How Can a Mental Health Counselor Use CBD for Therapy?

Can an mental health counselor recommend CBD

Image Credit: By Artem Stepanov on Shutterstock

Did you know that CBD can be an invaluable resource for a mental health counselor? Check out this article to learn how CBD goes hand-in-hand with therapy.

For a few years now, cannabidiol, also known as CBD, has been making headlines. It’s been touted as something of a miracle drug and for good reason.

CBD can treat — and, in some cases, eliminate — all kinds of physical conditions, from chronic pain and inflammation to cancer.

But, what about the mental health benefits of CBD?

New research is showing that CBD is highly effective at treating a number of mental health conditions. Some that have been studied the most thoroughly include anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If you’re a mental health counselor who’s considering incorporating CBD into a patient’s treatment plan, keep reading to learn how it can be used safely and effectively.

What is CBD? First things first, let’s explain what CBD is and how it affects the brain.

CBD is a nonpsychoactive component of the cannabis plant. It doesn’t have any of the mind-altering effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). But, it still offers many of the same health benefits.

In addition to being able to treat nausea and pain, CBD can also strengthen the positive effects of THC. It does this while minimizing some of the less-desirable ones (fatigue, memory loss, lack of motivation, etc.).

How does it affect the brain? How does CBD actually work, though? First, we need to explain how THC works and how the two cannabinoids work differently in the body.

THC works by binding to the body’s naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors (specifically the CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors). They are located throughout the body and affect mood, appetite, memory, and pain response.

CBD does not bind to these receptors. Instead, it stimulates others in the body, including the adenosine receptors, serotonin receptors, and vanilloid receptors.

CBD doesn’t work directly with the CB1 and CB2 receptors. But, it can increase the density of CB1 receptors in the body.

When their density is increased, there are too many receptors for THC to bind to. This minimizes the effects of THC without taking away its benefits.

CBD also extends the duration of THCs effects. It does this by inhibiting the body’s cytochrome P-450 enzymes. These enzymes are responsible for the metabolization of THC.

CBD Mental Health Benefits

Now that you know a bit about how CBD works, let’s get into what probably matters most to a mental health counselor: its mental health benefits.


From a mental health perspective, CBD is probably best known for its anxiolytic (anxiety-fighting) effects.

Researchers have found that CBD can help people who suffer from a variety of anxiety disorders, such as:

  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

One study found that people who were about to give a speech saw decreased levels of anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort after receiving 400 milligrams of CBD. It can also help combat intense feelings of anxiety like panic attacks.

Researchers believe that CBD is effective for treating anxiety because it reduces the activation of the amygdala. The amygdala is comprised of a set of almond-shaped clusters in the brain. These clusters trigger the fight-or-flight response and are most active when people experience feelings of fear or aggression.

CBD also promotes the generation of neurons in the hippocampus, another region of the brain that is involved in the formation and consolidation of memories. Hippocampal dysfunction has been linked to anxiety disorders.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder is another anxiety disorder that can be treated with CBD.

The main reason for this has to do with the effects that CBD has on the hippocampus. Early research shows that CBD helps reduce fear memories that may be causing symptoms in people who suffer from PTSD.

In one study, researchers found that rats who had been exposed to fear conditioning saw reduced fear responses after receiving CBD. The fear was reduced both acutely and during a later fear retention test.

Further research needs to be done to see how CBD can be used to treat PTSD. But, many people, including veterans, are using it successfully along with cognitive behavioral therapy to help them manage their symptoms.


A mental health counselor may also want to recommend CBD for patients who are struggling with addiction to alcohol, cigarettes, and stronger drugs like opioids.

CBD has been used successfully to help people struggling with a variety of addictions to reduce their cravings and minimize withdrawal symptoms.

When cravings and withdrawal symptoms are minimized, patients can focus on other elements of their treatment. They’re also better able to manage stress, strong emotions, and triggers that normally would have caused them to give in to temptation.

Because of its effects on the hippocampus, CBD can also help with addiction. This is because it reduces the expression of drug memories. It does this acutely and disrupts their reconsolidation.


Finally, some research suggests that CBD can be used to treat serious cognitive disorders like schizophrenia. This is a major breakthrough for any mental health counselor!

A recent German study even found that it was just as effective as a popular antipsychotic drug.

The belief is that CBD is effective because it boosts levels of serum anandamide. This is a neurotransmitter that plays a critical role in psychosis. It actually affects the same receptors as THC.

If they have the same effects, what’s the point of using CBD instead of traditional antipsychotic medications? The main benefit is the fact that CBD is much safer.

Antipsychotic drugs come with a number of side effects, including:

  • Reduced motivation
  • Reduced feelings of pleasure
  • Weight gain
  • Increased risk of diabetes

CBD, on the other hand, didn’t come with any noteworthy side effects.

Tips for a Mental Health Counselor

If you’re a mental health counselor who wants to recommend CBD to their patients, make sure you share these tips with them before they get started.

Ways to Use CBD

There are many different ways that CBD can be administered. If you’re a mental health counselor recommending it to treat any of the above disorders, the following methods will probably be the most effective:

  • CBD oil
  • CBD tinctures
  • CBD capsules
  • CBD sublingual spray
  • CBD vape

CBD oil and CBD capsules are probably the two most common options. This is mainly because they’re easy to take and dose. They’re also less intimidating to people who are new to CBD.

The issue, though, is that it’s harder for the body to absorb CBD when it’s administered in either form. This is because the product has to make its way through the digestive system and be absorbed by the liver.

It takes longer for the effects to take place when CBD is consumed this way, and you don’t get as much of the product.

When CBD is taken in the form of a tincture or sublingual spray, it’s more readily absorbed and the effects are felt faster. The same goes for vaping CBD.

Many people are uncomfortable with these methods at first. Of course, as a mental health counselor, you should be sensitive to this. You don’t want to pressure patients into consuming CBD in a way that will cause them more stress and anxiety.

Let them know that they should start by taking CBD in whatever form is most comfortable for them. But, also make sure they know that if they’re looking for fast relief, taking it sublingually or vaping it is generally the best option.

Proper Dosing

When it comes to dosing CBD, it’s best to start with just a small amount and then work up from there.

CBD doesn’t have any potent or dangerous side effects. Most people just report feeling extra tired if they take too much. But, it’s still a good idea to avoid getting too much, too quickly.

As a mental health counselor, be sure to let your patients know that it’s better to take more if they need it than it is to take too much and end up feeling sleepy as a result.

Making Sure it’s Absorbed

If your patient is taking CBD oil or CBD capsules, they can boost their body’s absorption of the product by taking it with turmeric. Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that has been used in ancient medicine for centuries.

Turmeric contains curcumin, a natural anti-inflammatory that can also improve the bioavailability of CBD.

Probably the easiest way to mix turmeric and CBD oil is to combine them in a turmeric latte. Turmeric lattes are usually made with warm milk, coconut oil, turmeric, ginger, and black pepper. (Black pepper is needed to improve the bioavailability of turmeric.)

A turmeric latte is a healthy drink on its own. But, your patients can add CBD oil to this recipe for even more benefits.

Want to Learn More About CBD?

As a mental health counselor, it’s important for you to do as much research as possible before you recommend CBD to your patients.

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
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