Getting therapy: Easier said than done

When we discuss mental health, therapy is one of the first things that come to mind

author_img Likhitha Prasanna Published :  09th October 2021 12:36 PM   |   Published :   |  09th October 2021 12:36 PM
Psychotherapy-world-mental-health-day

Psychotherapy-world-mental-health-day

A therapy can be a triggering word for many. Accepting that you need help and volunteering to it need a lot of strength.

“When your behaviour, emotions or thoughts create socio-occupational dysfunction, if you are unable to interact with peers or family members or work and study effectively, that is the time you must go for therapy. Emotional outbursts or mild disturbances are common, but if they get to an extent where it strains your relationships or career, you need to seek help,” he says.

But how easy is getting help? Amira Nadia (name changed), 24, went to at least four therapists in and around Kochi, but felt like it only made things worse.

“They would take way too much money, but had little accountability. I knew they were not doing it right. After a lot of research, I found the therapist I am with now, and it has helped me incredibly,” she says.

Also read | World Mental Health Day: When it comes to psychotic illnesses, are we equipped to help?

Ironically, health department officials reveal that there are only 17 clinical psychologist posts under the department in Kerala. In effect, the poor have to depend on private psychologists, whose qualifications are not verified and the charges are very high. The minimum charge for a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) session in the state starts from Rs 800 while that of Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy starts from Rs 2,000.

What is worse is the fact that Kerala does not even have a clinical psychology department. Instead, it is an assistive segment under the department of psychiatry. Though the Centre had given green light for starting independent clinical psychology departments in Kottayam, Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur Medical College Hospitals during the tenure of the LDF government from 2006 to 2011, it never materialised, said an official. Since there is no department, there is no unified charge for therapies in the state either. There is hardly any data on therapists or patients, and most of them are with private practitioners.

Traume or therapy?

Your therapist is supposed to help you feel better. But what happens when they are not equipped to handle it? “Absolute nightmare. You feel like you are beyond help,” says Rakhi (name changed), who was taken to a psychologist in Kozhikode by her family to ‘fix’ her sexual orientation. Here are some more bitter experiences:

‘Religion is the answer’
In 2015 — one of the darkest years of my life — I went to see a psychologist in Kadavanthra, Kochi. Coming from an extremely dysfunctional family, I was finding it hard to make friends. I was slipping into alcoholism and severe substance abuse. At the first session, I cried to him for nearly two hours. And then, he put a Bible on my head, asked me to take it home and pray. Being an agnostic raised in a religious family, that was it for me.

‘Can you make it fast?’
In 2018, I was seeing a therapist, who was running an institution in Palakkad. She would visit Kochi every week and consult her patients in a dingy office she had taken on rent. Since day one, she didn’t seem interested in what I had to say. She would check her phone constantly. One day, while I was telling her about how I was abused by my school bus driver as a kid, she told me, “Please make it fast, my train is in half an hour!”. 

‘Just have a kid, it will be fine’
I had an arranged marriage back in 2014. A year later, I was almost sure that we were not a compatible couple, especially because my wife was being increasingly emotionally abusive. When she became pregnant, I was sure I didn’t want to go ahead with it. We were living in Dubai, so I came down with her and decided to see a lady therapist. After multiple sessions with my wife and together, very little changed. My wife told her I drink and have friends, which the therapist said are bad habits, and completely discredited the lack of space I experienced in the relationship. Finally, when I told her I am not comfortable having a child at that point, she snitched about it to my parents! 

‘All he wrote down was cannabis addiction’
After dropping out of an architecture college and dealing with some personal losses, I was in a terrible place. The only people I thought could help me were my parents. I was in my final year of college and had no backlogs, but I would wake up in the middle of the night and throw up, cry uncontrollably. I was confused and so were my parents. I was taken to a psychologist, and all he wrote down on his pad was how I smoked weed in college. It was obvious that wasn’t the only problem, but he didn’t seem to care. He put me on medication, sleeping pills mostly, and that made things only worse. Eventually, I came out of that phase myself. Spoke to my parents, they gave me another chance to get my life together and now I am better.

- With inputs from Anupama Mili.

Also read | World Mental Health Day: Clinical burnout — Understand your exhaustion

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