Have you heard that Beatles song, With A Little Help From My Friends? Sir Ringo Starkey or Ringo Starr belted out the lyrics, “What do I do when my love is away? Does it worry you to be alone? How do I feel by the end of the day? Are you sad because you're on your own? No, I get by with a little help from my friends.” There’s no denying that we all need a little help sometimes. Besides, who hasn’t felt like there are some things that are best shared with a stranger or someone completely removed from your personal life? And while you may hesitate to seek help, there’s no shame and it’s definitely not a sign of weakness.
Most people, if not all are hesitant to ask for help due to the stigma that is attached with mental health in our society. Dr Sameer Kalani, senior consultant psychiatrist and centre head, Sukoon Health, Gurgaon explains, “The fear of being judged by people, as well as limited knowledge about what therapy entails is one of the major reasons why it is difficult to ask for help”. However, discussions in recent times has opened up the gateway to understand mental health and seek professional help whenever need. “Trends are changing for the better in the 21st century, as more educated, salaried, and exposed are open to the idea of enrolling in counselling/therapy programs,” adds Dr Kalani.
If you intend to reach out to a therapist, but are not entirely sure on how to ask for help, think of it as contacting a doctor for a medical issue. This helps break the barrier you may have about therapy in mind and eases the process of reaching out. Manvi Sharma, a counselling psychologist, currently studying Narrative Therapy from the Dulwich Centre, Australia explains, “Like you would consult your family doctor or a general physician if you have a lingering cold or flu, in a similar manner, you must reach out to a counsellor if personal or professional stressors are affecting your physical functionality. For example, you’re having trouble sleeping, you’ve lost your appetite, and you’re moody or constantly irritable.” Alternately, Sharma suggest taking up a hobby to de-stress like cooking, art, dance, or even journaling as a step before seeking professional help.
There is never a bad time to ask for help. You could also reach out to a therapist even when things are seemingly well in your life. “Each individual goes through ups and downs in life. What determines the quality of life is how we deal with our ups and downs. We recommend reaching out to a therapist when times are good and life seems to be going well. This helps us understand what we are doing right, and if times get tough we can manage that period in our lives better”, suggests Dr Kalani.
Before you do seek professional help, it pays to do a little research before booking that appointment Sharma recommends ticking off important points from the following checklist:
- To know whether your various mental health concerns will be properly addressed, make sure the professional you approach is qualified to treat you. The minimum requirement is a Master's Degree in either psychology, applied psychology, counselling, or clinical psychology from a University Grants Commission (UGC) recognised university in India. Therapists who have earned their degrees from an international institution must have suitable associations and affiliations. Clinical psychologists work with clinical populations and must hold an MPhil from Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) recognised institute and must be a licensed clinical psychologist with a valid RCI number.
- A psychologist will not prescribe any medications. Only a psychiatrist is licensed to do that. However, depending upon your condition, a psychologist may refer you to a psychiatrist.
- Some qualities that one must look for in a therapist are, if they are non-judgmental, trauma informed, adopt a collaborative approach on your road to recovery, open to suggestions, supportive in your journey, queer affirmative, take regular feedback on your sessions, and refer you to another therapist if they are unable assist you, or are not trained to deal with your particular concern.
Reaching out to a mental health professional is a sign of strength and courage, and reflects your willingness to get better, so don’t be ashamed or let anyone make you feel inadequate. “Recovery is a lifelong process, and acknowledging the problem is a milestone in itself”, concludes Dr Kalani.