Counseling as an Option for People Living With MS

COUNSELING AS AN OPTION

The role of a mental health counselor in your healthcare team

Some people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) may choose to see a counselor during the course of their disease. Seeing a counselor may be an option for you when living with MS. 

Finding A Counselor for People Living With MS

Counselors and their role in MS

Counselors are licensed professionals. Some have clinical counseling backgrounds while others have clinical social worker backgrounds.

 

Counselors may work with you in the following ways:

  • Figure out how to move forward after diagnosis of MS
  • Find positive coping mechanisms for you to use
  • Navigate the different emotions that you may be experiencing
  • Identify things that can help improve your quality of life
  • Identify causes of stress in your life
  • Improve communication with others
  • Process losses that you may have experienced due to your MS

Some people with MS may seek counseling on a short-term basis. In this case, specific identified goals are typically created between the client and counselor. The sessions are highly structured around the goals. Usually a set number of sessions are agreed upon when therapy first starts.

Since MS is a chronic disease, some people may decide to see a counselor on a more long-term basis. There are still goals that are typically created, but there is room for unstructured time to talk about a broad range of things. Since MS can be unpredictable, long-term counseling may be an additional option.

Help with managing emotions

People living with MS may be struggling with mood disorders. A counselor may help if your mood is affecting your current quality of life. The counselor may explore many things, including your:

Well-being and mental health

Self-image

Sleeping habits and appetite

Relationship with your family

Daily activities of living

Work, hobbies, volunteering, or other responsibilities

Medication evaluation

Counseling alone may not be an effective tool to manage depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders. In this case, your counselor may recommend that you see your doctor for a medication evaluation.

Coping tools

Coping tools or mechanisms are things that we do as individuals when we feel stressed, anxious, sad, or angry. These are usually described as things that we do to help us feel better. Counselors can help you explore what you currently do as a coping mechanism. They may also help you identify more positive coping mechanisms if needed.

Some positive coping mechanisms may include:

Exercise

Talking with a friend

Writing in a journal

Meditating

Baking

Doing arts and crafts

Finding an MS-free zone

One of the most rewarding things a counselor may be able to do for someone living with MS is to help identify an MS-free zone. It’s a part of your life or a passion that MS may not interfere with. A counselor may help you find ways to continue to do things that you love.

Finding a counselor

If you’re interested in finding a counselor to work with to help manage the emotions of living with MS:

  • Contact your MS specialist or neurologist and ask them if they can recommend a counselor or refer you to one
  • Check with your local chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to see if there’s an MS mental health partner in your area
  • Contact your insurance company
  • Contact your local mental health department

Keep in mind, only you can decide if counseling is the right option for you. Consider talking to other people who have tried counseling if you have any questions.