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Counseling - Some Misconceptions

The dictionary meaning of the word counseling is ‘advice to a person on social, personal and/or psychological problems’. It also means to assist or guide in resolving personal difficulties. The word and concept counseling is used interchangeably with psychotherapy.

The common misconception about counseling is that medical management of serious psychiatric disorders is to be avoided in favour of counseling for their treatment.

The cause of this misconception is ignorance about the recent advances in management of these diseases with medicines. The medicines effective in the management of serious psychiatric disorders have been around only for the last fifty years or so and this period is too short for general public to know about them and to develop confidence in them.

Most people do not know that antidepressants are as effective in combating depression as antibiotics are for infections. Similarly for the most dreaded psychiatric disease – schizophrenia- there are good antipsychotics available, which control the disease to the extent that the patients suffering from it need never, be banished to mental asylums. In fact some of the well managed patients on appropriate doses of their medication are holding on to their jobs and leading sufficiently rewarding married life

Another reason for people to ask for only counseling and not the total management is their ignorance about mental illnesses. People tend to confuse personality disorders with serious mental illness and are unable to distinguish between problems of life and living with psychiatric diseases.

The misconception is also created by plethora of mental health workers who instead of working as a team to help the patient tend to assert the superior nature of their chosen field undermining the role of medical management. It is true the social worker, the psychologist, occupational/recreational therapist have always been integral part for the custodial care of psychiatric patients. Their usefulness has now been better appreciated when the patients with proper medication are able to better handle their intra-psychic or worldly problems.

Counseling is a necessary adjunct in the management of serious psychiatric diseases like: depression, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety disorders, drug addictions, some old age and childhood problems. Care of physical needs of he patients and provision of security in emotionally meaningful environment are also essential.

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