A person considering earning a degree in social work or psychology may wonder, “Can counselors help people with personality disorders?” This is important to know because personality disorders are as common as mental illnesses, and they have a drastic impact on a person’s ability to form and maintain social relationships. Knowing whether or not counselors can help people with personality disorders and how they can provide help is a good step toward choosing a career path.
What a Personality Disorder Is
A personality disorder is a maladaptive way of thinking. A person has abnormal thoughts and behaviors that prevent them from functioning the way that society thinks they should function. It is important to note that what is maladaptive in one culture could be normal in a different culture. This means that personality disorders are often reflective of social expectations from other people. The type of abnormal thoughts or behaviors that an affected person has depends on their particular disorder. Counselors and therapists agree that all types of personality disorders are difficult to treat, and part of the problem is that affected people often do not see a need for treatment.
How a Personality Disorder Is Diagnosed
A personality disorder can be diagnosed by a counselor, therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. In some cases, they can be diagnosed by an astute family doctor. This happens because people often see their primary care doctor more frequently than they see any other healthcare professional. The toughest part of diagnosing a personality disorder is that people with them tend to drop out of treatment. It can take more than one meeting to diagnose a personality disorder. Most practitioners make their diagnosis based on the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Types and Examples of Personality Disorders
There are three clusters of personality disorders based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Cluster A includes odd or eccentric features. Some examples include paranoid personality, schizoid personality, and schizotypal personality. Cluster B is characterized by behaviors that others perceive as dramatic, excessively emotional and irregular. Some examples include antisocial personality, borderline personality, histrionic personality, and narcissistic personality. Cluster C personality disorders are characterized by anxiety and fear. Some examples of these disorders include avoidant personality, dependent personality, and obsessive-compulsive personality.
Counseling Services for People With Personality Disorders
According to the American Psychological Association, personality disorders are infamous for being difficult to treat. Even so, clinical psychology research has shown that two types of counseling or therapy can be effective at treating one of the most common personality disorders. Dialectical behavior therapy and cognitive therapy are two services that counselors can provide to individuals with borderline personality disorder. These therapies can also be useful to people with other personality disorders, but controlled research studies do not yet provide hard evidence for their level of effectiveness.
Personality disorders affect up to 8 percent of people, which is about 16 million adults in the United States. People of all religions, income levels, genders, ages, and education levels can develop a personality disorder. Knowing the answer to, “Can counselors help people with personality disorders?” could help an affected person get the diagnosis and treatment they need in order to live a happier and more satisfying social life.