From the desk of a psychologist!

Archive for the ‘Online Counseling’ Category

Upgrade your self!

I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way                                       199260_1944591455313_1258298182_32372566_4581018_n

I love this song. It sums it all. I am fine the way God has made me and should be proud of it.

Then why the world talks about changing? They say it’s never too late to change your life or your life doesn’t get better by chance, it gets better by change and so on.

When you think about it in this way it is confusing, you get entangled in your thoughts.

Actually it is quite simple. We all are born in a certain way ( which is beautiful & perfect) but we need up gradation.

Think of it as a software which is inbuilt in your system but needs constant update otherwise it will be obsolete. You need to imbibe change to stay away from spam and run antivirus regularly.

We are born perfect but in our journey of life we catch a lot of viruses. These corrupt the system, that is why the need of CHANGE is there.

As a child we are pure, perfect and that’s our true self. As we grow our values, beliefs & attitudes are altered through our life’s experiences. We keep on putting layers on our true selves to hide our insecurities & challenges.

It’s time to stop, reflect, get rid of the many layers ( viruses) and accept our true beautiful self.

Trust me nothing is going to be more EMPOWERING!

Addiction in India: The War Goes On!

I am so thankful to Aamir Khan for giving voice to an  important & relevant major cause, which exists in our country but no one is willing to listen. I am an addiction counselor, who came back to my country with huge dreams of  changing the world of addiction treatment here. But am not ashamed today to accept  that I left my struggle because it was full of hurdles.  I am so grateful that today after watching Mr. Khan’s episode of Satyamev Jayate, my candle of hope has started burning again.

I have worked in various addiction treatment setups in India and it is sad but a fact, that most of them are only there to mint money. No one has a clue of what works. Because people are needy they trust them which is then misused. I was a part of this system. It made me question my integrity and disturbed me. I wanted to help but didn’t know how. I realized how much it means to me to find the answers. I traveled to the hub of addiction study, United States of America, and completed my chemical dependency certification and worked there for some time. It helped me understand this dubious disease in a better way.

I came back with huge dreams and hit the reality pretty soon. It was a WAR against the age-old mindset. I gave up but with time I had learnt one important lesson that I am not here to change the nation but to give something back to the society. Even if one person learns something from this blog, I would think that my goal is achieved. I have this powerful tool of my blog today and this post goes for the passion of my life… Addiction. Though in the show the talk was only about alcohol but here we are going to talk about addiction, whether alcohol or any other chemical ( marijuana, cigarette, cocaine etc.). The disease remains the same.

We have a very sorry state of addiction in our country. There are so many prevalent misconceptions & myths that there is no help for it.  I would like to put some light on this topic through an Indian perspective:   

  • Addiction is a disease not a bad habit or moral issue: Why in a party some people can be decent drinkers while a few make a fool of themselves. People actually wait for them to bring entertainment in a lifeless party.

I will give an example to make you understand it in a better way. Two friends decide to go for a drink. Let’s say Mr. X & Mr. Y.

Mr. X suffers from addiction while Mr. Y has no such disease. When they have the drink, Mr. Y may enjoy it but for Mr. X it is a new never  felt  before state. Mr. X is never going to forget about it.

  • Chasing the dragon: Then the chase starts. An addict, every time when goes under influence, it is with the wish of reaching the same state it felt the first time. This never happens only the substance keeps on increasing.
  • Tolerance is not good: How many times have you heard someone boasting that I can hold my drink . The biggest indicator of chemical dependency is increased tolerance of the substance.
  • The different stages of the disease: It’s an ongoing treadmill which ranges from experimentation, use, abuse to dependency on the substance. If you have the disease and you introduce your drug of choice to your body, this is how the disease will progress.
  • Hit the rock bottom:

Tony Robbins once said there are two things that motivate people to make dramatic changes in their lives: inspiration and desperation. In the journey of addiction recovery, there needs to be a kick which can stop us from the journey of  self-destruction.

Practical Spirituality

One useful thing which I have discovered from my sessions is the concept of ‘ Practical Spirituality’. Now, what on earth does this complicated word mean?

There are two basic kinds of human beings; the saints & the commoner.

The saints are those, who are free from the  boundaries of  greed, materialistic comfort, emotional needs or any temptation. They are the ones we seek to guide us. For them spirituality is a way of life and by looking at them we do get inspired but at the same time anything which they do seem very unapproachable to us. We take it as something which could only be appreciated but not replicated and in a way it is true that leading a saint like life is quite a challenge.

Let’s come to our level, i.e., a common man’s life. This life is full of challenges and comes with its own share of goods and bads. Everyday is a struggle between our angel and devil side. Some days the angel wins over the devil while some days the opposite happens. There is an ongoing war of choices going on inside us, which is mainly between right and wrong. It is always easier to pick up the wrongs because they come in attractive packages and also tempts us with the shortest route to our materialistic gains. But these choices somewhere also start damaging our inside harmony and disconnects us from ourselves.

The saints, we know, leave everything because the worldly glitter is too tempting. They don’t want distractions. Their main and only goal is to find the answers of their existence. They renounce to rediscover.

Our goal is mixed; we want to acquire in this world but also there is a need to understand our entity. There are various needs in us, ranging from materialistic , emotional to self actualization. When this need is not met, we become disturbed and restless. We start seeking answers from places which are incapable to do so. If the awareness of our real need doesn’t dawn on us, we start walking on a destructive path. We start filling our voids with unhealthy habits.

One major question here is:

Is it possible to find a midway which is spiritual but also connects us with this world?

I get this from a lot of people that Spirituality & Worldly are two opposite worlds. There is a strong belief that to find goodness you’ve to leave everything in this world and start living a monk life. I disagree strongly, Divine is inside us…Why are we convinced to find it in the outside world?  Sometimes a sacred bliss could be found in a simple worldly hug you give or receive from a person.

From this thought emerges the concept of ‘Practical Spirituality’. Find your connection to yourself, as worldly possible as it could be. For a common man, it is impossible to leave his responsibilities and obligations and go in search of himself. Even when he tries to lead a life as a good person, he has to consider a lot of pros and cons on an every day basis. Then why does he need to leave everything to be spiritual? Why can’t he find his road of spirituality embedded in his everyday life only?

Spirituality is a very simple concept ( No, it is not a typo).

It is trying to find an answer to your very existence, who are you & what is the purpose of your being in this world? We are all born with innate goodness and there is a lifelong magnetic attraction towards this divine part of us.   

For some, it takes ages to figure it out while for others it is there without even asking. It becomes more complicated when you start looking for it as a thing found rarely . This world is full of spiritual experiences, it is just that we tend to ignore it because we can’t believe that something so talked about could be found or experienced so easily.

Let’s talk about how can we be a part of this world and at the same time be as spiritual as possible:

  • The first step is to try to be a good human being, whether religious or not is another thing. Religion could be an excellent way of finding spirituality but not the only way.
  • Try not to hurt anyone’s feelings. It is very difficult to be at peace when you know you’ve disturbed someone else.
  • Sometimes just shut your mind & listen to your heart! This will connect you more to yourself than any other spiritual talk.
  • Have faith in a higher power.
  • Choose happiness & positives.
  • Stay away from being judgmental. Always try to be open-minded.
  • Live in the moment.

“There is a bridge to the sky within your soul and a doorway to healing and peace within your heart.

If we look inside and embrace our true essence we bless the source of life.”

– Micheal Teal

Counseling Simplified!

I talk a lot about counseling. I’ll go on and on about it but what does it really mean and most importantly how it helps?

I am an Indian, so by default I am surrounded by people who speak in computer language. But sometimes I feel lost between them. They take it for granted that everyone must be aware of their basic terms like  Download, WiFi, Java etc. I try to keep pace but sometimes it sounds like gibberish and I lose my interest. On observation, I found out that most of the professionals do this; they mix their own basic terminology and unconsciously expect the whole world to understand it.

I am no exception. When I talk to people I expect them to know the meaning of PsychologyMental HealthCounseling etc.

If a person is not able to understand the basic terminologies,                                                      

how do you expect them to follow your discussion. It is more

like standing in a crowd where people are talking in a language,

which you have no clue about. Certainly you will loose your audience, let

alone convey your message to them.

So, today I decided to break this thought and start with the basics of counseling.

The first doubt which I want to clear is the difference between a Psychiatrist & a Psychologist. This is the most common place, where I have seen, a lot of people getting confused.

1. The major difference is in their degrees; A Psychiatrist is a Medical Doctor ( M.B.B.S.) while a Psychologist has Psychology Degree.

2. A Psychiatrist can prescribe you medication while a Psychologist uses psychotherapy/ counseling like behavioral, Psychoanalytic, Humanistic, Cognitive therapy etc.

3. Psychiatrist usually deals with mentally sick patients while a Psychologist caters to the wellness of emotional& mental health.

So here, I am going to be talking  about Psychologist, for the simple reason that I am one.

So, what we basically do is Psychotherapy/Counseling. A lot of therapists are going to have a problem with this statement of mine because if we go deep down in Psychology there are some minute differences between these two.

The goal of this post is to make things easier to understand and to stick to our aim, we are going to use counseling for both counseling & psychotherapy. Lets try to understand what exactly is Counseling first, I am sharing a definition which makes a lot of sense to me:

According to the professional body for counselling and psychotherapy in Scotland, COSCA: ” Counselling and psychotherapy are ways of responding to a wide range of human needs. Counselling and psychotherapy provide opportunities for those seeking help to work towards ways of living in more satisfying and resourceful ways. ”

Counseling is not only about the major problems of life but is a tool which could help you resolve something as simple as every day’s issue and concerns. It helps you make full use of your potentials and allows you to get rid of the hindrances in  leading a happy and contended life.

A lot of people think that if you’re seeking the help of someone else you are weak. This is a myth because counseling empowers you. Sometime you, yourself aren’t aware of your strengths, finding those hidden strengths is a byproduct of the counseling process. It makes you more independent than ever.

A Psychologist is a non judgmental person, who helps you in understanding your problem and working on it objectively in a methodological way. In counseling, you will never be told what to do instead the options are laid in front of you and you are equipped with skills to help you choose the best option for yourself.

I love to give this example to understand it in a better way;

I am sure all of us has been photographed whether we like it or not. We always ask ( or want to ask) the camera man about how are we looking?

Why do we do it?

Simple, because the cameraman can see the picture and we can’t.  Same is the case with our lives, sometimes we get so entangled in the details that we can’t see the full view objectively.

You have been given a life, go ahead nurture it, if anything is stopping you to do so, you now know what to do about it 🙂

The Sorry State of ‘ Mental Health’ in India

The World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
We Indians, have major issues in understanding this definition let alone apply it. Somehow, we have come to terms with the physical well being part of it but the other two, still an alien thought. We can easily follow all sorts of Babas and Soothsayers but will never accept the need to look after our Mental Health.

Almost every day the newspaper is full of reports about people ending their lives or going on a destructive path for reasons which could be easily dealt with, if taken proper care of. In our country, we are happy to be doomed but no one should call us crazy. We live with our problems, stress, difficulties, issues, in our self-made façade. Even our relatives and friends help us in covering our so-called weaknesses. It’s a pathetic state which is seeking awareness and help.

When do we know we need to take care of our mental health and how do we do it?

I would like to ask you a question in response to the above one:

How do you know you are physically not well? Your answers could be anything like; lethargy, tiredness, feeling sick, headache etc. Your next step usually is to take care of it by yourself and if it is something beyond your expertise, you find a doctor to help you, so that you can lead a healthy life.

The same signals are sent by our brain , when we need to take care of our mental health.  We go through an inability to be happy or experience positive emotions. Our lives become difficult and we carry it like a baggage.

Now, there is a difference between what should we do about this problem and what we do? We should, in this case also, seek an expert for help to make us healthier but generally we don’t do it.  We keep on dealing with it ourselves making it worse with each passing day.

I wouldn’t blame the people of my country entirely for the negligence in this field but there are a lot of other reasons for the stigma attached to seeking mental health care:

1. Lack of Awareness: Till today, everyone thinks if you are not on the streets with torn clothes, staring at space, you have perfect mental state. No one ( that includes all the literate people) will ever recommend counseling for a friend. If you are a good friend, you’ll help him/her by helping them hide their problems not dealing with them.

I’ll recommend you to start seeking answers. If there is something bothering you look out for solutions. Until you ask, you aren’t going to get answers.

2. No one could help me: This is a feeling which stops most of us from seeking help. Sometimes we are not able to decide whether we even need help or not.

It is always better to get a second opinion because if you are in a situation it becomes impossible to take it objectively.

3. An Outside help for my problem is a taboo: It is difficult to admit that there are problems which need to be sorted and for that we need help.

What we don’t understand here is counseling works on the strengths rather than the weaknesses. It equips you with the skills to deal with your issues making you stronger and more independent than ever.

4. Lack of Mental Health Professionals: Even if you decide you need help, where do you suppose to go after that? Our country lacks good credible professionals in the mental health area. People are scared to go to a person and be exploited with their innermost feelings.

I’ll recommend checking and finding the right kind of specialist. Do your homework. There is a shortage of reliable professionals but that doesn’t mean there are none. It may take more work. Only go to a person, you can trust. It may mean you have to do some trial and error.

Thanks to technology now we have the amazing world of online counseling . You need not come out and announce it to the whole world but discreetly could seek help. We, Indians are born IT savvy. I have seen the participation of small, remote cities on social networking sites.

It is high time to build the courage to ask for help. It is in our hands to suffer till we want to. There is a huge misconception in our country, that you only visit a mental health practitioner, if you have major issues. It is not true!

I would like to take an example, which I often use, life is like a road and it is normal to get road bumps in it. It could be in the form of relationship issues, adjustment problems, stress etc. You need to slow down and sort it before speeding up again on the track, otherwise your vehicle of life will topple down.

Come out of the taboo and take care of yourself in the real sense. You need to nurture what is given to you. Take the step, if there is a need…Reach out. You need not make a scene or announce it to the whole world. Find a person, who could help.

Nothing is going to stop you in finding a way, if you make it your priority to take care of yourself!

Why Online Counseling?

When I decided to choose the line of psychology and become a therapist, I never thought I’ll one day advocate Online Counseling. To be very honest, in our time there was no field  called as online counseling. Technology was still finding its place at that time. I had the full intention of becoming a traditional counselor and I did so too. Gradually I started hearing the term ” online counseling” and I thought must be a way of fooling people. My personal belief was no proper certified psychologist will do this. I found it below my level!

And as they say a little knowledge is dangerous, it made me naïve and think like a fool.Today, after gaining some knowledge in this field, I am at a very different stage . I started online counseling as a way of helping someone, who was just not in a situation to come out and look for a therapist. It started because there was no other alternative but became one of my biggest tool today. So, here I am with the reasons why I find online counseling an emerging way of helping those, who really need it but can’t get it in the traditional face to face way. Lets start with what in the first place counseling is ? Here is a power point to shed some light on the definition of counseling:

counseling

This was about counseling and why do we need it.

Now there could be two situations pertaining to this : you need something and you go ahead and fulfill it but many times, due to various reasons there are issues which hinders you achieving your need. Same goes for counseling, lets talk about the different issues which can make the conventional face to face counseling difficult for a person :

Lack of resources : In our country finding a trained qualified therapist is a tough job. You recognise the need for counseling and try to find a therapist but it becomes difficult and gradually you leave hope. The extra stress of looking for a counselor,who really can help  is something which only adds to your misery.

The taboo of visiting a shrink : ” Oh my God, is everything alright?”, ” Do you want to share with me about it”, “Are you crazy?” are some general reactions and apart from these questions there are also the judgmental looks to go through. You really need to be superhuman to not to be bothered by them.

Busy schedule: sometime you just are so occupied that finding time becomes an issue. You want to see a therapist but when?

No travelling time & stress: India has many great things to boast of but traffic is not one of them and if you’re in one of the big cities, God bless you!

Being in your comfort zone:  If you’re troubled, going to an alien place feels traumatic. Just the security of being in your house give you the courage of starting the process. I have known so many people who have made the phone call but when the time came to visit the therapist, they just were not able to do so.

These are my general reasons of trying to prove that online counseling can be a good way for people who needs counseling but unable to reach out to a therapist’s center but now the million dollar question is ” What is online counseling and how is it carried out?”

It is actually very simple and straightforward.Online counseling is the provision of professional counseling services concerns via the Internet. Services are typically offered via email,real-time chat, and video conferencing.

So, the different medium of video conferencing could be:

            

A very good way which has emerged for group therapy & self-help groups is Google+ hangouts.

This was a glimpse of online therapy and what it has to offer. I am sure it must be a great feeling to know that YOU HAVE OPTIONS! 

If this article has left you with questions brewing in your mind…Go ahead and ask, it is not going to hurt anyone 🙂

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