emotions effectively.
According to a recent Psychology Today research study, many women seek a female clinical mental health counselor as they have been traumatized by men. Conversely, men who have been traumatized may find it especially difficult to confide in a male clinical mental health counselor for fear of looking weak and vulnerable. On the surface, this might be superficial, but it can have a significant impact on a patient’s recovery. By choosing the right clinical mental health counselor, patients can feel cared for and become more self-aware about their actions.
Women have exceptional empathy
Building an all-encompassing appreciation of client triggers, behaviors and experiences is essential to effective clinical mental health counseling. As a mental health counselor, you must encourage patients to dig deeper into deep-seated issues to bolster the therapeutic alliance and enhance the likelihood of successful treatment outcomes. While doing this, clinical mental health counselors must consistently practice empathy to manage and respond to an emotional experience effectively.
This is one of women’s strengths. According to a global survey, women are much better than men at empathizing with others regardless of societal or familial influences. The survey revealed women scored higher in measures of cognitive empathy. This means women can understand an individual’s emotions and take on their perspective to examine their feelings and behaviors.
Cognitive empathy is an essential quality for clinical mental health counselors because it governs how they interact with patients and impacts treatment. Through cognitive empathy, clinical mental health counselors can gain a complete picture of the client’s world as they see it and communicate that back in a manner that makes the client feel they’ve been heard and understood. This is especially important in mental health, where the focus is on improving the individual’s condition and addressing social determinants of health.
Contrary to popular belief, mental health patients are dissimilar in more ways than one, even if they have similar diagnoses. After all, humans react differently to stress, challenges and afflictions in their daily lives. Since female clinical mental health counselors are cognitively empathetic and are aware of specific behaviors tied to different emotions, they can better support their clients in navigating their mental health challenges.
In addition, cognitive empathy among female clinical mental health counselors ensures they do not become too emotionally invested in a situation to recommend a solution. As mentioned, empathy is a crucial trait for clinical mental health counselors; however, you do not want to appear to be emotional because it can adversely impact your judgment of the situation. Since most female clinical mental health counselors are cognitively empathetic, they can remain objective and offer a less biased perspective on the case. This allows them to address the patient’s mental issues instead of only providing comfort.
Women can build strong and meaningful therapeutic relationships
The relationship between the clinical mental health counselor and the patient greatly matters in psychotherapy. By building strong therapeutic relationships with their patients, clinical mental health counselors can create a safe and trusting environment. When patients feel safe and secure, they are more likely to share their feelings and emotions and engage in difficult conversations. In addition, a solid therapeutic relationship between the mental health professional and the patient can also lead to the following.
With a solid therapeutic relationship, clinical mental health counselors can enhance communication with their patients. This allows patients to express themselves more freely and the mental health professional to determine their issues and concerns more effectively.
Since patients have a strong relationship with their clinical mental health counselors, they can perceive the latter as a partner in their journey toward their mental wellness. As a result, they are more likely to participate in their treatment actively and achieve better treatment outcomes.
A robust therapeutic relationship can encourage patients to manage their mental health and positively change their lives. This means empowering patients to explore concerns that may otherwise fall by the wayside and work toward personal growth.
Put simply, a solid therapeutic relationship is essential to helping the patient connect with, stay in and obtain the best results from clinical mental health counseling. While the ability to establish a therapeutic alliance is not gender-dependent, it relies on the clinical mental health counselor’s skills, approach and qualities. Many women bring valuable attributes to the counseling profession that can improve their chances of building essential relationships. It is, however, worth noting that these valuable attributes go beyond possessing a nurturing demeanor or compassion.
Women can offer diverse perspectives, which can be valuable as female clinical mental health counselors in building fruitful therapeutic relationships with clients from different societal and cultural backgrounds. Their experiences, including those related to societal and gender roles, can contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the patient’s unique situation. In some cases, female clients may feel more comfortable talking about gender-specific traumas with a woman mental health counselor. Doing so ensures the counselor can address patient issues such as gender identity, reproductive health and sexual assault.
Women often have a significant advantage over men in building rapport with people and making them feel important and heard. Most women do this by asking questions, showing interest and remaining relaxed with softer eye contact accompanied by nods and smiles while communicating with individuals. Building rapport allows female clinical mental health counselors to foster solid therapeutic relationships with clients by making them feel understood, respected and comfortable.
Since women are inherently more vulnerable than men, they can create a sense of connection and trust. This allows the patient to see their female clinical mental health counselor as an honest and relatable person rather than just a medical professional. This increases the likelihood of patients discussing stigmatized issues without fear of judgment.
The therapeutic alliance is a core component for successful and effective clinical mental health counseling. Without it, therapeutic progress would be challenging and even downright impossible. Female clinical mental health counselors can establish mutual agreement on goals, build positive rapport, set realistic expectations and share responsibility for progress toward the counseling goals to ensure clients take an active role in healing.
Women have excellent active listening skills
Active listening is at the core of patient-centered mental health counseling. Done right, it provides mental health counselors with a powerful tool for helping clients build successful relationships within their personal lives. Active listening also helps maintain therapeutic relationships by showing empathy and reflecting the emotions mental health professionals hear.
According to a recent Forbes report, females proved to be significantly better listeners than males. Additionally, women also demonstrated a stronger preference for listening than men. In short, women listen, intending to understand the crux of a specific issue and provide their opinions on how to resolve it. Although their strategies vary, they often ask questions to improve their understanding of experiences, reflect on what they said and ask whether they understand them accurately.
This can be particularly helpful in assisting clinical mental health counselors in developing positive and healthy client interactions. Teaching clients how to have an unbiased perspective can sometimes be difficult when they discuss conflicts because their emotions are high and can go way out of hand. Since female mental health counselors have superior active listening skills, they can label an emotion to dissipate the situation’s intensity and ensure the client’s reasoning abilities can function more effectively.
This allows female mental health counselors to listen to understand rather than think about how they can convince the patient to change their minds. Several active listening techniques for mental health counselors include:
- Paying attention to non-verbal cues
- Maintaining good eye contact
- Asking open-ended questions
- Reflecting on what they hear from the patient
- Withholding judgment
By honing their innate mindful listening methods, women can promote trust, stimulate patient growth and facilitate candid communication, turning them into effective clinical mental health counselors.
Women are highly intuitive
Intuition is an uncommon yet essential component in becoming an effective clinical mental health counselor. Through a counselor’s intuition, they can connect with clients and understand them more deeply than the spoken word. This allows clinical mental health counselors to bring insight into the therapy room and open up a dialog that leads to deeper understanding.
Unlike men, women exhibit more intuition and appropriate concern due to increased blood flow in the brain. According to Science Direct, women displayed shorter reaction times and higher accuracy in intuitive tests for inclusion and exclusion conditions. This trait alone makes women outstanding clinical mental health counselors since it allows them to uncover underlying emotions and issues that clients may find difficult to express verbally.
When they can uncover these emotions, female clinical mental health counselors can piece together client experiences to determine the issue’s root cause. Depending on the patient’s circumstance, a session with a skilled clinical mental health counselor can help them connect with themselves, understand their life’s purpose and offer them insights into their cognitive issues. Meanwhile, intuition can guide female clinical mental health counselors in situations where there may not be a clear-cut treatment approach or answer.
In circumstances like these, female clinical mental health counselors generate hypotheses about the underlying problems impacting the patient. Doing so explores and validates the issue through more comprehensive and structured therapeutic interventions. By integrating their intuition with evidence-based therapeutic methods, female clinical mental health counselors can ensure a thorough and holistic approach to decision-making in complex and sophisticated mental health counseling situations.
Adopting a holistic approach ensures counselors can help clients uncover how their personal and social relationships impact their mental well-being. This allows clinical mental health counselors to identify the connection of several aspects of an individual’s life and address mental health problems from a comprehensive perspective. As a result, clients can achieve balance, well-being and personal growth.
Women are emotionally intelligent
Women appear to be emotionally intelligent clinical mental health counselors thanks to their ability to recognize varying emotions, create a safe space and understand non-verbal communication. Clinical mental health counseling often involves recognizing, understanding and managing your emotions and those of the client. As a clinical mental health counselor, you must establish a robust and empathetic connection with clients to make them feel understood, valued and heard.
Since women are practically listening experts, they can recognize and interpret the emotions expressed by patients, even those that are not communicated verbally. Understanding a client’s non-verbal cues empowers clinical mental health counselors to gain a better understanding of the situation. Although each individual uses nonverbal communication differently, there are several indicators that clinical mental health counselors must observe to identify the patient’s motivations, feelings and intentions. This includes posture, use of arms and legs and facial expressions.
Female clinical mental health counselors with high emotional intelligence can establish strong client emotion regulation. Teaching a client self-regulation skills will enable them to work towards keeping disruptive and harmful feelings in check and thinking before acting on something. When people manage their emotions and behaviors, they can better manage stress, deal with conflict and achieve their goals.
Women are compassionate
The importance of compassion in clinical mental health counseling is difficult to ignore. Since clients deal with unique and often frustrating situations, clinical mental health counselors must be compassionate as they dissect the issue and implement effective and successful treatment interventions. Fortunately, compassion is an innate human quality, and women typically have plenty.
According to PubMed Central, extensive research has shown that women are more compassionate and forgiving than men. Reasons for them being more compassionate than men are related to socialization, role expectations and emotional expression. As they are often more encouraged than boys to develop or express compassion early in their lives, women become more in touch with personal, environmental and emotional factors that impact an individual’s behavior.
This makes it easier for women to relate to situations, which is essential in becoming a clinical mental health counselor. Through relational experiences, women clinical mental health counselors can help clients understand past behavioral experiences and patterns that prevent them from developing healthy relationships. In addition, relational experiences equip clients with new and more helpful experiences to navigate challenges and difficulties effectively.
Women make excellent clinical mental health counselors
Women are emotionally intelligent creatures, so it is no surprise that they often succeed as clinical mental health counselors. By combining their innate abilities with evidence-based therapeutic approaches, women clinical mental health counselors can deliver holistic healing to clients and help combat the nation’s ongoing mental health crisis.