Now that we are entering our second year of a pandemic, we are seeing a large increase in mental health issues. NATURE journal states that, more than 42% of people surveyed by the US Census Bureau reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in December 2020. That is a huge increase from only 11% the previous year. As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist I have long had an interest in helping others improve their mental health. I was curious to find out why counseling seems to help reduce mental health symptoms. One study found that 60-65% of people who had one to seven sessions experienced a significant reduction in symptoms (Krause & Orlinsky, 1986).

What is it about counseling that helps us in these times of need?

While I was going to grad school, I was lucky enough to come across a teacher and mentor who helped me understand the fundamental factors that contribute to our mental well-being. He said that our mental health comes down to two basic factors. We humans have an inherent need for power and intimacy. If we have these, we are happy and fulfilled. These things create purpose for us.  Without some form of power or intimacy, life loses meaning. If we do not, we are anxious and depressed. The image I think of is that we all have a gas tank of emotional well-being. This tank is filled up with experiences of empowerment and intimacy. As we go through life, we come across experiences that add to or deplete our emotional well-being gas tank.

For example, when we are little, we learn how to read and write and to ride a bike. We may find ourselves being loved and cherished by our family and friends. These experiences of empowerment and intimacy add to our gas tank. Other times we can experience failures or rejection. Our tank can become dangerously low, and we must find ways to refill the tank. As we go into our senior years we are faced with losses of power and intimacy. At some point we stop working at our jobs which is a huge loss of power and intimacy for most of us. We also begin losing loved ones, many move away, and some pass away. During this time, it is important for us to adapt and look for new avenues of power and intimacy.

My father used to be an airline pilot for PanAm. When my father was 55 years old, he had to medically retire. He was devastated. He had a huge loss of power and intimacy. He became very depressed and anxious. It took him awhile, but he was able to adapt. He learned how to play golf which gave him a sense of power as he worked to become better. He also developed a whole new group of friends. For us, if we are depressed or anxious, we are most likely dealing with a loss of power and /or intimacy.

Counseling is one place that can help. Counseling provides a place of acceptance where we can talk and share our thoughts and feelings in confidentiality and lack of judgement. The right counselor is someone who listens and cares (intimacy). That counselor also gives guidance and direction (power). As a counselor, I always remind myself that these are the two main reasons people come to see me.  Sometimes I have clients who mostly need someone to care about them, others are more interested in tools and direction, I try to offer my clients both. Finding the right counselor is important. Therefore, in looking for a counselor to help me with my need for power and intimacy, that counselor should be competent and caring.  A counselor who is competent but not caring, or caring but not competent, will not suffice. Counselors will vary in the areas of expertise.  Some work with children, others work in specific areas of concern. There are counselors who do well with trauma, others with addictions. Some counselors work with couples, some mostly with individuals. It is worthwhile to try and get a recommendation from friends or professionals that the counselor you pick will meet your needs. As we get older there are a variety of ways we can keep our gas-tank full. We can exercise, socialize, and continue to educate ourselves. Counseling simply offers another avenue for help.

John Lucas is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who works in Temecula, CA. John is the owner of Lighthouse Counseling Services. JTLMFT@AOL.COM951-506-0662.

Helpful Steps to Take

Dr. Uttaburanont has been one of our internists here at Rancho Family for the past seven years. Internal medicine is a type of primary care that focuses a lot on patients who have undifferentiated or multi-system disease processes. Mental Health issues can often contribute to our overall physical health, whether it be weight gain or loss from changed eating habits or poor sleep due to stress anxiety, our goal is to help your overall mental health for a better, healthier lifestyle.  Dr. Uttaburanont practices out of our Makena Office off Temecula Parkway and would love to speak with you about how your mental health is contributing to your overall health. If you would like more information on Dr. Uttaburanont, call Hayley at 951-225-6842.

Who We Are

We are family physicians serving south Riverside county with the highest quality of care. Rancho’s goal is to approach medicine differently by offering more cohesive care and education that extends beyond the four walls of the exam room. We do not just make suggestions and write prescriptions, we have taken steps to improve the health of our patients. Our family physicians have developed educational content that empowers their community to make healthy lifestyle changes.  We also have free senior centers for our patients 65 and older that are full of exercise and nutrition classes as well as full online courses teaching a wide variety of health topics. We pride ourselves on going beyond the exam room to make our community healthier and happier.

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