Counselling for depression: A journey within

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Psychotherapy could not be more unlike the many psychometric tests that are administered to evaluate a person’s aptitudes and skills. The process pertains to the acquisition of  the competencies required for a realistic self-appraisal of one’s emotional state of being. It is intended to help a person take charge of himself  through enhanced self-awareness.

The judgement whether one needs greater self-awareness and the decision to actively seek specialised intervention is itself subjective. A person who feels he needs to stay connected to himself avails of the service of a psychotherapist. Somebody  who finds his daily life directionless, unsuccessful, unfulfilling and unworthy in other ways should consider consulting a counsellor because these mental states can be corrected permanently through developing the requisite emotional coping skills. Conversely, they could prove extremely counterproductive, even debilitating, if allowed to persist over a long period. After all, whether you recognise it or not, how you feel influences what you think and what you think determines what you do or do not do.

Many of us grow up believing that we did not cause the miseries we live through and therefore cannot alter them. Therapy offers an alternative route wherein you begin to differentiate between matters that are within your individual control and those that lie outside your purview of influence. You thus actively address the former and stop agonising over the latter.

A therapist is not somebody who pretends to propose solutions to your problems. Instead, he is one who helps you find your own solutions.Very early in my therapy sessions, the counsellor drew my attention to an important comparison concerning  contemporary life. We discuss current affairs, sport and entertainment with anybody and everybody, he noted. But when it comes to  matters of the mind, meaning our emotions, we treat them, he observed, as entirely and extremely private affairs and consequently give them far less attention and consideration than they merit. These latter are sought to be addressed in therapy.

A therapist is not somebody who pretends to propose solutions to your problems. Instead, he is one who helps you find your own solutions. He is a facilitator of this journey of self-discovery. Its effectiveness or otherwise is entirely contingent upon how you, as a client, approach your interactions with the therapist.

In a typical session, a frank, open and honest articulation of one’s troubles or anxieties often produces the most fruitful results. For one thing, such ventilation is an end in itself. That is to say, it instantly relieves a huge emotional baggage, which is invaluable in its own way. Once cleared of the toxic feelings, the mind automatically begins to focus attention on the problem in a dispassionate and clinical manner. Ventilation is, in that sense, also a means to an end.

It is relatively easy to express one’s anger, sorrow, a sense of betrayal and so on. Conversely, it is that much harder to face up to one’s own shortcomings, flaws, dishonesty, deceit and other aspects of one’s personality. But in the end, somebody who can be honest in relation to both the above aspects stands a better chance of getting a hold over his emotions.

The release of emotions in a therapy session is a structured process of acknowledgement or stock-taking of  what  has happened. A therapist actively listens to what is being expressed. The word active is important here. Unlike family and friends, he does not sit in judgement over what he hears. He is a disinterested party to the conversation. He does not react immediately with statements to the effect that this is right and that is wrong. By lending his ear, he facilitates clarity on the issues that confront a person. One day soon, you will make all those judgements independently, comfortably and confidently. That benefit is something to be felt and experienced first-hand; and over a duration of time.

The benefits spelt out in the above paragraphs, even when they become apparent, do not accrue to your account instantly. They rise to the surface and recede just as quickly as the waves on the oceans. You come out of a session feeling on top of the world. You go back into the next one again with the same seemingly intractable dilemmas. It is hence important to persist in the conversation, session after session, with a view to learn how to  accept the highs and the lows with equanimity.

A competent therapist never becomes involved in the life of a client; he merely engages with the issues that are presented before him. An ethically scrupulous professional is seldom seen chasing clients for the next appointment. That is usually the latter’s call.

The rewards from psychotherapy are both instantaneous and long-term. That is the secret of its efficacy and appeal to those who have the patience to persevere. More important, it is not driven by a time-bound or deadline-dictated programme that a client is expected to complete. It is rather an exercise the individual in question initiates and carries forward at his own pace. Happy therapy.

(The author wishes to remain anonymous)