No matter how happy or comfortable your life, you can’t escape stress. It’s a normal part of life for everyone, and it can occur in response to both positive and negative life changes. Some common causes of stress including losing a job or starting a new job, ending or beginning a relationship, having a child, moving, facing a serious illness or death in the family, or getting a raise or promotion at work. While people from all walks of life face some amount of stress, you can learn to cope with stress so that it doesn’t affect your mental or physical health.
Professional counselors help their clients learn to cope with stress by teaching stress management and relaxation techniques. They may also use cognitive behavioral therapy to help clients overcome unrealistic and unhealthy patterns of thought and behavior that can cause anxiety and make stress worse. With an MA in counseling, you’ll be qualified to help others cope with the stresses of normal life.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a popular form of psychotherapy for the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s very effective, even for serious problems, and it’s evidence-based. CBT is a short-term form of therapy, so most people require only 10 to 20 sessions to overcome symptoms of stress, anxiety, or depression.
Once you earn your MA in counseling, you can use CBT to help clients identify unrealistic, negative thoughts that contribute to stress and anxiety, challenge the veracity of those thoughts, and replace them with realistic thoughts. Someone who is prone to stress and anxiety might see normal life situations as being more serious than they are. Or, there might be underlying reasons why a person is struggling with stress. The workaholic businessman might believe that all of his hard work and wealth is never enough because, deep down inside, he feels he’s disappointed his father. The stressed-out new college grad might be struggling with anxiety because he or she can’t find a job or isn’t earning much money and doesn’t know what the future might hold.
It’s not easy for people to identify the negative thoughts that exacerbate their stress, which is why most people need the help of a therapist to learn how to manage stress. Most people also need help to challenge these negative thoughts, by literally facing their fears and learning from experience that the results aren’t as bad as they anticipated. As a therapist, you can help your clients replace negative thoughts with more realistic ones that can help them cope with stress throughout their lives.
As a counselor, you’ll also be responsible for directly teaching your clients how to manage their stress. Lifestyle changes can go a long way toward helping someone manage stress. For example, you might advise your clients to:
You might also help your clients look for ways to minimize stress in their lives, such as avoiding people or situations that cause them stress. You might, for example, advise a man who feels his stress levels escalate when he watches the evening news to stop watching the evening news, or you might counsel a woman who feels stressed out by too many responsibilities at work to start saying no to extra tasks.
It’ll also be your responsibility as a counselor to help patients learn relaxation techniques that can help them cope during stressful times. Visualization, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and controlled breathing can all help people cope during times of stress. You might use hypnosis to help patients reach a deep state of relaxation during counseling, or you might recommend biofeedback, which can help clients learn to recognize the physiological changes that occur with stress and control them through the use of relaxation exercises.
Stress is a perfectly normal part of life, but it’s still something that most of us struggle to manage from time to time. You can learn to help your friends and neighbors come to terms with stress when you earn your MA in counseling. The lessons you’ll learn can help you help your community for decades to come.