(For other articles by Dr. Swatantra Jain, please check this webpage)

A while back, my colleague’s daughter developed severe adjustment problems with her husband and in-laws. I suggested my colleague to take the couple to a good counsellor or a Family Counselling Center to save their marital relationship. But, instead of seeing the reason of my recommendation, my colleague got agitated and said, “Why, my daughter isn’t mad? Why does she need a psychologist?”

Friends, as a psychologist, I find it very odd that people all over the world, especially in India, have so many misconceptions and myths about psychotherapy/counselling. Even many educated people routinely ask me, ‘What is this counselling?’ and ‘How can it help anyone?’

Many amongst us think, “Only crazy people go to therapy”, but the fact is that thousands of people have benefitted from therapy and got help in working through challenging periods of their lives including divorce, starting/changing a career or the loss of a loved one. In fact, when people seek help for emotional or behavioral issues, it shows that they are strong enough to prioritize their well-being.

Most Indians do not understand the difference between a psychiatrist (clinical psychologist who diagnoses and treats mental conditions) and a psychotherapist. They think that persons with some mental disorders or problems seek therapy and only psychiatrists can offer them treatment. But in reality, there are a wide range of professionals including psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors who can help you in your psycho-social problems.

Psychotherapist is not a mental-disorder doctor. Psychotherapist helps change habitual patterns in our thinking and behavior by showing us new ways of thinking about any issue just as a physical therapist helps change habits of our muscles after an injury by showing us new ways of exercising that can both strengthen and heal a muscle.

Thus, I feel it is quite unfortunate that most Indians consider it a big stigma to consult a psychotherapist or a counselor. Just as we consult a physical therapist in case of a physical pain or any disturbance in our physiological or nervous system, we can easily consult a counsellor whenever we are entangled with any emotional, relationship, adjustment, marital, academic or career related problems. We should not hesitate in consulting an experienced and trustworthy counsellor to alleviate our problems because given the complexities and pressures of modern times our own family members or friends aren’t able to help us in finding new pathways to resolve our issues.

Psychotherapy: a helping relationship

Counselling establishes a helping/healing relationship between therapist and you. Due to disintegration of joint families, fast life and developing technology, we are overwhelmed with our problems and hence, often in need of the help of therapists. At every turn of our life, we are entangled with some problems which can be solved with the help of an expert who has worked with many people. But by ignoring or postponing it, we make even smallest of our problems a cancer of our life which keep growing and eating us up from inside. Sharing our problems with a non-judgmental and caring person who is not a part of our family or a friend, we can get a neutral and an expert help.

Just like doctors, counselors are also specialized therapists in their own fields and trained for helping the normal people with different kinds of personal, emotional, social, relationship, educational or career related problems. Yes, some people with severe mental problems require a trained clinical psychologist called a psychiatrist to diagnose and treat a mental patient. And in some extreme cases, those with some severe mental disorders might need to be taken to hospitals for a treatment.

Counselling is preventive as well as curative: It is helpful especially when you are into the thick of any emotional or other problem.

A counselor can help you stay untouched by the naturally occurring mud and problems of life. Just like a lotus blooms above the mud, a counselor helps you stay away from the mud and problems of life. And like an umbrella, it saves us from the sunlight and rain of various psycho-social and personal-emotional problems of our life. Counselling can help the people of all the age groups in preventing and solving their psycho-social-emotional problems.

• Personal Problems: Counselling is helpful when you are struggling to know yourself, your emotions, e g fear, anger, jealousy, anxieties, prejudices & preferences, liking-disliking. It helps you when you’re not aware of your aspirations and desires, your sensitivities and delicacies or your plus & minus points. It comes to your rescue when you are in conflict with your inner self, dos and don’ts, indecisions or value-system. It saves you when you are overwhelmed with your negative emotions like jealousy & hatred, anger, greed or lust. It helps you when you aren’t able to get rid of self-destructive thoughts, when you’re not able to come out of the feelings of separation from your dear ones. And she also comes to your salvage when you aren’t able to handle the crisis of your life-values, prejudices and preferences, guilt, reluctant temperament, inadequacies or negative attitudes.

• Stress and strains of adolescence stage: Counselling can provide relief when you’re on the threshold of adolescence and bewildered with the rapid changes in your physical, intellectual, emotional, attitudinal & moral aspects of life. It aids you when you aren’t able to cope with the stress & strain of the above stated sudden and all-over changes in your life or when you are perplexed that your parents, teachers and elders don’t understand you. You need counselling when you’re surrounded with some family issues, when you aren’t able to say “No” to your peers/elders; when somebody is bullying you or when you are struggling with your body-image.

• Educational Problems: Counselors can show you the way when you are in a state of indecision about the choice of your subject, courses or career, when you want to know how best to manage your time and also the best method of studying so that you may remember maximum and forget minimum. Counselor guides you how to overcome your study related anxieties & confusions and improve your self-confidence. She tells you the strengths and weaknesses of your personality and also how to overcome your weak points.

• Emotional problems: A therapist helps you when it seems that your feelings and emotions aren’t under your control or you are unable to understand, evaluate and tackle them.

• Counselors provide training in life-skills: Counselors can help you develop life-skills such as communication skills, self assertiveness skills, leadership skills, interview-facing and group discussion skills.

• When you’re too much bewildered, overwhelmed or troubled: You can learn to relax and maintain your calm by meditation or relaxation therapy and get clarity of thought.

• When you’re unable to cope with big changes in life: Counselling can provide great relief when you’re in face to face with severe adjustment problems with family, classmates, friends, colleagues and neighbors; or on getting married; loosing present job or joining new job; loosing spouse, sibling, parent, child or any close friend; changing school, college, house, city, country or job; or when you’re unable to adjust with any new addition in the family’

• Counselor soothes you when you’re stressed due to strained relationship between friends, colleagues and employers; or between spouses, parents and siblings.

• When you’re grappling with self-harming thoughts: Counseling can help you out when you’re in great stress due to severe failure, hopelessness, extreme stress, anxiety, guilt or suicidal thoughts.

• When you feel yourself lonely, deplorable or wounded: Counselling provides you support when you aren’t able to share your pain, hurt, guilt or confusion with anyone around you.

• For parents: Counseling provides effective parenting skills to the parents so that their children can prove to be good citizens for their family, society and the country. It helps them know which parenting style is the best one; ‘how’ and ‘how much’ they should discipline their kids or what kind of reinforcement they should give.

• When you’re passing through a great upheaval in life: Counselling provides you great relief in case of unbearable shocks of life like sudden demise of your spouse or loved ones, physical or organic disability due to accident or illness like cancer, AIDS, fibromyalgia or any other incurable disease and even in big economic loss.

• Old-age problems: It alleviates your injured psyche when you are experiencing loss of your self-esteem or shrinking of your importance in the family due to retirement, old age, some physical disability or poor mobility.

• Drug addiction: Counselling helps you in getting rid of drug-abuse & drug-addiction.

• Rehabilitation of abused persons: The kids undergoing great upheaval in their lives due to physical, emotional or sexual abuse can be greatly helped in their rehabilitation.

Thus, you can resolve all the above stated problems in the calm, comfortable and safe space facilitated by a trustworthy and experienced counsellor. But, please keep in mind that counsellor does not have any pre-determined formulae or tonics to solve your problems. It is also not the job of a counselor to give you any clear advice or directions to follow. She only helps you see things from different perspective and angles which you were missing earlier.

The role of the psychotherapist is to be a mirror. She helps you in re-orienting, re-evaluating and rethinking your issues from a deep and yet realistic points of view. Because she is not family or a friend, she can see your issues objectively and hence tries to help you in reviewing and reconsidering your views about your work/career or significant others (spouse, relatives, colleagues) so that you are able to give one more positive chance to your job, relationships and yourself.

You can equally benefit through online Psychotherapy by way of Google chat through Explorer on my account: jainswatantra@gmail.com or by WhatsApp video chat on my WhatsApp account 9254588689 on pre appointment.