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Who can help when distressed emotionally or mentally?

A Counsellor? A Psychiatrist? A Life Coach?

When you, or someone you know, experience emotional or mental distress, it is best to see a General Practitioner (GP) first to eliminate any biological causes. For example, thyroid disease is associated with symptoms of anxiety. Hormonal imbalance can also cause mild depressive symptoms. If necessary, the GP may make a referral to a psychiatrist for further followup. Often, many of us are clueless about who to seek help from when we have issues related to our emotions or mental health. A counsellor, clinical psychologist or life coach? What are the differences between these professionals, and which provides more effective help?

Clinical psychologists and psychiatrists usually examine patients from a pathological perspective. For instance, in cases of psychosis or bipolar disorder,  psychiatrists are responsible for prescribing medication to treat these illnesses. Turning to a counsellor for help is most appropriate if one is experiencing any of the following: mild symptoms of depression or anxiety arising from being emotionally distressed over some time; facing difficulties, changes and stress recently; daily life affected by unresolved emotional distress from the past.

Do note that only medical doctors can prescribe medication. Clinical psychologists do not but they are familiar with the examination of symptoms and making assessment. They help caregivers and patients develop a better understanding of a mental health disorder and learn how to manage it. Counsellors, on the other hand, help us manage non-pathological issues, such as problems experienced during growing up, life changes or various life challenges. They employ different techniques that enable us to alleviate and address our emotional distress.

Counsellor Uncovers the Root of One’s Emotional Distress

Counsellors are not psychologists and do not label if their clients are ill. When working with clients, counsellors unravel layers of information that relate to the clients’ thoughts, behaviour, family history, growing up years and the recent stress experienced. They also help clients address unresolved childhood issues they buried deep down, and couple them with their current emotions to help clients find the root of their distress. Once they identify the root cause, counsellors help clients make adjustments to their thinking, behaviour and state of mind, thereby enabling them to return to a peaceful, joyous life.

Counsellors work together with psychiatrists at times. Take for example patients with bipolar disorder. These patients need a prescription from psychiatrists to control their symptoms, but if their depressive episode lasts longer than the mania episdoe, they can work with counsellors to manage their depression. Counsellors also work with psychosis patients who refuse to take medication. They also guide them on managing the medication’s side effects and increase their awareness of the illness etc. Patients can receive better outcomes for their recovery when they complement their medication treatment with counselling.

Life Coaches Help You Achieve Your Life Goals

Coaches at The Companions are also qualified counsellors. Their services mainly support clients in personal growth, personal breakthroughs, unleashing of their potential and interpersonal relationships. The coaches focus on clients’ goals and expectations, such as improving interpersonal relationships at work, improving a fresh graduate’s proficiency at his or her job, premarital and post-marriage counselling, addressing child-rearing issues, adapting to retirement etc. The Companions’ coaches also provide corporate and executive coaching, helping clients improve management skills and teamwork with a psychological approach. At the same time, these coaches will take on a counsellor role when their corporate clients experience emotional distress. For example, a manager with a deadline to break the sales record while at the same time is breaking up with his girlfriend and loses both parents. Our coaches can support such clients in meeting corporate goals and addressing their emotional issues concurrently.

If you are experiencing emotional distress and do not know what to do, it is advisable to consider seeking help from a counsellor first. They will have conversations with you to learn about your situation and provide you with professional analysis and advice.

Four Roles that A Coach Takes On

  1. A Mirror: Reflect the state of the client, and work with the client to define clear goals 
  2. Scheduler: Help client to effectively and flexibly meet goals
  3. Cheerleader: Motivate and encourage the client to increase his or her positivity and drive to learn
  4. Counsellor: Help client alleviates and addresses emotional issues as he or she works on achieving their goals

The Companions
Chloe Cheung