How counselors can integrate media into mental health counseling

How counselors can integrate media into mental health counseling

The present world is rife with technology in every area of life, and mental health counselors can maximize it to complement traditional therapy. The growth of social media, the popularity of mobile apps, and the efficiency of Internet of Things services make it easy to identify innovative ways to engage and empower clients. This transformation means mental health counselors can enrich the counseling experience with these tools without isolating face-to-face interactions, which is crucial in mental healthcare.

What are these media tools, and how can mental health counselors embrace them? How do these tools break barriers and increase access to interventions, enabling more profound connections with clients? It is essential to address these questions, examine the strategies to maximize technology in achieving everyday support for mental wellness and touch on what this would mean for mental health practices in the long term.

Six media tools to incorporate into counseling practices

Media is an open field, and its developments mean mental health counselors can leverage just about anything to advance their practice. This could include mobile apps, telehealth tools, podcasts, community support groups, and others.

Teletherapy platforms 

Teletherapy platforms have become a digital bridge to connect therapists and clients through secure and compliant video conferencing tools. This innovation expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic and has revolutionized accessibility to mental health support. These platforms are online services that facilitate mental health counseling, and since they’re digital, they’re built with the privacy and security of end-to-end users in mind. 

The platforms are designed to ensure that all communications (between the counselor and the client) meet the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards in the United States. This compliance protects client confidentiality and ensures that personal health information is securely managed and transmitted.

Reasons to use teletherapy platforms in mental health practices:

  • Accessibility: Individuals in remote or rural areas where mental health services may be scarce or non-existent can gain professional help from the comfort of their homes.
  • Convenience: Teletherapy sessions can be scheduled more flexibly because there is no need to commute from one place to another. Therapy is more easily integrated into daily life.
  • Overcome barriers: Some people hesitate to seek mental health care because of their physical disabilities, logistic challenges, and potential stigma. Teletherapy platforms are a more private and convenient way to receive premium care without the potential stressors of in-person visits.
  • Facilitate continuous care: Crises such as natural disasters or pandemics do not affect the continuity of care. This ensures the client’s resilience, which is key for therapeutic progress and support.

Mental health counselors can start using teletherapy platforms by leveraging them for engagement. Interactive features such as screen sharing, or digital whiteboards can help in explaining concepts. They are also relevant for conducting exercises or reviewing clients’ progress. This helps build rapport online and keep clients interested throughout the session. Teletherapy platforms also help mental health counselors visually view how clients respond to everything they say they can pay attention to body language and tone, even remotely. All this helps mental health counselors improve the lives of their clients while expanding their practice without the administrative overhead cost that is associated with in-person meetings.

Therapeutic podcasts and webinars 

Podcasts have emerged as a resource to educate and engage people even when they are busy with their daily chores and activities. Anyone can listen to a podcast while doing laundry or cleaning the house. Therapeutic podcasts and webinars are powerful mediums to educate and support people who are undergoing mental health challenges. Through this medium, mental health professionals can share tips backed by scientific knowledge on topics related to psychological well-being to help improve their clients’ lives. 

For those people who are considering pursuing careers as mental health counselors, a great way to improve their chances of excellence is by obtaining a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling or a Doctorate in Mental Health Counseling (ED). Both degrees can help enhance interventions for patients and students have the chance of advancing their careers. Reputable institutions such as the American International College offer these degrees, designed to equip its students to provide the best patient care.

A part of enhancing value in mental health professions is keying in on versatile forms of information sharing. Podcasts, for example, feature deep interviews with experts and discussions on mental health. For instance, podcasts by Jordan P. Peterson, or The Joe Rogan Experience, and Mental Illness Happy Hour, can be insightful to clients. These podcasts feature people who are either sharing their personal mental health stories or sharing tips on enhancing mental health stability. Core mental health podcasts are also versatile, so anyone can find resources that meet their personal experiences and needs.

These mediums are easy and accessible ways of communication for clients who need more education and awareness. These podcasts and webinars can also be recommended to family members of clients so they can better understand mental health challenges. These resources can help you promote support for your clients. 

Ways to integrate podcasts and webinars into mental health practices:

  • Curate content: Recommend specific episodes that align with client’s therapeutic goals or challenges. This will help them engage with content that is most relevant to their journey.
  • Create original content: If inclined to create resources, counselors can create podcasts or webinars with content that aligns with the specific needs and interests of their client base.
  • Engage in discussion: Use the content of podcasts and webinars as a springboard for discussion in therapy sessions. This can help clients articulate their thoughts and feelings about what they have learned and how it applies to their lives.

Mobile wellness apps 

As the Calm app states, “Mental health is hard. Getting support doesn’t need to be”. Mobile wellness apps like Headspace and Calm have carved out a significant niche in the mental health landscape. Mental health counselors can leverage these tools to help their clients improve their mental well-being because they are embedded with elements of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). 

These user-friendly apps provide access to guided meditations, stress management techniques, and sleep aids that can be accessed anytime, anywhere. This makes it easy to customize the apps to fit the client’s specific needs. It could be to manage anxiety, improve sleep, enhance mindfulness, track meditation sessions or sleep patterns. 

These apps are essential to mental health practices because they are resources designed to empower clients and can help clients build resilience by developing coping mechanisms. These apps are also accessible to those who previously had no access to mental health support as there are no geographic, financial, or time constraints. 

One invaluable importance of these apps is how they eliminate the stigma of seeking mental health support. In fact, mental health counselors can encourage reluctant clients to try these apps as the first step towards managing their well-being since they are practical and used remotely.

By integrating mobile wellness apps into mental health practices, counselors are providing additional tools to support their clients through their wellness journey, making the process comprehensive and engaging.

Digital journals and mood trackers 

Digital journals and mood trackers provide intuitive ways to document people’s emotional states and thoughts. These tools make it easy for clients to log their moods and activities and to create journal notes. 

Journals and trackers also offer insights and analytics tools to help visualize data, such as mood frequency and writing frequency, in a way that shows how a client’s behavior has either shifted or remained stagnant over a period. This feature is invaluable for mental health counselors and their clients as it provides concrete data to inform therapy sessions and help personalize future interventions based on the client’s realities.

These tools are also necessary to improve self-awareness. Regular use of digital journals and mood trackers helps people become more attuned to their emotional inconsistencies and the circumstances that influence their mental state. This way, they understand what triggers them and prepare to avoid these negative emotions. 

Ways to include digital journals and mood trackers to enhance mental health practices:

  • Recommend specific apps: Suggest apps that suit the needs and preferences of each client. Consider factors such as user interface, privacy features, and the ability to export data for sharing in therapy sessions.
  • Integrate data into sessions: Encourage clients to share their mood-tracking data during therapy sessions to provide a starting point for exploring emotional patterns and addressing specific concerns.
  • Promote reflection: Encourage clients to reflect not just on the data but also on their subjective experiences. This helps them use a tool like a mood tracker to evaluate how they feel— this can be a catalyst for deeper self-exploration and understanding.

Online support groups 

Online support groups are now an essential part of the global mental health support ecosystem. These groups, which can be found anywhere (Facebook, Twitter or X, LinkedIn, TikTok, and others), serve as virtual communities where individuals can share experiences, advice, and support. Their accessibility makes them a valuable resource for those who may feel isolated or stigmatized by their mental health struggles.

Reasons why online support groups are necessary:

  • Reduce isolation: The feeling of isolation can be overwhelming for those dealing with mental health issues. Online support groups provide a community that shows them they are not alone in their experiences.
  • Accessible support: These groups provide flexibility that allows individuals to seek and offer support whenever they need it, regardless of geographical or physical barriers.
  • Enhance understanding and empathy: Sharing experiences with others who truly understand can help clients feel like they are understood. The empathy that stems from these interactions can encourage clients to work more on their personal health so that they can also help others.
  • Provide diverse perspectives: Participants in online support groups can benefit from different perspectives and coping strategies. This enriches their understanding of how to manage their mental health and discover what works or doesn’t work.

It is important to recommend reputable groups that are both safe and supportive. Mental health counselors can also educate their clients on how to set boundaries within these groups, such as letting clients know what to share and what not to share to protect themselves and avoid vulnerability. Insights from these communities can also be used to direct discussions. These are some of the strategies that can be utilized to help shape the trajectory of a client’s health and keep them engaged in the process.

Virtual reality (VR) therapy 

Virtual reality (VR) therapy is an intersection of technology and mental health treatment that can be explored for technologically capable clients. VR technology can help immerse clients in simulated environments that closely mimic their challenging or anxiety-provoking moments. This immersive experience is great for exposure therapy to treat phobias, anxiety disorders, PTSD, and other conditions to help understand how clients respond to these environments.

VR therapy allows for exposure to challenging situations without the logistical and ethical constraints of real-world exposure. This makes the therapy safer and more accessible for clients. It can also be customized so providers can adjust the intensity of the experience to their client’s preferences. This aids in knowing the level of control a client has reached over certain events. For clients struggling with anxiety about failure or social interactions, VR therapy can help test their resilience by virtually placing them in the situations that they are afraid of. 

VR therapy also helps decide if a client needs continuous therapy support or not. Engagement is also enhanced because the client is 100% involved in the process and their progress. 

Ways to maximize the use of VR therapy in mental health practices:

  • Use it to complement traditional techniques to ensure a holistic approach toward client’s health. 
  • Design environments that match the client’s stage of recovery. For example, expose them to less challenging environments at the start of therapy and gradually increase the exposure to difficult stages as the client progresses.
  • Monitor and adjust the exposure to reflect the client’s reality. 

Navigating the future: the role of technology in mental health counseling

Integrating the digital tools can make a mental health counselor’s work more practical. These media resources help increase the support that clients have within and outside the provider’s office, and also help increase their resilience levels in the long term. Technology makes it easy to reach clients even if there are significant geographical differences. Furthermore, the most important role of technology is that clients will not suffer from the stigma associated with mental health as they can enjoy remote support through wellness apps, podcasts, and community support groups.