Behavioral health is health, and while I think we know that, I don’t think we know that. It’s often pushed aside and I really do believe it’s because many of us downplay our emotions. We tell ourselves “well, someone else has it worse, I’m making a big deal for no reason.”
That may be true, but if we continuously downplay our emotions than do we ever give ourselves permission to actually feel our feelings, be with our feelings, navigate them and ultimately learn to deal with them, manage them and move forward.
One barrier I know many people face aside from financial ability to afford behavioral health assistance and the obvious of societal stigma is understanding who can help and how.
There are a lot of different mental health or behavioral health professionals and they each have different educational requirements, licensing and abilities within their scope and practice.
Here are some titles you may have seen before:
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
- Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Psychiatrist (M.D. or D.O.)
- Family and Marriage Counselor
- Addiction Counselor
Here are a few resources to check out if you’re interested in learning about how to find a professional to help you or someone you know.
- Psychology Today
- American Mental Health Counselors Association
- American Counseling Association
- American Psychiatric Association
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
There are a lot of resources to educate yourself on the titles someone may have, their education, their scope and their style of practice so you can find the best fit.
I’m introducing your Ashley Jara, a licensed professional counselor. I’ve known Ashley for about six years and truly respect how she practices. Recently, we started partnering for consult to help educate my clients better about their options so they can feel empowered to find professionals in their area to support them. Historically and within my scope, I can talk to clients about seeking therapy and how to find a professional. I’ve discussed how to better understand their health insurance benefits, if appropriate, but connecting them to Ashley allows for a more thorough conversation since this is her scope of practice. She’s not treating or diagnosing, but further helping them understand what options they may have and helping to lessen stigma around seeking mental health counseling.
Occupation/Title: LPC, Licensed Professional Counselor
Specialty (if applicable): General practice with teens, families and adults
State that you practice in: Colorado
State(s) that you have licensure in: Colorado
Years of practice: 9
Education needed/obtained for current occupation/title: Master’s Degree; I have my master’s in Human Development and Counseling.
CEU needed to maintain licensure: Every 2 years we are required to have 40 hours of continuing education completed. This can include a variety of independent and group learning, supervision, presentations and volunteer work.
In your role, what is your scope of practice? I consider my scope of practice as a holistic approach supporting clients in building their unique healthiest lifestyles, identification of strength, skills and possible barriers, and improvement in overall mental health. This includes working with clients as individuals, families and groups dealing with normal daily stressors as well as prevention and intervention to what could be identified as psychopathologies. Finally my practice includes consultation work with other providers, supervision to licensed and those working towards licensure, and continuing education in the field.
What limitations do you face in your role? As an LPC it is important to understand our role, specifically in ensuring that we do not harm our clients. If a client’s presenting problems are beyond my scope or skill, it is imperative that I either refer out to providers that can best care for their needs or seek supplementary support for those clients where my scope may be lacking. This could include psychopathologies or needs that I do not have adequate training for or dangerous behavior in which I cannot confirm safety. Second to these, we work as mandated reporters and although we practice under the lens of confidentiality to our clients, if safety is at risk, we are mandated by our ethics and law by “duty to warn” which could be viewed as a limitation as it can limit disclosures or building of relationships.
What other health professionals do you or do you want to partner with? I work with fellow mental health professionals at my current practice, including LPC’s and Licensed Professional Social Workers. Through coordinating care I also work with client’s primary care physicians and medical providers to ensure best and complete practices for our shared clients.
What is a misconception about your occupation/title? Most of the misconceptions I have run into with counseling have been wrapped in the stigma that we are still working on shedding around mental health and seeking services in general. I tell my clients that I generally find it’s the strongest amongst us that ask for help, whether that’s for severe depression or just managing the normal challenges that come up in day-to-day life.
What should other health professionals know about your occupation/title? In my experience there is still some confusion between mental health professionals in the health field at large. Often times terms like psychologist, counselor, school counselor, and even psychiatrist are used interchangeable when they all have very different education, specialty and ethical responsibility to clients. As a licensed professional counselor, I see my primary role as advocate and mental health professional to my clients and work hard to coordinate care with my fellow professionals including the medical profession to provide more inclusive supports.
What should the general public know about the work you do? That there are professionals like myself out there that want to be a support for you no matter where you are in your journey. Whether that’s being a nonjudgmental and reflective listener, an advocate for you and your individual needs, or a provider for clinical EMDR or CBT techniques. There are counselors out there with strengths who want to work alongside you.
What lead you to do the work you do? Simple answer, my life. There were so many points in my life where my own mental health drew me to want to help others and spread the understanding of why this field is incredibly important for us all. I firmly believe in the benefits of what we do, and that I truly found the field that utilizes my personal strengths of building relationships, supporting others in their journeys and enjoyment in getting to be along side others in their own growth.