Not Just for Crazy People
“Ugh, I’m fine. I’m not suffering. And even if I am, I’m not in any measure crazy?! Plus, I surely ain’t going to tell my problems to a random stranger.”
All individuals live their lives and deal with environments differently, in manners they deem fit. However sometimes, due to unforeseen circumstances, or personal characteristics, people might not be able to cope with the challenges thrown at them. And this is where counselling comes in. In today’s fast-moving world, involving innumerable hardships and stresses on a daily basis, counselling has become a crucial field to invest into. According to various articles published from 2010-2020 in some of the major journals/newspapers in India such as The Times of India, counselling has become the need of the hour. Although there is no record of the number of counsellors currently practicing in India, their requirement has increased tremendously in fields such as healthcare, marriage and family and education (Bano, 2010; Fernandes, 2012; Masand, 2012). Yet, the suspicions around mental health services still remain. While there is surely an improvement in the number of people seeking mental health care in the country, this figure seems to be far from the reality for all people who need it. It is common awareness that there is not only a certain group who face challenges but everybody encounters issues and problems on a regular basis ("Counsellors - Better health channel", 2014). Almost all individuals have been in situations where they initially thought they cannot go any further. In such circumstances, a few take some time but manage on their own while some others might require help from their surroundings. At many such times, people become so caught up in the spiraling nature of their problem that it is difficult to see beyond it. Counselling caters to that very objective. It is not only for the demands of a certain section of the society but is open for anyone and everyone who is stuck and wants to be heard and helped.
In day to day routines, many people will recollect having played the role of a counsellor, times when they have ‘counselled’ their friends, siblings or peers. But professional counselling is different. It requires the awareness and knowledge about the systemic techniques and psychological theories, along with training in skills to apply them in real life settings (Sriram, 2016). It also involves following certain rules and regulations (called ethics) while dealing with the clients. The counsellor’s job is to provide hope to the client that things will improve and help them cope and together find solutions to their issues.
Another common misconception that blocks people from seeking help is their belief that only people of a certain background, age, or environment might require professional help (Thompson Jr., 2010). However, in today’s world where dynamics are fast changing and competition has increased for almost everything, even children from a very young age are susceptible to different stressors. Changing family relationships, increased academic and social pressures, bad influences of internet and media, intergroup attractions and conflicts, dealing with a disease/disability or environmental changes (such as the Covid-19 pandemic that the whole world is facing) have become potential reasons why anyone, from any walk of life might require help.
The reason people come in or are sent for counselling is either because they themselves want to alter/get out of a certain situation, or solve a problem, or because people around expect certain behaviours and etiquettes from them in a given environment. But, counselling or any other mental health service for that matter, is no magic. It isn’t fast. Change both cognitively and behaviourally is an important consequence in counselling. It is the basic premise on which counsellors’ function. And while this change is necessary, it cannot be coerced on anybody.Almost all psychologists believe that bringing about a change in thoughts, behaviours and feelings helps the client live a more productive and satisfying life. Specific goals set by both the counsellor and the client mutually together, help understand the requirement of a specific change and make the process a less distressing experience. There is either something in the person or in the environment/surrounding or may be in both, that needs to change, to make the individual better adjusted and function effectively. According to psychologists, L. S. Sudheer Manickam (2013) and Christina G. Hibbert (2012), change is difficult because most people don’t know how to change. Change isn’t easy. Change isn’t always wanted. But it can turn out to be good. Change is not a linear process but moves back and forth in spirals before becoming a concrete habit. Accordingly, change takes time and that’s why it’s normal for people to resist it. It takes a lot to leave and modify something that has been ‘normal’ for so long. (Tartakovky, n.d.) A therapist provides the client with a secure base to explore themselves. The therapeutic relationship helps the client to objectively understand how they handle themself in reality. Such understandings encourage the client to link past experiences with current behaviors and emotions. It also aids in realizing how their current perceptions can influence the conduct of present close relationships as well as their personal wellbeing. This in turn can help them build new mental models so that they can come to know and function more competently in future.
In conclusion, what all this information helps to highlight is not only that counselling isn’t for crazy/mental people. Rather, it aims to convey that maybe to some extent, all individuals experience bouts of craziness (when we don’t know what else to do) – that this is the new normal. Also, that while professional help can definitely seem scary, but it isn’t black magic with witches and potions. Therefore, help is available and asking for it is okay. And well, who knows? The ‘random stranger’ who you were too scared to meet all along as your counsellor, may turn out to be the nice helpful confidant you were always waiting for.