Distinguishing Between Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Programs and Counselling Services: Understanding Their Unique Purposes and Approaches
January 15, 2024

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) programs and counselling services are both important components of mental health support, but they serve different purposes and have distinct approaches.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Program

Purpose: MHFA is a training program designed to teach individuals how to provide initial help and support to someone experiencing a mental health crisis or developing a mental health problem. It aims to equip people with the skills to recognize the signs of mental health issues, offer initial assistance, and guide individuals toward appropriate professional help.

Focus: The focus of MHFA is on early intervention and providing immediate support until professional help can be obtained. It is not a substitute for professional treatment but rather a means to bridge the gap until professional assistance is available.

Skills: Participants in MHFA programs learn about various mental health disorders, effective communication strategies, and how to connect individuals with appropriate resources.

Counselling Services

Purpose: Counselling services involve one-on-one or group sessions with a trained mental health professional (counsellor or therapist) to address personal, emotional, or psychological issues. Counselling aims to provide a safe and confidential space for individuals to explore their feelings, thoughts, and behaviours and to work towards personal growth and healing.

Focus: Counselling services focus on in-depth exploration, understanding, and resolution of mental health issues. Counsellors employ various therapeutic approaches to help individuals develop coping strategies, improve self-esteem, and manage specific challenges.

Skills: Counsellors are trained to conduct assessments, develop treatment plans, and provide ongoing support. They may use a variety of therapeutic modalities such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, or other evidence-based approaches.

In summary, Mental Health First Aid is more of an educational program aimed at teaching people how to provide initial assistance to someone in crisis, while counselling services involve ongoing therapeutic support provided by trained professionals to address a range of mental health concerns. MHFA is like first aid for mental health emergencies, whereas counselling is akin to ongoing medical treatment for mental health issues.

If you would like to get in touch to see how we can best support your staff wellbeing you can contact www.oktalk.co.uk or reach out to Marina directly via LinkedIn:  Marina Sabolova.