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Counselling for Improved Menopausal Health

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 20 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Menopause Health Women's Health

For those struggling with women's health and menopause symptoms such as mood swings, mild depression and anxiety or stress related to handling a busy life, counselling can be an effective option. You may find that it is useful as a complement to your Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or you may use it alone or with other alternative treatments.

If you are interested to look into counselling as an option for providing support to women's health through your menopausal transition, then consider finding a qualified therapist in the counselling field. You will need to find someone who uses an approach that fits well with you, although your rapport with the counsellor is one of the most important therapeutic aspects of healing.

A therapist may utilise one specific approach or may work from several theoretical approaches. He or she will work to offer support for the areas of menopause or the rest of your life that are causing you distress. A counsellor may focus on your emotions, behaviours, thought patterns or past experiences. The main approaches used include:

  • Cognitive
  • Behavioural
  • Combined cognitive/behavioural
  • Psychodynamic
  • Person-centred

There are many more therapeutic styles and these main categories can still be broken down into various specific approaches, but they comprise the commonly used foundations for counselling. Most counsellors will explain what type of approach or combination of approaches is used and a good counsellor will answer any queries you might have around the therapy.

Person-Centred Approach for Menopause

The person-centred approach is grounded on the idea that the client is his or her own best resource to solving problems. The counsellor takes on the responsibility of providing an accepting, empathic and open atmosphere and it is believed that this therapeutic relationship allows the client to express him or herself freely.

The client is then thought to be able to share, clarify and understand feelings that have created problems. This type of counselling is heavily focused on the client's development as a person and his or her self-perceptions and power to change. While the therapist facilitates an environment conducive to development and change, it is the client who ultimately creates and chooses his or her path.

Cognitive/Behavioural Therapy for Menopause

Cognitive therapy utilises the mind to influence and guide behaviours. It is based on the premise that your past struggles can negatively impact how you view yourself and can also influence your attitude, feelings and capability to handle new situations. It operates by encouraging the individual to identify and challenge various destructive thoughts so that the client can then change these thoughts into positive and productive ones. For instance, if you view menopause as a horrible process that makes you old and unattractive, then cognitive therapy might focus on changing those negative thought patterns.

Behavioural therapy operates on the premise that behaviours are learned responses to prior experiences and these can essentially be 'unlearnt' or modified into positive and helpful actions. This type of counselling therapy is solution-focused and works to alter present behaviours to improve relations with others, which is then thought to improve self-esteem and moods. In turn, your behaviours will be more positive, productive and confident around menopause and handling menopause symptoms in your life.

Cognitive therapy is also often combined with behavioural therapy to provide a combination of techniques. Clients are shown ways to modify negative thoughts so that they are more encouraging and the belief is that positive behaviours then follow. Cognitive/behavioural therapy is considered effective for mild depression during menopause along with anxiety and virtually any place in a woman's life where she is struggling with negative thoughts around a life-change such as menopause.

Psychodynamic Approach for Menopause

The psychodynamic approach is focused on both unconscious and conscious reactions and thoughts to past experiences and how these are related to behaviours in the 'here and now.' The client is questioned about his or her past experiences, which will usually include childhood, relationships, family and any other areas that a client presents as being influential. You may have a negative view of menopause because your mother had a hard time with her menopausal transition. You may have various experiences in childhood that have shaped your feelings on womanhood, menstruation and menopause. All of these are seen as root problems in the psychodynamic approach.

Which Type of Counselling is Best?

In terms of research, the cognitive/behavioural approach has the greatest volume of research in general. It should be noted, however, that the factors cited by approaches such as person-centred are considered immeasurable by scientific standards. This therapeutic approach, for example, is concerned with areas such as the quality of the therapeutic relationship, and this is difficult to measure in scientific terms. Therefore, there is much less research available to attest to the effectiveness but this does not mean you can't find success by utilising this type of counselling therapy.

Many experts will agree that it is the rapport between counsellor and client that is vital for success and the approach and any techniques used are secondary. Try to find a counsellor who provides a comfortable and warm environment where you are able to talk about yourself freely and openly. No amount of training on the part of the counsellor is likely to make up for a poor rapport that leaves you unable to share what is bothering you during menopause.

Tips for Choosing a Counsellor

A counsellor should have taken some form of professional training, which may involve a certificate, diploma or postgraduate degree. Counsellors can apply for professional designation and this ensures that they have met specific educational, practical and ethical standards. You can usually find local counsellors in your telephone book or you may have friends or family members who can provide recommendations.

Your doctor will also likely be able to recommend appropriate counselling and you may be eligible for monetary coverage if you are recommended via your doctor. You may already be taking HRT but do consider counselling as another option. It can help you to work though any influential psychological and emotional areas, which means that counselling can be a beneficial part of your menopause management plan.

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