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A Beginner’s Guide to Therapy for Indian Students.

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

1. What is Therapy?

Therapy is a process of change in maladaptive ways of thinking, feeling and behaving, elicited by different therapeutic techniques, and strengthened by the alliance between a therapist and client. To put it simply, therapy is a safe space for vulnerability, exploration and change, where your therapist sits with you, hears you out- without judgment or criticism, and allows you to grow in the ways that you want to.

The terms ‘therapy’ and ‘counseling’ are used interchangeably, especially in the Indian context. The main difference between the two terms, however, is that therapy is more long-term.

2. Do I need therapy?

When it comes to the question of knowing if or when you need therapy, there are no right or wrong answers. Different people seek therapy for different reasons. For some, it could be an issue in their relationship with their friends, partners or the other people around them; for others, it could be work-related stressors, while for some others, it could simply be something they want to explore about themselves in a comfortable space.

The stigma around therapy and conversations about mental health, in general, has led to certain myths about the process that are often perpetuated.

3. When should I go to therapy?

Therapy does not have to be preceded by a ‘major life event’ such as break-up, as it is often projected to be. If you feel that there is something (which could be anything, big or small) keeping you from functioning as well as you can, therapy is something you can look at. Just as you go to the gym to keep your physical health and fitness in place, therapy is something that can help you keep your mental health in good form.

Second, you don’t need to be diagnosed with a mental illness to consider going for therapy. Therapy can improve your relationships with others, and with yourself, and broaden your perspective to deal with life challenges, whatever they may be. No issue is too big or small for you to judge yourself valid or not valid for therapy.

4. Finding a therapist

Once you have acknowledged that you want to go for therapy, finding the right therapist can be another daunting task. While trial and error could work best in most cases, there are a few things you can keep in mind to make the process slightly easier- start off by looking up professionals online and reading up a little bit about them. Go through the content they share to see if it resonates with you. Second, take some time out to check their credentials.

Unfortunately, one of the major issues in India, at the moment, is that licensing is not taken as seriously as it should be. There is also a lot of confusion about the different types of mental health professionals. For this, do your research and if you still have questions, feel free to contact the professional beforehand to figure out the details you are confused about (their area of expertise and the primary theoretical orientation they follow could be other good places to start).

5. How expensive is therapy?

Given all of this information about seeking help, it’s also important to acknowledge that therapy may not be accessible to everybody. One of the reasons that contribute to this inaccessibility is associated cost. Mental health professionals who practice privately can take anywhere between Rs 500 to Rs 2500 for a session. If you’re on a budget, however, you could still look at a few options.

For students in schools and colleges, often, there are counselors working as part of the school/college management team. Further, there are government hospitals that offer psychological testing, assessment and therapy at subsidized rates. Even many private practitioners have a sliding fee structure- where they slide down their fee, if need be, especially for students seeking help. Another option to look at is phone therapy or online therapy, which is comparatively cheaper and more accessible.

6. A DIY kit to help your Mental Health

For those of you still unsure about going for therapy or not being able to afford it, there are a few things that can help you start your healing till you’re ready. Breath-work and meditation can work wonderfully for anxiety. Mindfulness, self-compassion, journaling and reflection, daily walks and exercising can be soothing for mental health, in general. One of the first steps to taking care of your mental health could be just talking about it. Seeking support from people in your life, and listening to yourself and honoring your needs are other ways to start.

Mental health exists on a continuum- so it’s perfectly normal for all of us to have good days and bad days. Therapy is something that can help us look at the ups and downs more objectively in a safe space, where we feel understood, accepted, and cared for.

About me

Nyamat Chadha runs the Instagram page ‘Let’s Talk’ (@lets_talk_mentalhealth) with a view to demystify mental health and make it accessible to all. A gold medallist from SNDT university, she holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology and has qualified on the UGC-NET.

She’s passionate about teaching, research, and working with people. She has worked with Teach for India and currently serves as PG Psychology faculty in Mumbai.

Charges: 750 per session with a sliding fee, for students. (Based on their capacity)

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