For long, the fear of judgement and guilt of oversharing kept Smruti Inamdar away from reaching out to a counsellor. “After an initial session, I eventually made peace with the fact that it’s a safe space for me to dish out my innermost feelings,” says the 23-year-old student currently studying in Amsterdam. She found a great therapist through a fitness and wellness platform and has since been religiously showing up for her sessions. Her story is shared by many.
The idea of going to a counsellor can get overwhelming and intimidating for a few of us, especially those confronting questions such as: how is it to go to a session? when do I go for one? what do I talk about? can I even afford it?
No specific time or situation to go to a counsellor
According to Bengaluru-based counsellor, Mamtha Rajesh, people can seek counselling if they are feeling low, depressed, grieving, or even coping with relationship issues as lack of information or help might leave them feeling lost. In fact, even if a person is looking for self-improvement they can go for counselling.
Bengaluru-based counselling psychologist, Arouba Kabir says, “A person should not wait for their mental health to turn into a disorder before they think of visiting their counsellor.”
The three situations suggested by professionals to seek therapy are:
- When all is well. That’s a great time for self-reflection and learning about personal blind spots without the influence of a stressful situation.
- When there is a troubling situation. Seeking a counsellor’s help to cope with it helps one bounce back quicker.
- When disturbed, mental health seriously affects daily life and requires immediate attention.
Delhi-based Geetanjali Singh was going through a rough patch for a long time. Even though she knew she had to seek counselling, factors like expenses and apprehensions from family and friends pushed the much-needed session to the next year. The 32-year-old felt nervous and lonely as she did not know where she was headed.
“I finally decided to take that extra effort to find a good therapist.”
— Geetanjali Singh
Luckily for her, the first session with the therapist turned out to be ‘superb’. According to her the key quality that one should be looking for in a therapist should be their non-judgmental nature.
Perks of an offline session
Traditional offline therapy is generally recommended because of the comfort, trust, and neutral space it offers. As Rajesh says, the setting is to both soothe and strengthen the trust between both. Online therapy via video call was sought especially during the pandemic. These sessions have gained popularity for easy accessibility in terms of the geography and availability of experts.Shutterstock
Understanding bottlenecks and making the right choice
Limitations like money, privacy and travel define the search for a good therapist. One’s preference also plays a role in identifying how and where to approach a professional. Finding comfort in a counsellor or a therapist also depends on ethnicity, gender, orientation, and age.
Some of the ways that one can look for sessions based on their needs are:
- Ask a trustworthy source: Often the best way to find a good therapist is to ask someone you trust who has been on a similar journey and taken therapy. Kabir adds that it helps gain feedback and decide what medium you choose.
- Social media and internet: The internet, including social media, has an ocean of options for finding and availing therapy. While using it, it is important to pay attention to the credentials, reviews, and methods the counsellors employ. Both Rajesh and Khan stress on this.
- Local resources: Mental health helplines that are specific to your city, state or country are twenty-four-seven numbers that you can call. There are over 15 helpline numbers both by NGOs and government organisations.
- Specific mental health organisations: There are organisations that cater to specific mental health issues like anxiety, personality disorders, depression and bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. They have a directory of professionals and therapists that they can connect you with. (Some known organisations are added as a reference at the end of the story)
[Note for the reader: Each option comes with a different pay structure depending on factors including experience, time, number of sessions and psychological requirements.]
Just as one would verify a seller when making a purchase online, an important aspect of seeking help for mental health is to evaluate the specialist. Some of the questions to ask when zeroing in on a therapist are:
- Are you a licensed therapist?
- What are some of your practices and methods during therapy?
- What is your experience in dealing with [issue you want to resolve]?
- What is the minimum number of sessions you suggest for progress?
- What is your confidentiality clause?
- In what circumstances will the confidentiality clause not apply?
- How much do you charge per session?
Confidentiality — a vital feature of going to therapy
Confidentiality assures privacy during and after therapy. Hence, any fear regarding confidentiality should be discussed in detail with the counsellor. Clarifying the extent of confidentiality is important. Rajesh advises, “Inquire on details of the consent form, and in what circumstances, legal or otherwise, is confidentiality broken.”
Drawing boundaries with your counsellor sets a good precedent for healthy interactions. These can be discussed at the outset. Individuals should set appropriate hours for each session as per their comfort and maintain a formal relationship. In such situations paying attention to how you feel around them helps. Do you feel tense around them? Are your thoughts being heard and validated? Answering such questions will help identify these boundaries.
Putting the spotlight on boundaries, 26-year-old Aditi Bhardwaj from Bengaluru shares an experience where she felt unheard and invalidated by her therapist. “The way my therapist was asking questions was making me uncomfortable. I wasn’t seeking advice in the first session itself. I did not ask her what I should do in this situation, but instead, she kept telling me ‘you should do this’, and ‘you should do that’. I did not feel positive about this experience and didn’t go to her again.”
Take charge of your mental health the right way
The bottom line is peace of mind, and a healthier life, which also includes looking after oneself mentally. Just as people go on diets to treat a body imbalance, seeking out a mental health professional at the best or worst times can improve their happiness quotient. As Aditi rightly shares, there is a stigma of seeking help even among educated people. Collectively the financial burden caused due to mental health can be alleviated by the practice of seeking therapy. When working with a good therapist, it is not about treating a mental disorder – it is about using resources to lead a better life.
Please reach out to these organisations for help
Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF)
A clear and comprehensive write-up. Glad to have read it, feel a bit more confident to start my therapy sessions.
Didn’t know about the confidentiality clause thing. Will definitely consider discussing it.