Taking care of your mental health is often overlooked, especially in Hong Kong, where a strong negative stigma prevents individuals from speaking up about their internal issues. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Cigna found that only 10% of stressed Hongkongers1 said they’ve spoken to a medical professional about their mental state.
To help break the stigma around mental health in Hong Kong, we want to educate our readers about what counselling really is, its benefits, and support options in Hong Kong.
What is counselling?
Counselling is a well-known form of talking therapy2. It involves a professional therapist listening to common problems such as anxiety, stress and relationships, to help develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Compared to a psychotherapist, a counsellor offers a more specialised service of communication that concentrates on providing structure to the counselling experience. Counsellors can help someone in a variety of ways, and there are many different types of counsellors depending on their speciality.
Different types of counselling
The term “counselling” can be a broad category that encompasses many subfields and specialisations. Knowing the various forms of counselling can be useful when choosing the right counsellor. The most common types of counselling that you may have heard of is marriage counselling and rehabilitation counselling.
- Marriage counselling (also called couples therapy) helps couples manage stress, communicate better and resolve conflicts to improve their relationship. It focuses on communication gap, sex, anger, or illness which contribute to the problems in a relationship.
- Rehabilitation counselling provides patients who suffer from specific developmental, mental, or physical disabilities with the assistance they need to lead a more functional life. This form of counselling focuses on evaluating your strengths and limitations to provide you with training and support in job placement so that you can work and live independently.
Alternative forms of counselling that you may have come across are guidance and career counselling, mental health counselling and substance abuse counselling among many others.
Five ways counselling can help
With counselling covering a wide range of issues, it can, therefore, help your life in several ways. Here are the top five ways it can improve your life:
1. Bring clarity to thoughts and feelings
Counselling allows you to explore your thoughts and feelings in a confidential environment. A counsellor can guide you through a particular thought process to help you think through your struggles and bring clarity to your thoughts.
2. Provide a safe and confidential space
Counselling provides a supportive and non-judgemental environment3 that encourages you to share your thoughts and experiences openly. You can even share your deepest fears with your counsellor who will work with you to move forward from particular experiences, without judging you.
3. Helps you feel less isolated when dealing with problems
Having a counsellor to listen to your thoughts can bring a positive impact on your mental health, helping you feel less alone with your struggles. You may be able to look at your problems from a different perspective and positively readjust your thoughts.
4. Gives you a higher degree of self-awareness
Counselling provides an environment for you to explore and confront your feelings, an essential component of this process is self-awareness. Being able to identify your problems and how you are being affected is the first step to coping with them.
5. Improves your emotional well-being
Research by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence4 has found that counselling enhances the well-being of patients who suffer from anxiety and depression. Sessions can be tailored to change the way you feel, think and behave, and eliminate harmful thinking and behaviours.
Choosing a counsellor in Hong Kong
Choosing the right counsellor is crucial for the best outcomes. As you will be working closely with them on personal and intimate issues, picking a counsellor that you can trust is essential. Unfortunately, in Hong Kong, there is no licensing system to govern the counselling profession5; any practitioner can call themselves a counsellor or psychotherapist. However, only medical doctors who have specialised in psychology can call themselves a psychiatrist and prescribe medication to treat mental illness.
The best way to choose your counsellor would be to find out about their background and credentials. Often, you can visit the location of the clinic to find the relevant professional certificates are displayed in the reception area or browse their website counsellors pages.
We shouldn’t let the stigma around counselling prevent us from seeking help. Regardless of what your problem is, speaking to a counsellor or any mental health professional can help improve your overall well being. Their role is to help you explore and confront your emotions in a comfortable way, so collaboratively, you can start to feel better.
If you would like to explore more counselling options, at OT&P, we opened a dedicated mental health clinic — MindWorX. We’ve brought together specialised mental health professionals to cover a wide range of prevailing issues that you might face.
1. Cigna, 2018. Cigna Releases Results Of 2018 Cigna 3600 Well-Being Survey. [online] Available at: <https://www.cigna.com.hk/iwov-resources/docs/en/about-cigna/news/Hong_Kong_360_Press_Release_EN.pdf> [Accessed 26 March 2020].
2. Nhsinform.scot. 2020. Talking Therapies Explained. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/mental-wellbeing/therapy-and-counselling/talking-therapies-explained> [Accessed 26 March 2020].
3. Dpt.nhs.uk. 2020. What Are Psychological Therapies?. [online] Available at: <https://www.dpt.nhs.uk/our-services/psychology-and-psychological-therapies/what-are-psychological-therapies> [Accessed 26 March 2020].
4. nice.org.uk. 2008. Counselling In Primary Care A Low Cost Educational Model. [online] Available at: <https://www.nice.org.uk/sharedlearning/counselling-in-primary-care-a-low-cost-educational-model> [Accessed 26 March 2020].
5. Hkps.org.hk. n.d. Frequently Asked Questions. [online] Available at: <https://www.hkps.org.hk/en/faq/> [Accessed 26 March 2020].