Avoiding Ethical Conflicts in Counseling

Whether a licensed clinical counselor or merely a pastoral unlicensed counselor, there are expectations and standards expected from a counselor.  One could be counseling as a licensed counselor or as certified Christian Counselor and find the same ethical pitfalls that may potential befall oneself with a client.   In a previous blog, we discussed the importance of standards found within the ACA, AACC, or NASW, as examples of how to interact and work with a client as a professional within the field of counseling.  In this discussion, we will review an important article from the APA that discusses how to best avoid potential ethical issues with clients.

Counseling Professionals need to adhere to ethical standards but also be aware of the numerous pitfalls that can lead to unwanted ethical dilemmas

 

We all wish to serve our clients with their best interest at heart.  Christian Counselors take it another level with spiritual emphasis and Christian doctrine.  They see their clients as spiritual children.  Some pastors serve within a clergy-penitent model where they are not merely counseling, but are spiritual mentors and advisors.   In these cases, where the ethical waters muddy, as to whether one is pastor or counselor, one must clearly delineate one’s role with the person and clearly define the lines of what type of counseling is occurring.   As well as in other cases, when counselors work with state authorities or firms in relationship to working with individuals within their scope with those authorities or firms.   One’s role, transparency, and matter of operation with mandates to report, will all fall into one’s role and status within the counseling relationship.

The article, “10 ways practitioners can avoid frequent ethical pitfalls” by Deborah Smith takes a very close look at 10 particular types of pitfalls a counselor can find oneself in with a client if not careful.  Smith not only points out these pitfalls, but also directs counselors how to better avoid and protect oneself from them.  She states,

“Talk to the ethics experts, and they’ll tell you the best defense against an ethical problems is a good offense. By looking out for foreseeable conflicts and discussing them frankly with colleagues and clients, practitioners can evade the misunderstandings, hurt feelings and sticky situations that lead to hearings before ethics boards, lawsuits, loss of license or professional membership, or even more dire consequences” (Smith, 2023,p 50).

She continues, “When psychologists do end up in ethical quandaries, it’s often because they unwittingly slid too far down a slippery slope–a result of ignorance about their ethical obligations or thinking they could handle a situation that spiraled out of control (Smith, 2023, p. 50)

To read the entire article, please access here

Relationships

One problem Smith points out is multiple relationships with the client.  Of course, relationships with any client are strictly forbidden, but sometimes other ties can emerge where the counselor and client interact whether at a social scene, or in business, especially in smaller towns.  Smith points out that due to the counselor and client relationship, other interactions can be affected due to the counselors perceived sense of power over the client.  Hence anything outside the counseling sphere should be in the very least brief and if necessary terminated.  This can prevent potential harm or confusing situations that can possibly cause ethical questions or inquiries.

In addition, counselors should not take incoming patients that are family, friends, or associates.  This prevents potential bias.

Confidentiality 

Another problem pointed out by Smith regards confidentiality issues.  Since licensed counselors are mandatory reporters of any crime, it is important for counselors to let clients know the limits of confidentiality at the very beginning within the informed consent form, as well as throughout the session.  If a client wishes to confess a secret, it may be best to again warn the client of the limitations of confidentiality.   Even, pastors, while protected in most states more so than counselors, have an ethical dilemma as to whether report a crime, or reveal possible harm to the client or others.  Unlike the Catholic or Orthodox priesthood, pastors are not held to the strict seal of the confessional, but they still have more flexibility to report things than a priest.

Ensuring that the client understands limits of confidentiality is key to preventing unwanted ethical dilemmas of possible mandatory reporting

 

In such pastoral settings, this is where the pastor or priest guides the person to the proper conclusion of reporting oneself, or turning oneself in.  In the case of a crime, a pastor can encourage oneself  to report oneself to the authorities and accept the consequences as a price of their sin, or if the person is a victim of abuse, help the person find the safety from the authorities that is needed.  While the issue of fidelity and trust is key, protecting the person and measuring trust versus harm is key.  Again, simply by reminding one the limits of confidentiality is key throughout any session.  It can show the veracity of oneself to the client but also the intent for the overall good of not only the client but others involved.  In the more severe case of the priesthood, where counseling is not occurring but instead the Seal of Confession, the priest has the unique position to incur a penance that forces one to turn oneself in if one wishes to receive absolution and can also in the most indirect ways, without names, warn others of possible harm.

Whenever, crimes such as abuse either inflicted by the client or received by the client can create an uneasy balance between confidentiality and mandated reporting.  Again, why it is important to remind individuals of the limitations of confidentiality.

In addition, Smith reminds counselors to store confidential records in the most secure locations, whether they are electronic or written and to fully understand the laws surrounding any possible surrender of these records regarding criminal or civil cases. Smith also encourages counselors to properly document everything.  This means keeping good records and fulfilling all paper work regarding.  This involves properly covering informed consent, patient history documents, dates of service and fees and any diagnostic impressions, relevant phone calls, or follow up efforts if a patient or client discontinues to attend sessions or accept calls.

Competency

Smith also discusses the importance of never taking on a client in a field that a counselor is not comfortable with in regards to practice or expertise.  It is unethical to counsel someone in grief if a person does not possess the knowledge in grief to properly help.  Hence, competence within the field requires the proper academic and professional training in that area to properly help the client.  It is critical that certified non clinical counselors never treat patients with mental pathology or falsely misrepresent themselves as licensed counselors or attempt to counsel beyond their academic and legal abilities.

Whether grief or Christian counseling, one should understand their limitations and competency if not a licensed professional counselor

 

In addition, many professionals, who possess the proper degrees and licensures, also keep their competency through continuing education or certifications.  AIHCP offers a wide variety of mental health certifications in Grief Counseling as well as Christian Counseling.

Another issue of competency would be the situation if a counselor or social worker aided in a case of child custody without enough knowledge about the legal system, court system, or the inner dynamics of the family.   It is important for those who are called to counsel, or offer expert opinion to answer questions one is only competent in.  The attempt to create a false image of genius when competency in the subject is not there is a huge pitfall.

For those with competency in the subject, avoiding bias is key in anything, especially in court cases.  This involves a comprehensive understanding of all dynamics that is not based on third party assessments.  Furthermore, any assessment needs to be completely thorough as well as based on scientific based methods.  Also, it is important to discuss any limitations one may have when counseling or discussing a case in court.  Transparency and honesty in any assessment is key.

Abandonment or Termination?

Finally, Smith points out that counselors need to understand the proper differences between abandonment and termination in practice.  Abandonment is completely unethical and involves abruptly ending all treatment without prior notice.  If a counselor for ethical purposes, or competency, feels he or she can no longer properly help the individual, this should be discussed in detail with the client.  The client should also have input and the two should find common ground in when the last meeting will take place, including any needed follow up, as well as alternative sources for therapy with other more qualified professionals. It can also be beneficial to lay out terms of termination prior to counseling so the client understands whether treatment is short term or long term.  This can lay groundwork for any possible issues or false expectations by the client.

Conclusion

Counseling is meant to cause no harm, but ethical situations can come into play that can potentially cause harm.  By adhering to standards and following protocol, one can better protect oneself and also protect one’s client from unintended harm.  Understanding the counseling system and its ethics and laws, can help the counselor better treat and counsel the client without causing any confusing situations or ethical dilemmas.  It is key to know one’s counseling role and how one is operating as well.  Is one counseling within a licensed clinical framework or pastoral sense?  These are key questions and important issues to identify that play large roles in confidentiality and competency within their legal and academic abilities.

Counselors are called to a high standard of ethics. Please review AIHCP’s Mental Health Counseling Certifications

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Mental Health Certification Programs.  The programs include topics such as grief counseling, anger management, crisis intervention, Christian or spiritual counseling, stress management, EFT, and Meditation.  The programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.  Some professionals may be licensed while others may be looking into these fields as a non licensed professional but still possess the necessary academic or professional backgrounds.

Reference

Smith, D. (2003). “10 ways practitioners can avoid frequent ethical pitfalls”, Monitor on Psychology 34(1).  Access here

Additional Resources

“Counseling Ethics Code: 10 Common Ethical Issues & Studies” Smith, W. (2021). Positive Psychology.  Access here

“Ethical Dilemmas in Counseling”. Nemko, M. (2019). Psychology Today.  Access here

ACA Standards (2014).  Access here

“Eye on Ethics”. Reamer, F. (2006). Social Work Today.  Access here

 

 

 

 

What is Dissociation?

Exploring the Mind: Understanding the Phenomenon of Dissociation

Dissociation is a complex psychological phenomenon that involves a disconnection from reality, often as a coping mechanism for overwhelming stress or trauma. This article explores the various aspects of dissociation, including its impact on the mind-body connection, spiritual awakening, and healing. By delving into the spiritual aspect of dissociation and its linkages to personal growth, we aim to gain a deeper understanding of this intriguing phenomenon.
Key Takeaways
Dissociation is a mental response to triggers of past trauma. It reacts as a self defense mechanism but can be dangerous and cause injury if in public.

 

  • Dissociation is a coping mechanism for overwhelming stress or trauma, leading to disconnection from reality.
  • Dissociation can act as a catalyst for spiritual awakening, prompting individuals to question their reality and seek answers beyond the physical world.
  • Dissociation can create an opportunity for individuals to release past traumas and access a deeper sense of self.
  • There is a complex and intricate link between dissociation and spiritual insights, leading to personal growth and transformation.

Understanding Dissociation

What Is Dissociation?

Dissociation is a psychological coping mechanism that activates when an individual is faced with overwhelming stress or trauma. It represents a disconnection from reality, often resulting in disruptions to memory, emotions, and identity.

Common symptoms of dissociation include:

  • Feeling as though one is in a trance or daydream
  • Memory loss or difficulty with recall
  • A sense of detachment from oneself or the environment
  • Emotional numbness or being overwhelmed
  • Loss of control over emotions
  • Sensory disconnection, such as impaired touch or vision

Dissociation serves as a protective barrier, allowing individuals to distance themselves from distressing experiences. While it can be a temporary refuge, persistent dissociative states may require professional intervention to address underlying issues and restore a sense of reality.

Grounding Oneself

One who experiences dissociation may sometimes try to calm oneself due to the manifested trigger.  There are multiple ways one can seek grounding techniques to keep oneself from dissociating from reality.  Part of grounding can include touching something in the present moment, such as the soft side of a chair, or rubbing one’s feet against the carpet.   This type of physical grounding is only one strategy, others also include mental grounding where one utilizes mentally stimulating thoughts such as counting, recalling memories, or other visual affects.  Emotional grounding can also be employed with breathing exercises.

It is important to try to ground oneself when dissociation occurs. While it can help one deal with triggers, it can be very dangerous if in an active area. One could fall or hurt, or cause an accident.

 

It is sometimes extremely important to be able to ground oneself because sometimes if one dissociates, one can harm oneself or others due to lack of attention to driving, or moving around in public.  This can lead to accidents, falling, or injuring oneself.

If experiencing these types of issues, contact a mental health professional.

Manifestation of Dissociation

Dissociation is a complex phenomenon that presents itself in various forms, often as a psychological defense mechanism in response to trauma. Symptoms can range from mild detachment to severe disconnection from reality, impacting an individual’s daily functioning and sense of self.

  • Feeling as though one is in a trance or daydream
  • Experiencing memory loss or difficulty with recall
  • Sensing a detachment from oneself or surroundings
  • Encountering overwhelming emotions or emotional numbness
  • Challenges in controlling emotions
  • Disconnection from sensory experiences, such as touch or sight

Dissociation serves as a coping strategy, allowing individuals to distance themselves from extreme stress or traumatic events. This disconnection can be both protective and disruptive, altering one’s perception of reality and interaction with the world.

While the manifestations of dissociation are diverse, they often signal an underlying need for healing and support. Recognizing these signs is the first step towards understanding and addressing the root causes of dissociative experiences.

In addition, the manifestation of this state can lead to isolation, addictions and other ways to help cope with it.  It is important to recognize it and seek counseling and help to prevent it from possibly harming oneself.

Types of Dissociative States

Dissociative states are complex phenomena that can be categorized into three primary types: depersonalization, derealization, and dissociative amnesia. Depersonalization involves a sense of detachment from oneself, often described as feeling like an outside observer of one’s own body or thoughts. Derealization is characterized by a feeling of unreality or detachment from the environment, making the world seem foggy or dreamlike. Lastly, dissociative amnesia pertains to gaps in memory for personal information, sometimes specific to traumatic events.

  • Depersonalization: Detachment from self
  • Derealization: Detachment from environment
  • Dissociative Amnesia: Memory gaps

Each type of dissociative state represents a unique way in which the mind copes with stress or trauma. While they can be unsettling, understanding these states is crucial for effective treatment and personal growth.

It’s important to recognize that these states can occur independently or concurrently, and their manifestation can vary greatly among individuals. The experience of dissociation can be transient or part of a more chronic condition, such as dissociative identity disorder. Identifying the type of dissociative state is a critical step in addressing the underlying issues and moving towards healing.

Dissociative states can include according to the DSM-5 various levels of severity.  It can include an amnesia state that is simple to complex, a de-attachment state from self or environment or multiple personalities in its most severe form.

Dissociation and the Mind-Body Connection

Impact on Consciousness

Dissociation profoundly affects the landscape of consciousness, often leading to a disruption in the normal integration of thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The alteration in consciousness can range from mild detachment to a more severe disconnection from reality.

  • The default mode network, often associated with self-referential thoughts, is impacted during dissociative states.
  • Studies using fMRI have shown changes in the prefrontal parietal network, which is crucial for attention and working memory.
  • Consciousness supporting networks, including the anterior and posterior cortex, exhibit distinct patterns during dissociative episodes.

Dissociation challenges our understanding of consciousness, revealing the intricate workings of the mind and the delicate balance that sustains our sense of self and reality.

The neural correlates of consciousness, such as the default mode network and the prefrontal parietal network, are key areas of study to unravel the mysteries of dissociation. By examining the changes in these networks, researchers can gain insights into the mechanisms that underlie altered states of consciousness.

Spiritual Awakening

Spiritual awakening is often described as a profound shift in consciousness, where one experiences a deep connection with the essence of being and a recognition of a more expansive reality. It is a transformative journey that can lead to a profound understanding of oneself and the universe.

  • A shift in one’s perspective on life
  • Detachment from material possessions and ego
  • Increased compassion and empathy towards others
  • A feeling of oneness with the universe
  • A deepened sense of intuition and spiritual connection

While the path to spiritual awakening can be enlightening, it may also bring about challenges such as feelings of alienation or difficulty integrating experiences into everyday life. Nonetheless, the journey is often seen as a pivotal moment in personal growth and self-discovery.

The process of awakening can be spontaneous or induced by practices like meditation. It is marked by a series of internal changes:

  1. A reevaluation of personal values and beliefs
  2. An enhanced awareness of life’s interconnectedness
  3. A pursuit of deeper meaning and purpose beyond the self

The concept of dissociation, often perceived as a detachment from reality, can paradoxically serve as a bridge to personal growth. Dissociation provides a unique space for reflection and self-exploration, allowing individuals to step back from the immediacy of their experiences and view their lives from a new perspective. This detachment can lead to a deeper understanding of one’s self and the challenges faced, fostering a sense of competence and efficacy.

In the realm of personal development, dissociation can be a catalyst for change, offering an opportunity to reassess one’s goals and values without the interference of external pressures.

The process of personal growth through dissociation can be outlined in the following steps:

  • Recognizing the occurrence of dissociative states.
  • Understanding the triggers and underlying emotions.
  • Utilizing the reflective space provided by dissociation to gain insights.
  • Integrating these insights into daily life to foster resilience and adaptability.

This transformative journey can lead to an increase in intrinsic motivation, self-directed learning, and ultimately, a more profound sense of self-realization.

Healing and Transformation

Releasing Past Traumas

Dissociation can awaken us to deeper issues that are not healed. Please also review AIHCP’s Mental Health Certifications for qualified professionals

 

Dissociation offers a unique pathway for individuals to confront and release past traumas, paving the way to rediscover a more authentic self. This process often involves delving into the unconscious mind, where unresolved emotions and memories reside. By accessing these hidden parts of the psyche, one can begin the journey of healing and transformation.

Dissociation can serve as a bridge to personal growth, allowing for a re-examination of beliefs and identity. It is in this introspective space that many find the strength to let go of the pain that has held them back.

To facilitate this healing, certain practices can be adopted:

  • Breathwork: Engage in breathing exercises to help regulate emotions and achieve a sense of calm.
  • Creative expression: Utilize art, music, or writing as outlets for emotional release and self-discovery.
  • Mindfulness: Practice being present in the moment to reconnect with oneself and the environment.

While the journey through dissociation can be disorienting, it ultimately can lead to a profound spiritual awakening and a renewed search for meaning and purpose in life.

Accessing Deeper Self

In the journey of healing and transformation, dissociation can serve as a gateway to accessing deeper levels of the self. This process often involves delving into the unconscious mind, where dormant emotions and memories reside. By confronting and releasing these suppressed elements, individuals may experience a profound shift in their sense of identity and consciousness.

  • Exploration of beliefs and identity questioning
  • Release of past traumas
  • Unlocking of unconscious pathways
  • Potential for spiritual awakening

The act of accessing one’s deeper self is not just about self-discovery; it’s about reconstructing the very fabric of one’s being from the inside out.

As individuals navigate through this transformative phase, they may find themselves on the precipice of a spiritual awakening. The sense of emptiness that once pervaded their existence begins to fill with a newfound purpose and connection to something greater. This spiritual dimension adds a rich layer to the healing process, offering a sense of wholeness that transcends the individual experience.

Treatment

While coping involves grounding exercises, the best way to overcome and limit the dissociation is facing the trauma and understanding the triggers.  Treatments include medications such as anti-psychotics, anxiety reducing medications, anti depressants and sleep aids.  Counseling can also help. Individuals can go through cognitive behavioral therapy to better understand and react to the issue when it occurs.  One can also better learn to manage emotional reactions to triggers.  EDMR can also help de-sensitive individuals to the triggers by discussing and visualizing them in a safe place with a trained mental health professional.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the phenomenon of dissociation is a complex and multifaceted coping mechanism that the brain initiates in response to overwhelming stress or trauma. It manifests in various forms, affecting memory, emotions, and identity. The three types of dissociative states, depersonalization, derealization, and dissociative amnesia, present unique challenges for individuals experiencing dissociation. Additionally, dissociation may trigger spiritual awakening, leading individuals to question their reality and seek answers beyond the physical world. This exploration of dissociation and its potential connection to spiritual awakening provides valuable insights into the intricate workings of the human mind and the profound impact of coping mechanisms on personal growth and transformation. It is also important to understand ways to cope with it but also treat it to prevent serious injury or further pathological onset.  While it can help us identify past trauma, it must also be identified and worked on to prevent further issues.

Please also review AIHCP’s Mental Health Certifications for qualified professionals.

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling, Crisis Intervention and other mental health certification programs.  Licensed professional counselors or human service professionals can enhance their professional expertise with AIHCP’s certifications.  The programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is dissociation and how does it manifest?

Dissociation refers to a coping mechanism that the brain initiates when dealing with overwhelming stress or anxiety, leading to disconnection from reality. It can manifest in various forms, such as problems with memory, emotions, and identity.

What are the types of dissociative states?

There are three types of dissociative states, including depersonalization, derealization, and dissociative amnesia. Depersonalization: A person feels disconnected from themselves, as if they are watching themselves from a distance.

How does dissociation impact consciousness?

Dissociation causes a split between an individual’s mind and body. In a dissociative episode, an individual might feel like they are watching themselves from a distance, leading to a sense of detachment from their surroundings.

Is dissociation linked to spiritual awakening?

Yes, dissociation can act as a catalyst for spiritual awakening, prompting individuals to question their reality and seek answers that extend beyond the physical world.

How can dissociation lead to personal growth?

Dissociation can create an opportunity for individuals to explore their beliefs and question their identity. This self-reflection can lead to a spiritual awakening as the individual begins to search for meaning and purpose.

What is the relationship between dissociation and reality?

Dissociation is often a response to traumatic experiences, leading individuals to disconnect from reality as a coping mechanism. It can be characterized by feelings of being detached or disoriented and can lead to conditions like dissociative identity disorder.

How can spiritual insights help heal trauma-induced dissociation?

Spiritual insights can broaden one’s consciousness and deepen one’s understanding of life’s interconnectedness, potentially aiding in the healing of trauma-induced dissociation.

What are ways to practice spiritual growth while dissociating?

Embracing spiritual awakening, seeking meaning and purpose, and accessing deeper levels of consciousness are ways to practice spiritual growth while dissociating.

Additional Resources

“How to Stop Dissociating | 17 Grounding & Coping Strategies”. Access here

“What Happens When You Dissociate?”. Pugle, M. (2023).  Very Well Health.  Access here

“Dissociation”. Psychology Today.  Access here

“What Is Dissociation?”. Wiginton, K.  (2023). WebMD.  Access here

“Dissociative Disorders”. Mayo Clinic.  Access here

Neurotransmitters and Mental Health

The Impact of Neurotransmitters on Mental Health

Neurotransmitters play a crucial role in mental health, impacting mood, cognitive function, and overall well-being. Imbalances in neurotransmitters can lead to mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. Understanding the modulation of neurotransmitters in psychiatric treatment is essential for addressing mental health challenges. This article explores the impact of neurotransmitters on mental health and the implications for treatment and well-being.

Neurotransmitters play a key role in our mental health in regards to depression and anxiety.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Neurotransmitters significantly impact mental health, influencing mood, motivation, and overall well-being.
  • Imbalances in dopamine and serotonin levels can lead to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
  • Positive mental health practices, such as mindfulness and stress management, have neuroprotective effects through neurotransmitter release.
  • Resilience and mental health are closely linked to the brain’s ability to adapt and recover from challenges, influenced by neuroplasticity and neurotransmitter activity.
  • Antidepressants impact neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, encouraging neuroplasticity and mood improvement.

Neurotransmitters and Their Role in Mental Health

Understanding Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain responsible for transmitting signals between nerve cells. These chemical messengers play a crucial role in influencing various functions, including moodmotivation, and emotional responses. Two important neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, are known to increase the chances of happiness and a sense of well-being. They enable communication between brain cells, affecting the overall mental state. In the context of mental health, understanding the role of neurotransmitters is essential for developing effective treatment strategies and improving overall well-being.

The Impact of Neurotransmitters on Mood Regulation

Neurotransmitters such as serotonin (5-HT), dopamine (DA), and noradrenalin (NE) play a crucial role in mood regulation, motivation, and emotional stability. Imbalances in the production of these neurotransmitters can lead to mood disorders, including depression and anxiety. When serotonin and dopamine levels are well-balanced, individuals are more likely to experience emotional stability, happiness, and satisfaction in their daily lives. However, low levels of dopamine can result in a lack of motivation, pleasure, and feelings of reward, while low serotonin levels can impact mood and emotional well-being. Understanding the dominance and deficit of neurotransmitters in the body is essential for maintaining overall health and well-being.

Neurotransmitters and Cognitive Function

Neurotransmitters play a crucial role in cognitive function, impacting memory, learning, and decision-making processes. The table below provides a summary of the cognitive functions influenced by key neurotransmitters:

Neurotransmitter Cognitive Function
Acetylcholine Memory and learning
Serotonin Mood regulation
Dopamine Reward processing

Understanding the intricate relationship between neurotransmitters and cognitive function is essential for comprehending the complexities of mental health and neurological disorders. It is imperative to acknowledge the multifaceted nature of neurotransmitter activity and its profound impact on cognitive processes.

Neurotransmitter Imbalance and Mental Health Disorders

Recent research indicates that the disordered metabolism of neurotransmitters plays a significant role in the pathophysiological process of depression. Studies have specifically shown that three neurotransmitters – serotonin (5-HT)dopamine (DA), and noradrenalin (NE) – have a significant impact on the brain circuits involved in motivation, emotion regulation, cognitive performance, and psychological stress responses of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Dysfunction of neurotransmitter metabolism is associated with the severity of depression in first-diagnosed, drug-naïve depressed patients. It is reasonable to deduce that 5-HT dysregulation exists in the onset of MDD, while DA and NE are also abnormal. Additionally, research has discovered that the imbalance of tryptophan (TRP) metabolism is often present in patients with MDD.

Neurotransmitter Imbalance in Anxiety Disorders

Neurotransmitter imbalance in anxiety disorders is a complex phenomenon that involves the dysregulation of key neurotransmitters such as serotonindopamine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters play a crucial role in modulating mood, emotional responses, and the body’s stress response system. The imbalance of these neurotransmitters can lead to heightened anxiety, panic attacks, and other symptoms associated with anxiety disorders.

To illustrate the impact of neurotransmitter imbalance in anxiety disorders, the following table presents the quantitative data on neurotransmitter levels in individuals with anxiety disorders compared to healthy individuals:

Neurotransmitter Anxiety Disorder Healthy Individuals
Serotonin Decreased Normal
Dopamine Fluctuating Stable
Norepinephrine Elevated Normal

It is important to note that neurotransmitter imbalance in anxiety disorders is a multifaceted issue that requires comprehensive assessment and personalized treatment approaches. Individuals with anxiety disorders may benefit from a combination of pharmacological interventions, psychotherapy, and lifestyle modifications to address the underlying neurotransmitter dysregulation.

Neurotransmitter modulation in anxiety disorders is a dynamic area of research, and ongoing studies are exploring novel therapeutic strategies to restore neurotransmitter balance and alleviate symptoms.

Neurotransmitter Dysfunction in Schizophrenia

Dysfunction of neurotransmitter metabolism is a critical factor in the severity of schizophrenia. The imbalance in the glutamine-glutamate-GABA cycle has been linked to elevated plasma γ-aminobutyrate/glutamate ratio, which may influence responses to antipsychotic treatment. This suggests a potential association between neurotransmitter dysfunction and the management of schizophrenia. Further research is needed to explore the implications of neurotransmitter imbalance in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and its potential for targeted treatment strategies.

Neurotransmitter Modulation in Psychiatric Treatment

Pharmacological Modulation of Neurotransmitter Activity

Balance of certain amounts of levels of neurotransmitters are key to emotional and mental wellbeing

 

The pharmacological modulation of neurotransmitter activity plays a crucial role in psychiatric treatment. It involves the targeted manipulation of neurotransmitter levels to achieve therapeutic effects while minimizing side effects. This modulation is often achieved through the use of pharmacological agents that interact with specific neurotransmitter receptors and pathways.

In addition, recent studies have focused on the quantification of tryptophan metabolites and neurotransmitters in the serum and brain of mice using LC-MS/MS-based techniques. These studies have provided valuable insights into the quantitative aspects of neurotransmitter activity and its potential implications for psychiatric treatment.

Furthermore, while direct measurement of neurotransmitter levels in the living brain is technically impractical and unethical, there is growing evidence supporting the synchronization of peripheral neurotransmitter levels with brain tissues or CSF levels. This synchronization has opened new avenues for exploring the mechanisms of mental health disorders, particularly in relation to neurotransmitter imbalances.

Neurotransmitter-Based Therapies for Mental Health Disorders

Neurotransmitter-based therapies for mental health disorders focus on restoring the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain to alleviate symptoms of various mental health conditions. These therapies often involve the use of pharmacological agents to target specific neurotransmitter systems and regulate their activity. Additionally, lifestyle modifications such as exercise, diet, and stress management are recommended to support the effectiveness of neurotransmitter-based therapies.

  • Pharmacological agents target specific neurotransmitter systems
  • Lifestyle modifications support the effectiveness of therapies

It is important to emphasize the holistic approach to mental health treatment, integrating both pharmacological and lifestyle interventions to address neurotransmitter imbalances effectively.

Challenges in Targeting Neurotransmitters for Treatment

The challenges in targeting neurotransmitters for treatment are multifaceted and complex. Precise modulation of neurotransmitter activity in the brain is a significant hurdle, as direct measurement of neurotransmitter levels in the living brain is technically impractical and unethical. However, there is increasing evidence supporting the synchronization of peripheral neurotransmitter levels with the brain tissues or CSF level. This presents an opportunity for indirect assessment and modulation of neurotransmitter activity.

To address these challenges, researchers have explored the role of neurotransmitters and their metabolites in mental health disorders, particularly Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). A preliminary investigation was conducted to assess the feasibility of using neurotransmitters as a tool for anticipating MDD, highlighting the potential clinical applications of this research.

In a cross-sectional study, 87 first-diagnosed, drug-naïve patients with depression and 50 healthy controls were included. The study focused on the levels and turnovers of various neurotransmitters, including glutamine, glutamic acid, GABA, kainate, VMA, MHPG, NE, HVA, and dihydroxy-phenyl acetic acid. This quantitative approach aimed to establish a link between neurotransmitters and MDD, paving the way for objective laboratory prediction of neurotransmitter involvement in MDD.

Neurotransmitter modulation plays a crucial role in psychiatric treatment, influencing mood, behavior, and mental health. Understanding the impact of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine is essential in developing effective treatment strategies for various psychiatric disorders. At the American Academy of Grief Counseling, we recognize the significance of neurotransmitter modulation in addressing grief-related mental health challenges. Our grief counseling certification programs provide comprehensive education on the intersection of neurotransmitter function and psychiatric treatment, empowering counselors to offer holistic support to individuals coping with grief and loss. Connect with us to explore our certified grief counselor courses and continuing education opportunities.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the impact of neurotransmitters on mental health is profound and multifaceted. Understanding the role of neurotransmitters is crucial for improving both mental and physical health, as they impact sleep, anxiety, concentration, and overall well-being. Imbalances in neurotransmitters like dopaminenorepinephrine, and adrenaline can affect mental abilities, mood, and the ability to react sensibly to aggression. Additionally, neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and serotonin not only affect the brain but also have a direct impact on the body, including memory, cognition, body movement, and bowel movement. Restoring and maintaining a healthy gut can have a significant impact on overall health, including reducing symptoms of depression and improving the functioning of the nervous system. Understanding the dominance and deficit of neurotransmitters in our bodies can have a significant impact on our overall health and well-being.

Please also review AIHCP’s mental health certifications and see if they meet your academic and professional goals

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Mental Health Certifications.  The programs range from Grief Counseling to Stress Management  to Crisis Intervention to Anger Management.  There are multiple other topics that many licensed counselors, social workers, pastoral care givers would find useful in their work.  The programs are online and independent study.  Please review

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are neurotransmitters and how do they impact mental health?

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain that play a crucial role in regulating mood, motivation, and overall well-being. Imbalances in neurotransmitters can lead to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Which neurotransmitters are associated with mental health disorders?

Dopamine and serotonin are two essential neurotransmitters associated with mental health disorders. Imbalances in their production can lead to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

How do neurotransmitters impact cognitive function?

Neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and serotonin not only affect the brain but also have a direct impact on cognitive function, memory, body movement, and bowel movement.

Neurotransmitter imbalances, particularly low levels of dopamine and serotonin, are associated with depression. Low levels of these neurotransmitters can lead to a lack of motivation, pleasure, and feelings of reward.

How do antidepressants impact neurotransmitters?

Antidepressants adjust how the brain uses certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and sometimes dopamine, to improve mood and behavior. They can also encourage a process called neuroplasticity, which allows the brain to change its structure.

What role does neuroplasticity play in mental health?

Neuroplasticity, the brain’s capacity to reorganize itself, plays a pivotal role in resilience and the brain’s ability to adapt and recover from challenges. It allows the brain to change its structure by strengthening or weakening connections between neurons.

Can restoring and maintaining a healthy gut impact mental health?

Restoring and maintaining a healthy gut can have a significant impact on overall mental health, including reducing symptoms of depression and improving the functioning of the nervous system.

What challenges exist in targeting neurotransmitters for treatment?

Challenges in targeting neurotransmitters for treatment include the complexity of the brain’s chemical balance, individual variations in neurotransmitter levels, and the potential for side effects from pharmacological modulation.

Meta Description

Explore the impact of neurotransmitters on mental health, from their role in mood regulation and cognitive function to their link with mental health disorders and psychiatric treatment. Understand the neurobiology of resilience and the role of neurotransmitters in brain health.

Additional Resources

“Neurotransmitters”, Cleveland Clinic. (2022). Access here

“What Are Neurotransmitters?”. Cherry, K. (2023).  Very Well Mind.  Access here

“What are neurotransmitters?”. Berry, Jennifer. (2024). Medical News Today. Access here

“Neurotransmitters and Mental Health: Understanding the Impact”. Khaliq, R. (2023). Med Vidi. Access here

Counseling Ethics for Counselors in Grief or Christian Counseling

This is required reading for students taking SC 570 or GC 400.

The norms of ethics to any particular field helps maintain a standard of quality that is expected from certain professionals within a certain field.  It guides them in situations of doubt, directs them in proper procedure, and protects them and the client from unintended harm.  Dating back to the Hippocratic Oath, the idea to do no harm to those one helps is the cornerstone and foundation of all professional ethics.

Ethics in Counseling

It was not until modern era that ethics began to take a more codified form for professionals.  Thomas Percival due to poor performance in his own medical facility created the standard and blue print for modern medical ethics.  Other professional careers, including, mental health, counseling and anything within human services soon followed with their own standards.  The American Counseling Association (ACA), the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT), the National Association for Social Workers (NASW), the National Organization of Human Services (NOHS) and the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) all have developed mission statements and standards and guidelines for professionals to adhere to.  These standards are usually divided into areas of care to the patient, the profession, other colleagues, students, payment policies and publications.   It is important if entering into the counseling field to read through these and understand the ethics one must adhere to.

Counseling involves trust and many ethical standards from various associations ensure the integrity and quality of counseling. All counselors should review the various ethical standards found in ACA or other associations

 

Bear in mind, some counselors are pastoral and others are clinical.  Different states assign different titles to licensure.  In counseling, the most common is Licensed Professional Counselor or LPC.  Other variations can include Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) or Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC).  Most states require a graduate degree in counseling and a passing of the state board exam to become fully licensed.  Paraprofessionals are unlicensed counselors can work under licensed counselors or within a care facility but there are not able to independently operate.  As for pastoral counselors such as ministers or lay apostolates, these individuals are permitted to operate due to separation of church and state but are restricted beyond the realm of guidance.  Treatment and pathology are alone reserved for licensed professionals in social work, counseling, and psychiatry.   Whether a counselor, social worker or a psychologist, only a healthcare professional such a psychiatrist, medical doctor, or Nurse Practitioner can prescribe medications.  This is why many mental health facilities have the proper prescribers available on staff.

If a pastoral counselor with only a certification from AIHCP in Grief Counseling or Christian Counseling, one must ethically adhere to proper identification.  The term “counselor” can be very misleading because it is so generic and widely used.  Individuals use the term in everyday breath but there is a huge difference between clinical professional counselors and pastoral counselors.  Pastoral counselors operating as grief counselors or Christian counselors can help guide but never treat pathology.  They also cannot mislead clients into thinking they are licensed.  This needs to be understood and articulated upon the first day.  What one can do and not do needs to be clearly articulated to and understood by the client.  As for licensed professionals who receive certifications from AIHCP, this is clearly not an issue.

Some counselors are licensed and others are not. It is important to properly identify your credentials and operate within your legal boundaries

 

In Denise Daniel, short but concise book “Counseling Principles and Christian Beliefs: An Integrated Approach”, she lays out some important concepts not just for Christian Counselors but also any type of licensed or non-licensed counselors.  She first points out the importance of identity and what counselors are or not and what are their limitations as licensed or not licensed or the expertise they possess.  Second, she points out what is the role of the particular counselor.   She emphasizes that most counselors, according to ACA, look to create a professional relationship that empowers and strengthens diverse families and groups to better achieve mental health, wellness, education and career goals.  The aim is more centered around wellness and prevention (Daniel, 2020, p. 3).  The final third point is integration and how one’s own biases, beliefs and codes of behavior come into play as a counselor.  Fortunately, ethical codes point out numerous guide posts for professionals in where and how to integrate themselves with patient care.

According to Daniel, the ACA lays out some core principles.  Among the key themes she addressing in her book are patient autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence, justice, fidelity and veracity (2020, p. 5).  Before we review some of the key ethical guidelines, it is important to look at some of these themes and how they apply to licensed counselors but also pastoral counselors, and in some cases, Christian Counselors.  Bear in mind, whether grief counselor, licensed or non-licensed, these themes apply to all in the counseling fields.

Important Themes in the Counseling Relationship

Autonomy refers to allowing the patient to be free to make choices in their overall health and life.  A counselor needs to respect the choices of a client whether approval or disapproval occurs.  For Christian Counselors, this may seem contrary to the goal.  There are certain moral precepts that must be obeyed but in a relationship, one must exercise patience.  Scripture points out that God gave Adam and Eve free will.  He respected autonomy and choices.  Again in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father, permits the autonomy of his son to make poor choices but still never gives up hope that he would one day return.

Non-maleficence refers to doing no harm.  Counselors, whether they want it or not, hold all the power in the relationship and they must be very careful in not allowing that power to become corrupted.  This can happen very easily because the client is in distress and looking for guidance.  A counselor can influence and exploit a client very easily hence numerous standards exist to balance this relationship.  The goal of counseling is to heal not harm.

Beneficence refers to promoting only good for the client.  It involves helping the client with the best possible and verified studies and knowledge on the subject.  It involves looking out for the best of the client and guiding them to their ultimate best end.

Justice refers to fairness to all clients and ensuring equality to the numerous diverse groups one serves.  It also involves understanding social justice and promoting justice for those who are persecuted.

Fidelity refers to faithfulness to the client.  It involves never betraying them, keeping things confidential and not abandoning them.  It means working through the most difficult things and not giving up on them.

Finally, veracity refers to honesty.  Trust and honesty is the foundational rock of all relationships.  Without honesty, one cannot communicate facts, one cannot share realities, and one cannot heal and grow.  Honesty also involves the counselor’s assessments, promises, and outlooks.  Even when difficult situations arise, honesty with respect is expected in a counseling relationship.

Important Ethical Codes

There are a variety of critical ethical codes  that are all found within the various associations that mirror and reflect the themes above but also dictate more detailed situations.

For instance, in the ACA code of conduct A.4.b., it is clearly emphasized that an individual should never impose one’s own beliefs on another and to respect the diversity of the client.  The idea of discrimination against other faiths, cultures, sexualities or values can come into play easily.  This is why the AAMFT’s code 1.1 deals directly with this type of discrimination.  One is not to discriminate against others based on these types of differences.  The AACC has a slightly different tilt on the issue since the type of counseling itself is Biblical and certain life styles or actions are contrary to the type of counseling being sought.  This however does not present a green light for the Christian Counselor to impose own personal beliefs.  AACC’s code 1-340-a reminds the Christian Counselor that one is still to respect the autonomy and decision making process of the client.  Again, 1-530 dictates that the Christian Counselor respect other faith beliefs and only disclose upon request and only if it benefits the client.  Daniels proposes a term referred to as “bracketing” where professional opinions are laid aside and avoiding the triggering of one’s own personal views (Daniels, D., 2020. p.4).  Please also see ACA’s  A.2.c. Developmental and Cultural Sensitivity standard.

 

In all counseling, it is important to keep the counselor’s personal beliefs removed from the story. In Christian Counseling, while religious values are shared, the personal bias of the counselor must still respect the autonomy of the client, as well as never abandon the client due to immoral choice or life style

 

Common to this ideal of bias and discrimination fuels the idea of abandonment.   Counselors may feel the temptation to dismiss a client who will not listen, fulfill promises, or follow a certain value system.  This unethical practice is condemned in all guidelines.  The ACA guideline A.12. stipulates that counselors never quit seeing their clients without proper continuation of treatment through themselves or through others.  The AAMFT guideline 1.11 shares the same view that no client is to be abandoned and not seen without reasonable arrangements for continued treatment.  The AACC in its rule 1-640-a shares with all other human service entities that a client is not to abruptly abandoned and that treatments are to continue until other options are available.

Another important theme is referral.  Many times, certain counselors may become overwhelmed with a particular issue beyond their standard of care.  This can especially  happen with paraprofessionals or unlicensed counselors who are merely pastoral.  Many fall under this venue.  This does not mean they do not offer a qualify service but due to knowledge or professional and legal limitations, a referral is sometimes necessary.  The ACA guideline A.11.a stipulates that a client that is beyond their skill level or competency should be referred to another professional.  In the AAMFT guideline 1.10 also states that professionals may refer clients to others professionals when they are unable to help.  Again, in the AACC guideline, Christian Counselors 1-240-d, it is stipulated that Christian Counselors should not refer merely based on faith based issues but when situations grow beyond their skill level, they can refer to more capable authorities.

Relationships can also become toxic.  Due to the imbalance of power between in the  counselor-client relationship, abuses of power can occur.  Within the guidelines in all associations are clear cut warning regarding exploitation.  Sexual relationships are condemned in the most strict sense.  It is not uncommon for a vulnerable person sometimes to develop feelings for a counselor and it is important for the counselor to correct and document these advances.   Counselors are also ethically restricted from working with past romances, family, or close friends.  The bias can be strong in these cases in helping the individual.  Counselors also need to keep a distance in cases of friendship.  The relationship is not one of friendship in the social meaning.  Hence, counselors should avoid most social interactions with clients, such as parties, graduations, or dinners.  In some cases, if it pertains to a particular issue or healing, a counselor can appear on a professional basis only. Please refer to ACA -A.5. Prohibited Non-counseling Roles and Relationships which cover a broad array of relationships that can occur that considered illicit in counseling.  In addition a counselor is to refrain from sexual relations in the NASW handbook as well as physical contact (1:10) when such contact would cause psychological harm.  So where a hug or a touch of hand is needed is to be very carefully judged by the counselor.  In addition, language and proper presentation in how one speaks is listed in the NASW handbook under standard 1:12.

One last set of regulations we will look at involves confidentiality.  A counselor sets out on day one what he or she is willing or can do to the best of their abilities.  Within this, there exists a confidentiality that is critical to veracity and fidelity.  The boundaries of that need to be clearly laid out.  All standards assert that counselors are to keep records and conversations private.  Records are to maintained safely, whether paper or electronic, and conversations are to be kept strictly between themselves, unless otherwise dictated.  Exceptions, upon approval of client, can include access to records for particular family, or access to records via other team members treating the individual.  Again, this agreed upon in advance.  Please refer to ACA -B.1. Respecting Client Rights which covers issues of confidentiality as well as exceptions under B.2

Confidentiality is the bedrock of trust between the counselor and client and must be protected and preserved unless under certain exceptions of physical harm to the client or others

 

In cases, where an individual may cause harm to oneself or others, or upon certain legal orders, a counselor may disclose certain information for the overall safety and good of the client or others.  This is far less lax than the seal of confession.

Conclusion

Standards and ethical codes are critical to protect counselor and client.  They also lay the groundwork for better care and healing for the client.  In additional resources and references, there is a list that includes the ACA and others.  Links are provided.  I highly recommend one reviews these regulations and completely understands the ethical expectations of counseling, whether at a pastoral or clinical level.  Whether secular or religious, there are standards that are needed within this special type of relationship.

Ethics and standards are critical to the profession of counseling. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian and also Grief Counseling Certifications

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification as well as AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification.  The programs are online and independent study and open to all qualified professionals seeking certifications in Christian or Grief Counseling.

Additional References

“Counseling Principles and Christian Beliefs: An Integrated Approach”. Daniels, D. (2020). Kendal Hunt Publishing Company

American Counseling Association (ACA). (2014). 2014 ACA Code of Ethics. https://www.counseling.org/resources/aca-code-of-ethics.pdfLinks to an external site.

American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC). (2023). Code of Ethics. https://www.aacc.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/AACC-Y-2023-Code-of-Ethics-FINAL-Draft.pd

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). (2023). Code of Ethics. https://www.aamft.org/Legal_Ethics/Code_of_Ethics.aspx

NASW, National Association of Social Workers. (n.d.). https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English/Social-Workers-Ethical-Responsibilities-to-Clients

 

 

SAD VIDEO

SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that coincides with the change of seasons.  It can be during any type of season but primarily occurs during the Winter months.  It is quite different than the Winter Blues in that it is consistent every year.  It is hard enough without longer days and sunlight to function but with Winter, especially after the Holidays, many will fall into SAD.

The change of the season can have a depressing effect on many. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification

 

Individuals can find help, medication, as well as light therapy to help.  It is important to identify if you do have SAD and find the appropriate help from a licensed counselor who can guide you in the right direction.  SAD is more than being upset about the weather but a type of depression that needs professional care.  Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification.  While certified grief counselors who are not licensed counselors as well cannot treat depression, they do have the training to spot it and send you to a professional counselor who can treat it.

AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals.  Please review the program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.

 

Please review AIHCP’s video below

How Can Abuse and Trauma Affect The Health of a Young Person?

Women with purple ribbon symbols of stopping abuseWritten by Gemma Taylor

Society has undoubtedly made positive strides in breaking the taboo of talking about mental health and trauma. But it’s important to make these conversations a continual process, to ensure victims of abuse receive the support they need throughout their lives.

The American Psychological Association defines trauma as: “An emotional response to a terrible event”. While there are several natural responses to a traumatic event, including shock and denial, everyone is likely to deal with the situation differently. So while it is possible to get a better general understanding around common health implications caused by trauma, it’s important to treat every case individually, rather than taking a blanket approach to care.

Being subjected to abuse in the early stages of a young person’s life can have devastating consequences throughout their childhood and as they grow up. Sadly, while physical scars may recover, abuse can have irreparable impacts on a person’s psyche, altering their entire personality and cognitive functions.

Abuse and trauma are intrinsically linked, since the latter is often a result of harmful experiences. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the different ways in which past abuse can impact the health of a young person emotionally, physically and mentally.

 

The prevalence of childhood abuse

Abuse can be physical, sexual or emotional. While it’s a hard topic to discuss, it shouldn’t be shied away from; especially as it remains a prominent issue in society today. In fact, around 600,000 children across the U.S. are abused each year. More than a quarter (28%) of abuse victims are no older than two. Neglect is the most common form of abuse, accounting for 76% of cases, and tragically, 2021 statistics show that 1,820 children died in a single year due to abuse. In the vast majority of cases, it is the parents that victimize their children.

 

Physical health

The connection between abuse, trauma and physical health is deeply rooted. Depending on the nature of the abuse, a child could suffer a range of physical injuries and even suffer from chronic pain. This can disrupt different aspects of their life, which have the potential to cause further health concerns, such as difficulty sleeping, a loss of appetite and fatigue, on top of their primary injuries.

What’s more, studies have shown that people who have experienced trauma may have an increased risk of developing chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, or obesity. This link is not something that can be ignored, and those who have experienced abuse should seek support in both healing from trauma and addressing any physical health issues related to it.

 

How to mitigate the physical impacts of trauma and abuse

To cope with the psychological and emotional scars of negative past experiences, lots of victims seek support from therapists and counselors who will be able to provide practical advice for managing any triggers and scars. When it comes to managing the physical impacts, there are lots of other things people can do.

Perhaps the most important aspect is for victims to consider their lifestyle. Unhealthy lifestyle choices, which can often be used as coping mechanisms, will exacerbate the impacts in the long-term. Of course, making positive changes to a daily routine is easier said than done. However, by recommending they make small changes at a time, victims can gradually work towards implementing more healthy daily habits that can ultimately improve their physical wellbeing. This primarily pertains to nutritional choices, exercise regimes and sleep patterns.

 

Psychological and emotional health

Perhaps something less quantifiable than physical harm is the damage abuse can do to someone’s psychological and emotional health. For survivors, the impact can be devastating, leading to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These individuals may struggle with feelings of guilt, shame, and worthlessness, and may find it difficult to trust others or form healthy relationships.

Additionally, abuse and trauma can affect a person’s ability to regulate their emotions, leading to intense mood swings and difficulty managing stress. This challenge is one of the most prevalent causes of self-harm in young people, often acting as a way for them to express their suffering. Despite the immense challenges that survivors face, with access to the right support – primarily from healthcare professionals – it is possible to heal and move forward from the trauma.

 

Cognitive and developmental implications

It’s clear that abuse and trauma can have a profound impact on one’s mental and physical wellbeing, but it can also be heavily detrimental to their cognitive development and learning abilities. In fact, research has shown that experiencing repeated trauma can actually alter the structure and function of the brain, particularly in areas responsible for memory, attention, and emotional regulation. Children who have suffered abuse or trauma may struggle with language development, memory consolidation, and attentional processing, which can ultimately impact their academic performance as they progress through school.

In addition, the emotional toll that can affect their mental health can further hinder a child’s ability to learn and participate in classroom activities. This underscores the importance of creating safe, supportive environments in and out of school where children can heal, grow, and thrive.

 

What can be done?

As medical professionals, it’s crucial to be able to identify and provide support for children who are victims of abuse. One way to show support is to create a safe and welcoming environment where children feel comfortable sharing their experiences. It’s important to communicate with the child in a manner that is age-appropriate and to listen to their concerns without judgment. Medical professionals can offer resources such as counseling and therapy, and work with social workers and law enforcement when necessary. Ultimately, providing a sense of care and trust can make all the difference in helping a child heal and move forward from their trauma.

 

Bio: Gemma Taylor

With over 10 years’ experience in the healthcare industry, Gemma now works in the youth sector, helping young people take back control and process traumatic incidents in their lives. She is passionate about adolescent care and aims to educate and share ideas with other professionals through her writing.

 

References

American Psychological Association – Trauma

https://www.apa.org/topics/trauma

National Children’s Alliance – National statistics on child abuse 

https://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/media-room/national-statistics-on-child-abuse/

Khiron Clinics – Trauma and chronic illness

https://khironclinics.com/blog/trauma-and-chronic-illness/

Zocdoc – Preventing self-harm in teens

https://www.zocdoc.com/blog/preventing-self-harm-in-teens-a-guide-for-appropriate-intervention/

NHS Wales – Trauma and the brain https://traumaticstress.nhs.wales/children-and-young-people/trauma-and-the-brain/

Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  These programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.

C.S Lewis and Grief

C.S Lewis is a classical English writer of the 20th Century.  His observations on grief are insightful as well intense as he documents the grief felt of losing the wife, H.  Throughout, his work, “A Grief Observed” (originally published in 1961),  the loss torments the writer as he proceeds through the various struggles of an English Christian husband who lost a wife.   His struggle includes the intensity of the pain of the grief and its many adjectives and similes, as well as the outward feelings towards others, his past, his beliefs, his anger, his desolation, and finally his renewal.  In it one sees the numerous phases and oscillations of the messy roadmap of mourning. It is not only an emotional journey, but also a philosophical one that questions pain and suffering and how it can co-exist with a good God.  It captures the the progress and regression of how one laments one day but rejoices the next, curses another but venerates later.  It is in essence a progression of grief that illustrates the despair, the anger, and ultimately the adjustment to the loss.  It does not offer a true happy ending but an appeasement and contentment that naturally overtime proceeds from loss.  One never truly heals from loss but learns to live without but with a sprinkle of hope.

Grief

C.S Lewis masterfully captures some of the raw emotion associated with intense and acute grief following loss.  He states, “Noone ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.  The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning and swallowing” (Lewis, C.S, p. 1).   He continues that it sometimes feels like “invisible blanket between the world and me” (Lewis, C.S. p. 1).

C.S Lewis masterfully captures the raw pain and existential crisis caused by the loss of a loved one. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Certification

 

Lewis mentions the continual acute phases of grief that overtake him.  He feels fatigue that prevents him from doing the littlest things, such as even shaving (Lewis, C.S. p.3).    In the grief, he feels the shame of being seen by others in public.  He comments how some wish to walk away, or others try to say the right thing or how an younger married couple may think that he is a symbol of their future (Lewis, C.S. p. 10-11).   He also fears publics places he once ventured.  He is afraid to return too soon to places where he and H. once shared good times.  He compares it to as “sending a pilot up again as soon as possible after he’s had a crash” (Lewis, C.S. p. 11).   He in particular takes offense to the good willed sayings of others within the congregation who remark that H. is now in God’s hands.  This only frustrates him more, as he asks, if she is in God’s hands, how can it be any better, if she was in God’s hands on Earth and suffered? (Lewis, C.S. p. 27).   This is an excellent example of how in grief counseling, individuals should not try to fix the bereaved but sojourn with them and acknowledge the pain instead of trying to lift it.

A great fear of most grievers is losing the memory of a beloved.  Lewis is haunted by the fear of losing her memory.   He states, “I have no photograph of her that’s any good. I cannot even see her face distinctly in my imagination” (Lewis, C.S. p. 15).   Others tell him, she will live in your memory, but he laments that idea of living.   He exclaims in fear and anguish, “What’s left?  A corpse, a memory and (in some versions) a ghost? All mockeries or horrors.  Three more ways of spelling the word dead” (Lewis, C.S. p. 20). He further revels in the fear of those who have finally come to peace with loss.  He remarks how he cannot envision how a man with a hoe and watering pot visiting the churchyard, happily exclaimed it was time to visit “mum”.   Lewis remarks, “A six-by-three foot flower-bed has become mum” (Lewis, C.S. p.21).  Yet, Lewis is not yet at the point to understand the continuation of bonds.  The pain is still too raw, too soon, and too painful.

Wishing to see her again also, sways him back from grief to guilt.  He wishes to see her but then sees this wish to bring her back is a selfish love.  He corrects himself and realizes that this self pity is horribly selfish and to wish her back is a cruel endeavor, especially with the suffering she endured to escape this world.  He speculates, “They call Stephen the first martyr. Hadn’t Lazarus the rawer deal? (Lewis, C.S., p. 41).

He reviews within his mind a mixed guilt of possibly getting over something too soon.  Someone truly does not recover from such an operation.  He compares this grief to someone losing a leg.  One learns to adjust, but it forever affects oneself.  When one awakes, or dresses, the reality is always there, even if one finds joy in day to day situations.

He also asks himself though, if there is shame in finding happiness, or if one is obligated to prolong one’s own unhappiness (Lewis, C.S. p.52-53).  This is classical in grieving.  One feels an obligation to grieve a certain time.  Grief has no time table and each individual needs to process the grief and then without guilt, heal. It is obvious that Lewis understands this concept but poetically displays the inner pain of those who suffer loss.

Anger

Within the initial shockwaves of pain, Lewis articulates his frustration and anger with God.  He points out that God is always around when one is happy, but when you need Him, he refers to it as ” a door slammed in your face” (Lewis, C.S. p.6).  He does not fully come to any conclusion to deny the existence of God, although he does question the goodness of God.  He points out that Christ too was forsaken, but does that make it easier to understand? (Lewis, C.S. p.6).  He begins to view God as being who really does not care.  In later chapters, he reflects on this anger. He states, “All that stuff about the Cosmic Sadist was not so much the expression of thought as of hatred.  I was getting from it the only pleasure a man can get; the pleasure of hitting back”.  He continues that what he thought he knew was not true, but felt that at least it might offed him or other worshippers (Lewis, C.S. p. 40)

Many become angry with God in the initial phases of grief but according to Lewis the door is never slammed shut and bolted. He is always with us

 

Philosophically, Lewis does not dismiss the existence of God, but in acute grief, comments how one may believe God is far from good.  He points out that “Is it rational to believe in a bad God?  Anyway, in a God so bad as all that?  The Cosmic Sadist, the spiteful imbecile? (Lewis, C.S, p.30).  He wonders if this is good, then how is God good?  He later reprimands himself for feeling this, but continues to question the reason for this cruel suffering.   He laughs at himself how once he could tell those who suffered loss that their beloved one is in a better place.   He remarks that he knew bad things could happen and even warned and prepared himself not to place happiness in the world, but he points out that once it happens to you, it is far different.   Once being a source of faith, he know sees his faith as a house that has collapsed.  He states, “If my house has collapsed at one blow, that is because it a house of cards” (Lewis, C.J. p. 37).  He mocks how he once so easily gave advice, but now cannot it for himself.  Was it because he truly did not care about others, or that he never truly understood the severity of it?

Healing

Stemming from the long suffering and pain, Lewis slowly begins to heal.  He begins to realize his love remains and he can even sometimes hear his wife in a different way.  He remarks his great fear of losing her memory, but now has a sense of her.  He comments, “She seems to meet me everywhere.  Meet is far too strong a word.  I don’t mean anything remotely like an apparition or voice.  I don’t mean even any strikingly emotional experience at any particular moment.  Rather, a sort of unobtrusive but massive sense that she is, just as much as ever, a fact to be taken into account” (Lewis, C.S, p. 51). He also remembers how easily he could misjudge a man in a similar situation who now has happiness despite the loss. He remarks, ” I might have said, ‘He’s got over it.  He’s forgotten his wife’. but the truth was, ‘He remembers her better because he has partly got over it'”(Lewis, C.S., p.45).

 

Lewis learns that healing is not forgetting but remembering in a healthy way.  Please also review AIHCP’s Grief and Christian Grief Counseling Certifications

 

He further remarks that even with God, he no longer feels the door is slammed shut.  He states that sometimes God is there but one is too frantic to hear or be saved, as if a drowning man kicking and screaming (Lewis, C.S. p 46).   He asks if God is the vet or the vivisector (Lewis, C.S. p. 40).  Is God truly healing and helping the person through the pain into a better life. Lewis ultimately understands that God does not wish suffering but walks with the sufferers and relieves them of the pain and transforms them into life.  While those on Earth, may not understand the ultimate mystery, and may refuse to hear, God is not the sadist, he thought in anger, but a rescuer.   He sees God as the giver and H. as the gift.  H. becomes the garden and God the gardener, or H. the sword and God the smith.  God perfects His gifts in the next life and this gives Lewis comfort (Lewis, C.S. p. 62-63).

He confirms to himself that the road to H. is through God, but he also corrects himself and reminds himself that God should never be a means to an end.  He realizes that through loving God, he loves H. and they will find union in that love together (Lewis, C.S., p. 68-69).   He furthermore realizes that God no longer did not answer his knocking of the door or reject his needs.  Lewis states, “it is not the locked door.  It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As through He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question.  Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand'”(Lewis, C.S. p. 69).

Conclusion

From a Christian perspective, Lewis explains the emotional pain of losing someone and still being a believer.  He triumphantly captures the nature of grief but also adds elements of Christian grieving.  He proceeds through the phases and oscillations of grief and faces many existential questions.  While reading the words, one truly can start to prepare or recall the true abandonment one can face in the pain of grief and how hard it is again to find solace and peace.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Counseling Program.  Those who are already Grief certified are eligible for the specialty program.  Like the Grief Counseling Certification, the Christian Grief Counseling Certification is online and independent study.

Reference

“A Grief Observed”. Lewis, C.S. (1961).  Harper Collins Publishers. (1994)

Additional Resources

“C.S. Lewis”. (2021). Biography.  Access here

“C. S. Lewis”. Wikipedia.  Access here

“A GRIEF OBSERVED”. Harmon, J. (2013). C.S Lewis Institute.  Access here

“The boredom and the fear of grief”. Grady, C. (2021). Vox. Access here

Self Harm Video

Self harm occurs when individuals look to burn, cut, or in someway physically mark oneself.  It can also be emotional or through dangerous behavior.  In some cases, the individual is punishing oneself for displaced guilt, in other cases, the person is looking to numb the mental pain through physical pain.  In many cases, those who commit self harm were victimized or experienced an earlier childhood trauma.  Those who commit self harm are not looking to kill oneself but to punish oneself or escape mental pain.

Self harmers are either punishing oneself or trying to numb mental pain. Please also review AIHCP’s Crisis Intervention Program

 

To learn more, please also review AIHCP’s Crisis Intervention Specialist Program or AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Program.  The programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.  Both programs are open to clinical and non-clinical professionals but it must be stated only clinical licensed professionals can treat those who commit self harm with therapy.

 

Please review the video below

What Is a Psychological Disorder?

Before the dawn of Clinical Psychology, mental maladies and disorders were considered to be demonic in origin.   A person who seemed to act crazy or disorderly was quickly diagnosed as possessed or an evil spirit.   Frightful enough,  Stone Age skull remains show drilled holes into the skull that lead researchers to believe the holes were created to release evil spirits (Myers and Dewall, 2019, p.495).   The terrifying treatment of those with abnormal behavior continued through the centuries and included an array of rituals to expose evil spirits or drive them away.  As time progressed, individuals were sent to asylums and treated inhumanely being chained to beds or confined to small areas as if animals (Myers and Dewall, 2019, p.495).

The scientific era and medical model replaced these archaic beliefs to understand that mental issues and psychological disorders can be diagnosed and treated and in most cases cured (Myers and Dewall, 2019, p.495).   This lead to a stronger understanding that psychological disorders are disturbances in cognition, emotional control and behavior.  These behaviors hence are in some way dysfunctional and maladaptive (Myers and Dewall, 2019, p.494).

A psychological disorder involves impairment to cognition, emotional regulation and behavior. Please also review AIHCP’s mental health certifications

 

Hence psychological disorders prevent an individual from living a day to day normal life.  In some way, they interfere at various extremes and levels with an individuals ability to perform and interact with others.  While mental illness should never be a stigma, these types of disorders still carry heavy prejudices with them regarding employment and how others view individuals.  Unlike a physical disability, mental disorders are viewed in a more harsh fashion, even if only today in whispers and at subconscious levels.  Mental illness is still sometimes equated with crazy or dangerous.

The American Psychiatric Association Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, is a hand book for mental health care professionals.  It lists the broad range of mental maladies from the smallest to most extreme types of illnesses.   It helps professionals diagnose and treat a variety of maladies listing the numerous symptoms and number of required symptoms to be diagnosed with a particular disorder.  Ranging from the simple OCD to Depression and anything in between, the manual serves as an important diagnoses tool.  It is important to note, that only licensed counselors or those with Psychology and Psychiatry doctorates should ever diagnose.  For pastoral and ministry level counselors, the diagnoses and treatment of pathology is restricted.   Most pastoral counselors or basic grief counselors only deal with coping over natural occurrences such as loss, advice, or guidance.   Clinical counselors deal with diagnoses and treatment of more serious psychological disorders.

The article, “List of Psychological Disorders” by Kendra Cherry takes a very comprehensive look at the multitude of types of disorders.  She states,

“The DSM-5-TR lists hundreds of distinct conditions. Anxiety1 and depression2 are among the most common types of mental health conditions that people experience. While the DSM provides diagnostic information about such conditions, including the age at which they typically appear, it does not provide guidelines for treatment or predictions related to the course of illness.”

“List of Psychological Disorders”. Cherry, K. (2022). VeryWellHealth.

To review the entire article, please click here

Commentary

Depression treatment is the most sought after care.  It is the leading diagnosed mental disorder and by far the most common of all issues.  This is not surprising since human loss is a universal experience.  However, not all human loss leads to depression and not all cases of depression are loss orientated but instead hormonal, seasonal, or genetic.  In addition to Major Depressive Disorder and Bi-Polar Disorders, Prolonged Grief is also a major issue individuals face in regards to loss.  This type of loss is a complication in the grieving process.

Depression and anxiety are two of the most common forms of mental health issues

 

Beyond depression, anxiety disorders are another high volume issue people face.  With large amounts of stress in the modern world, individuals have difficulty coping and handling day to day issues.  Anxiety though is an issue that is separate from any source stressor and exists within it own right.   While both basic grief and stress issues can be handled via coping, anxiety disorders and depression require clinical professional help to diagnose and treat.

While most individuals face anxiety or depression, there are a variety of other more deep issues that result from severe trauma or flaws within one’s social interaction.  While these conditions are far more rare, they do require professional care and help.  Among these issues include Anti-Social Disorders, PTSD, psychosis and attachment disorders.

Still most individuals who experience minor ticks in life need assistance to function.  From OCD to ADHD to sleep issues or phobias, individuals need counseling and help.  Some may require help with addictions, or others may require help facing past fears.   Some of these issues can be rectified with basic counseling and coping, while others may need addressed via medication to better balance neuro-transmitters.

Conclusion

Ultimately, mental disorders need to be seen in the same light as any physical disorder and not stigmatized or shunned as something necessarily dangerous, crazy or weird but understood as an ailment.  Individuals with mental disorders, suffer as much as those with physical ailments.  Those who suffer mentally should not be fearful to seek help due to labeling but should be encouraged to take a large stake in their mental health.

Please review AIHCP’s multiple mental health certification programs and see which one matches your academic and professional goals

 

AIHCP offers a wide variety of mental health certifications.  These certifications are for licensed and non licensed healthcare, pastoral and professional care givers.  While licensed and clinical professionals have more freedom in treatment than non clinical caregivers, the certifications can still help many in the non clinical field help individuals cope and find the help they need.   All of AIHCP’s mental health certifications can help non clinical professionals help individuals with non-pathological issues cope and deal with a wide variety of issues, as well as give a good foundation for clinical professionals.  Among the numerous programs offered by AIHCP, some of the most popular are Grief Counseling, Stress Management Consulting, Anger Management, Christian and Spiritual Counseling, Crisis Consulting and Clinical Hypnosis.

To review the full list of certifications, click here

Please review these programs and see which one matches your academic and professional goals as a clinical or non-clinical healthcare professional.  The programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.

Reference

Exploring Psychology. 11th Edition. Myers and Dewall (2019). Worth Publishers: Macmillan Learning. New York.

Additional Resources

“Understanding Psychological Disorders”. Ferguson, S. (2023). Healthline.  Please access here

“Mental Illness”. Mayo Clinic. (2022).  Please access here

“Mental Health Disorders”. Cleveland Clinic. (2022). Please access here

“A Comprehensive List of the Most Common Mental Health Disorders”. Brown, E. (2022). VeryWellHeatlh.  Please access here

Mental Health Stigma

When someone is physically ill with symptoms one goes to one’s physician.   When someone is sick or ill, others do not consider it a handicap.  If one has diabetes, they do not discriminate or spread gossip in a negative way.  Yet, the moment someone has a mental health issue, various nicknames or prejudices emerge that the person is weak or even worst crazy.  Society has laid a stigma upon the idea of mental health as not a legitimate health issue and makes individuals ashamed of their condition or and feel foolish to seek help.

Mental health needs the same care one gives to physical health. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification

 

One can see it in social norms that demand men should never cry, or one should get tougher when it gets life gets rough.  No wonder there is a mental illness crisis in the United States with numerous mentally ill not receiving care and some even resorting to suicide or mass shootings.  While those who engage in anti social behavior are of the most smallest percentage of those facing mental issues, there are millions who suffer from unresolved trauma, depression, bi-polar, anxiety, ADHD, OCD and a host of other conditions.  If individuals would treat their mental health as their physical health, many would lead far more happier and productive lives.

Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification as well as AIHCP’s other multiple mental health certifications in Anger Management, Stress Management, Crisis Intervention and Substance Abuse Practitioner.   The programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in any of the above programs.

 

Please review the video below