By Shubhangi Shah
When you see a doctor with a fever, you know what to expect. The doctor will examine you, ask you a few questions, maybe order some tests, give you medication, recommend what to eat and what not to eat, and you’re done. But what if you seek help for mental health? What do you think of how therapy works?
Popular culture has played a role in both stigmatizing and destigmatizing mental health. Speaking of the latter, director Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi stands out for presenting aspects of mental health that go beyond mental asylums and serious disorders. It delves into the key stages of therapy, from establishing client-therapist relationships (played by Alia Bhatt and Shah Rukh Khan, respectively) to the first finally breaking free from its agony.
Although the film took a much-needed non-cliched take on such a sensitive issue that remains taboo in several quarters of modern India, one can’t help but notice the romanticization involved. For example, Bhatt’s character Kaira opens up to Khan’s Jahangir in almost the first session, the latter delivers lines that seem straight out of self-help books, they play kabaddi with the waves, walk on beaches, ride bikes and before you know it, she’s healed just like that. But is that how it really works? Is the therapy accessible? Is it always fun sessions like this on a beach or on a bike? More importantly, do you start to feel a difference within a few sessions?
why do you need it?
Samridhi Tiwari, 23, started therapy in 2016 while in class XII. Then she was being treated for a chronic illness. The additional academic pressure due to upcoming board exams and entrance tests did not make her life any easier. They all boiled down to one and “drove me into depression,” Tiwari said. She went to see her therapist, who was also her doctor, whenever she felt depressed or unmotivated. “It became almost routine for me to go talk to him whenever I had to deal with something,” she says.
While it was about mental health for Tiwari, it was dealing with grief that led 23-year-old Anjaly Raj to seek help.
Contrary to the popular belief that only people with severe psychiatric conditions go to therapy, therapy can actually help with a range of psychiatric and psychological issues. Psychotherapy, commonly referred to as talk therapy, can help treat “symptoms of anxiety, obsession, and depression. It can help develop stress coping skills, improve communication and social skills, relationship issues, emotional dysregulation, and more. says Dr. Jyoti Kapoor, senior psychiatrist and founder of Manasthali, an organization that works in mental health.
What happens then?
The process begins with the psychiatrist or psychotherapist identifying the problems. Then, it explores the underlying causes of emotional and behavioral problems, examines the coping strategies one applies, and sets goals to treat or manage the condition, says Dr. Kapoor. “The process can take several months and even longer depending on client receptivity, treatment approach, etc. “, she says. “In some cases, it may be necessary to undergo psychological testing to identify underlying issues or get a clearer picture of conflicts that may be unconsciously troubling the client,” adds the doctor.
When do you seek help?
“Somehow I always knew I needed professional help,” says Anjaly Raj. “But the tipping point came when I got into a relationship and started getting in the way of it and my job because of my health,” she adds.
For Samridhi Tiwari, it was “when things got really bad, and I thought maybe I couldn’t survive tomorrow.” The condition she suffered from caused her to lose a considerable amount of weight. “I weighed only 36 kg then and I was on the point of committing suicide,” she says. Luckily, she found a therapist through her doctor, who was treating her for her condition.
Both Tiwari and Raj decided to seek professional help when things got out of hand. However, according to Dr. Kapoor, people struggling with mood, emotional or behavioral issues can contact a mental health professional for a proper understanding of the issues they are facing.
Does it help?
“Before, I thought I wouldn’t be able to do anything with my life, that I wouldn’t be relevant,” Tiwari says. However, once she started therapy, her health began to improve and she was able to eat, study and concentrate again. “But the most important thing is that this whole idea of killing myself has changed dramatically. After therapy, I didn’t feel like killing myself was a big thing,” she adds.
“The therapy helps,” says Dr. Kapoor. “It helps you identify your inherent vulnerabilities, the root causes of your mental or psychological issues, and teaches you how to manage or change them through practice, motivation, guidance, and insightful awareness,” it adds. she.
However, not everyone feels the same. Tiwari thinks it all depends on which therapist you see. “I’ve heard so many stories of people going to bad therapists, spending so much money, and then complaining that the therapy is bad. It’s bad because you went to a bad therapist,” she adds.
Cost & duration
“Psychotherapy is a skill-based treatment, and therefore its value cannot be quantified by market trends,” says Dr. Kapoor. A session can last from 45 to 60 minutes. Depending on the qualification, experience, skills, therapeutic approach and location of the therapist, you can be charged between Rs 1,000 and Rs 10,000 per session, the doctor adds.
“The duration depends on several factors such as the goal of treatment, the patient’s responsiveness and psychosocial factors,” adds Dr Kapoor.
Is mental health care accessible?
To this day, Tiwari’s family does not know that she has undergone therapy. She believes access to mental health care is a ‘very privileged thing’ and only those who are financially independent can access it. Luckily for her, her doctor stepped in as a therapist and charged nothing but the normal consultation fee for the condition she was initially treating her for.
For Raj, the biggest obstacle standing between her and the care she needed was “stigma”. However, she feels therapy is now much more accessible than it was a few years ago. “Now you can even access it from the comfort of your bed,” she says.
Offline vs Online
“Online therapy makes therapy very accessible,” says Shipra Dawar, entrepreneur and founder of iWill, an online therapy platform. What’s more, it has “proven to be effective, especially when done in a systematic and structured way,” she says. Speaking of its usefulness, she says, online therapy allows you to seek help from anywhere. “You can access it privately, and there are fewer constraints to start and continue,” she adds.
Despite the benefits, the lack of therapist-client relationships remains one of its major drawbacks. Additionally, the therapist sometimes cannot see the client’s body language, which can reduce effectiveness. However, Dawar thinks otherwise. “Numerous global studies have highlighted [sic] that there is no connection difference between offline and online therapies. But it ultimately comes down to individual choice and circumstances. Additionally, online therapy is not a viable option for treating severe psychiatric disorders.
Pandemic and mental health
“The Covid-19 pandemic seems to have opened the floodgates to understanding what mental health is and why it matters,” according to Bengaluru-based Parivarthan, an NGO working in mental health since 1995. He There has been a marked increase in anxiety, depression, grief, and survivor guilt. Companies have also started to recognize the importance of mental health and why it should be facilitated, he says.
Access to mental health services, just like physical ones, is our fundamental right. And collectively, we have made progress towards de-stigmatizing it. It is high time therapy was considered as normal as a checkup for physical illness. Certainly, we have a long way to go.
Meanwhile, Tiwari attributes it to the timely intervention that she is alive today. “This is how therapy can be life changing,” she says. For Raj, there were several takeaways. “Our backgrounds are different, as are our privileges and our traumas. So why put unnecessary pressure by comparing yourself to others, ”she adds.