Role of Counseling in MS

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: April 2023

Multiple sclerosis (MS) can have a big impact on your life and your emotions. It can affect how you see yourself and how you interact with other people. Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety are more common in people with MS than in people who do not live with a chronic disease.1

For this reason, prioritizing mental health is very important for people with MS. Counseling can be an effective tool to manage mental health for those living with MS.1

What is counseling?

Counseling is a type of therapy that helps people manage their emotions and understand their thoughts and behaviors. Counseling can help treat mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. It can also help people deal with stress, grief, and relationship problems.2

Counseling usually takes place in a therapist's office, but it also can occur in a hospital or other medical facility. Some counselors also work in schools, prisons, and other settings.2

Are counseling and psychotherapy the same?

People often think counseling and psychotherapy are the same. But there are differences between these terms. Counseling is a shorter-term approach that helps people with specific issues or challenges. Psychotherapy is a longer-term treatment that helps people understand themselves better and gain insight into their challenges.3,4

Both counseling and psychotherapy can help people with MS, depending on their needs and goals.

How does MS affect mental health?

MS is a debilitating disease that affects the nervous system. Everyday tasks, like brushing your teeth or getting dressed, might become difficult. Fatigue, dizziness, and balance problems also are common. These symptoms can make it hard to work, drive, or even take care of yourself on a basic level.5

These debilitating symptoms can have a broad effect. They affect not only you but also your loved ones. And they affect you not only physically but also mentally. The mental toll of MS is often underestimated. In fact, MS can cause a great deal of emotional distress.6

How can counseling help with MS?

Counseling can help you manage the symptoms of MS and the stress that comes with them. Counselors are trained to listen and provide support. They also offer coping strategies for dealing with the challenges of MS.4,6

Counseling can be an important part of your MS treatment plan. It can help you:4,6,7

  • Understand your diagnosis
  • Adjust to changes in your life
  • Cope with stress
  • Manage depression and anxiety
  • Improve communication with loved ones
  • Make decisions about your care

Your loved ones can benefit from counseling as well. It might help them understand your diagnosis and how it affects you. It also can teach them how to best support you.6,7

Finding a counselor

The first step is to talk to your doctor about your mental health. They may be able to refer you to a counselor or other mental health professional. You can also find counselors by searching online directories or contacting your insurance company. Some counselors work remotely, so you can access care from your phone or computer.4,7

When you are looking for a counselor, find someone who is a good fit for you. Not everyone will be. You should feel comfortable talking to them about sensitive topics. It also is important that they have experience treating people with MS.4,7

Counseling can play a role in managing the symptoms of MS and the stress that comes with it. If you are struggling with your mental health, you do not need to take on that burden alone. Talk to your doctor about finding a counselor who can help you. Together, you can develop a counseling plan that works for you.4,6,7

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