“Hey, you’re a counselor, na, listen I have a problem right now. And anyway you’re free now na, you just have to listen to this.”

ALL counselors and therapists have heard this at least once in their lives. It doesn’t have to be necessarily from a friend. It could be from a family member or someone who knows that you’re a therapist. While your intention might have been to get help, what you’re asking for is a lot. Especially if you don’t have the intention to pay. Counselling, as a profession, is not all that easy as people might assume it to be. Therapy Concepts Everyone Needs to Know | NAMI: National Alliance ...

“It’s only listening, na.” 

But, no. It is not just listening.
Counselling is more than that. It is listening, reflecting, being part of someone’s life. It requires immense emotional input from the therapist’s side and not to mention years of training.

“If your intention is to help, then why don’t you do it for free?”

Typically no profession works completely free of charge. Mental health counseling and psychotherapy also is the same. Counselling is a professional career, whether people think of it as one or not.

“But a lot of professionals promote free sessions, especially during this pandemic.”

Yes, a lot of mental health professionals are offering free services, which is great.  There are two aspects to this that users of mental health services need to be aware of.

The first being that there are several individuals and collectives offering free mental health services for individuals who are mentally impacted by the current pandemic. As you access these free services it is important to ascertain a few things such as who is offering these services? What are the terms of these services? Will the person be able to provide the kind of services you need based on the intersectionality of problems you may be experiencing? And is confidentiality provided? to name a few. Ideally looking at databases generated by well established NGOs, Rehabilitation Council of India and the Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists will be the first places to reach out.

Now here is the second and more nuanced aspect to all this. Indian mental health scenario is not the same as one in the west where insurance takes care of the service nor is it supported as it should be as an essential service for all, allowing the necessary structure, support and backing by councils and national boards to work towards a unified way of deploying service needed in a time like this. While efforts continue, many mental health therapists are small business owners who do the best they can with the means they have to disseminate necessary services.

We are not giant MNCs with venture capitalist backing to ensure we don’t loose our jobs yet maintain the  needed clout to sail out of situations like these.

Mental Health Professions will continue to offer services, even free services not only because it is their profession but also because therapists are good at keeping others at the forefront of their care than themselves. But doing that, in the time of pandemic, means that they also are on a crunch and this can lead to dismantling of entrepreneurial services that mental health practitioners are able to provide.

While free therapy is an important service to offer keep these points in mind to choose professionals and support small business owners who are some of the best in the field. Mental health should be accessible to everyone, it should also be noted that accessible does not always mean free. Talk to your therapist and see what can be worked with in times like this. 

Omaiha Walajahi


Pause for Perspective