Let’s Talk: Understanding ABC’s of Mental Health Counseling in India

In India, counseling and therapy has long remained a taboo. Moreover, sometimes the inaccurate portrayals of mental health professionals in Bollywood and recent OTT platforms does not help with that taboo. Here, we will try to debunk the myths associated with the mental health settings while listing the criteria for an appropriate counseling environment.


First off, what is counseling? – It is a process wherein a licensed professional sits down with their client in hopes of working through any issues they might be facing. These issues could include constant stress, prolonged sadness, a traumatic event or extreme confusion regarding certain life choices, to name a few. However, choosing to go into a therapy or counseling session is not an easy decision to make. An individual must be motivated to a) acknowledge that they are undergoing an unusual experience which may be harming them in certain ways and b) acquire the courage to seek external help to ease their process of overcoming that hurtful or disturbing feeling/experience.

 Also Read : Accepting the change

One of the assumptions about therapy or counseling that does make individuals resistant to opt for it is the fact that even the counselor, however professional, is by the end of the day a human. Hence, they are always in the fear of being judged. However, one of the most important criteria for a good therapy/ counseling setting is that it is a:


A. Judgment-free zone

An appropriate and fit counseling environment provides you with a space where you are not judged or criticized. It is not a space where you are told that there is something wrong with you. A counselor will never pass judgment or offer criticism. Instead, they will support your right to voice your mind and show true acceptance of who you are. Counseling offers you a private, secure setting where you can be who you are and express your opinions without worrying about being criticized. Contrary to popular belief, a good therapist will never tell you that what you are experiencing is not unusual while also acknowledging that your situation is completely unique. 


B. Individualized experience

Just the way our reasons to go into therapy are unique to us, so is the process of therapy and counseling itself. Therapy is not one medicine that fits all. Depending on the issue of the client as well as their willingness to overcome the issue, therapy can take various forms. For example, therapy for a person with OCD looks very different from therapy for a person with a Personality Disorder. Therapy can also vary with respect to time. For instance, with some clients rapport is formed relatively easy and quickly while with others it takes a bit longer. Moreover, the time taken for therapy is not an indicator of the counselor’s efforts or expertise. Rather, time duration of therapy depends on many other factors such as motivation and will-power of the client, time taken for rapport formation, nature and severity of client’s concerns, clients’ pace of working towards their goals etc.

C. Confidentiality 

According to GoodTherapy, client confidentiality is the requirement that therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and most other mental health professionals protect their client’s privacy by not revealing the contents of therapy. It also includes protecting the client’s decision to even opt for therapy. A counselor must not acknowledge their client as a client if they see them at the cinema hall or anywhere outside of the counseling environment unless the client himself is comfortable with the acknowledgment and greeting. However, there are two main exceptions to this confidentiality criteria :

  1. A professional is allowed to break confidentiality if their clients are posing a threat to themselves
  2. Counselors may also break confidentiality if they sense signs of abuse in the client’s home, professional or school environment. It is the counselor’s ethical duty to report such instances.


D. Goal = Progress

Most often, the goals of therapy are not one-stop solutions. They are often skills and practices that one needs to gradually adopt as part of their lifestyle which help in the overall progress of an individual. The skills and practices could include effective individualized coping strategies, stronger self-esteem as well as acceptance. It does not show instantaneous results like medicine but helps an individual grow beyond their disturbing experience. Based on each client’s personality and experiences, each of their progress journeys pan a different graph. 

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