It is an effort towards bringing healing, growth, and wholeness to hurting individuals and families. (Homeshanti.org)
Their team of trained counselors are committed to bringing peace to homes by restoring broken relationships, helping parents integrate with their children, building strong meaningful relationships in marriage and family by offering professional and spiritual help.
In this interview, Home Shanti counselors give us insight into the reality that despite all the access to social networking, despite living just one floor away in apartments, people are still lonely and depressed. Most disorders and even some physical illnesses come from not dealing with those heart matters, however trivial they may seem. A discord with a mother-in-law or another family member may not be too much of a problem for some, but for some others, it could affect their physical, emotional and mental health to the point of minimizing effective functionality.
Here are their responses to questions that most people have about counseling and the answers to help you tackle your counseling dilemma.
- Counseling is a word interchanged with guidance or advice giving, who is a professional counselor /a therapist?
Counseling is a field that has come up in the recent past in India. It is a process of coming alongside an individual to alleviate emotional distress, by unraveling individuals’ potential, improving coping mechanisms, thereby helping individuals solve their own problems, using their own resources. Frequently, counseling is misunderstood as advice giving, or guidance. People often come in to the therapist’s office seeking advice, and quick fix solutions to their problems. It emphatically needs to be understood that counseling is not telling people what to do and what their world or life should look like or fixing their relationship for them. In fact, a certain kind of normalcy is etched only when perspectives are gained, options are explored, and healthy boundaries are established.
A professional counselor is someone who has completed training in the field of counseling in varying degrees; and has a certification or diploma with supervised training. A professional counselor has experience working with individuals, families or groups in treating emotional, behavioral problems and other disorders using various techniques and therapies.
- Who does counseling benefit or who needs counseling?
The short answer is everyone! The long answer to this question would be that counseling is for anyone who would like to improve their life, gain new perspectives, disentangle from stagnancy, help stimulate and acknowledge potentials and options for well- being. People may feel bashful about seeking professional help and some others adjudicate strongly that therapy is only for severely mentally unsound people, but the unvarnished truth is that everyone wants to be listened to and have a safe space where they are able to share predicaments without fear and disparagement.
Counseling is about being open about your struggles, your strengths, happiness, and also being challenged and vulnerable to receive counsel from an unbiased, objective, trained person. Counseling will only enhance the quality of life, help clarify goals, create workable strategies for well-being.
- When is it suggested to see a counselor?
You may choose to see a counselor any time you feel like talking to someone to resolve struggles within yourself or others; when you feel you need that extra care and attention about life issues that you are facing.
Counseling is for when you feel stuck, not able to move forward in life as planned, when you perceive and discern that there is a need for you to overcome certain habits, and especially when you are facing a difficult situation in your life. It is advantageous to seek out a therapist before the problem spreads out and intensifies.
- There is a notion that only married counselors can understand marriage problems and therefore help with marriage issues. Is it essential to only see a counselor who is married to alleviate marriage problems?
The key to change does not depend on the counselor’s marital status or age. The experience of their married life alone will not bring about out effective changes and maturity does not depend upon age either. One does not have to go through similar situations or experiences to know or identify pain and discomfort.
Counselors who practice marriage and family counseling, are equipped exclusively in counseling methods for family counseling. Whether married or unmarried, counselors are trained to identify problem areas and help couples in need.
- What should I expect from a counselor?
You may expect your counselor to listen respectfully with an unbiased attitude. You may also expect them to maintain confidentiality, to be honest about the therapies and techniques that are used in the sessions and to work with you at a pace that is comfortable. A good counselor will not intrude or push you towards change unless you are ready for it or you desire it. Good counselors are trained to convey empathy, warmth, respect and patience while facilitating the sessions.
However, you can expect your sessions to be intensely challenging. It is common to feel unwanted memories and intense emotions surfacing in the sessions. The key is to remember the importance of feeling the pain in order to heal. Beneath the ugliness, heartaches, and pain lies unimaginable hidden beauty. We have to tend our hearts, discipline ourselves, be vulnerable with a trustworthy counselor and train ourselves to be patient in the journey of finding that beauty no matter how hard or painful it may be.
- How long does therapy or counseling take? Does therapy always have to be a long process?
The length of the therapy differs from person to person. Each session lasts about one hour to one – and — half hours long. The duration of counseling sessions depends upon the severity and intensity of the problems faced and how well people are able to adopt healthy habits and move toward change.
A study published in 2001 in the Journal of Counseling Psychology stated that clients were able to improve dramatically between the seventh and tenth session. Sometimes, people even find relief in the first or the second session itself, but it is suggested to not terminate sessions abruptly without communicating with your counselor.
The notion that ‘once in therapy, always in therapy’ is not true. People can live constructively after a certain period without therapy once the necessary skills are acquired. However, just like a garden needs to be tended to look its best, we do have to be careful in tending our hearts and lives to be our best, as weeds tend to return. Therefore, it is good to remain attentive, introspective, and mindful about healthy and sound emotional living.
- People hesitate coming for counseling for the fear of their privileged information being exposed. What measures do counselors take to protect what is shared in the session?
As sensitive issues are discussed and brought out in the sessions, counselors are legally bound to confidentiality. Counselors will not disclose your concerns of any kind to others without prior and written permission to do so. They are, however, required to breach the code of confidentiality, in the case of self- harm (ex: suicide), harming others, and in the case of national threat. The code of confidentiality is explained to the counselee in detail in the first session.
- Can counselors or psychologists read minds?
This is a question that is frequently asked by many. Counselors or psychologists do not read minds, but they are trained to observe verbal and non- verbal behaviors, patterns and emotions projected. Accurate stating of your feelings and emotions reflects the ability of trained counselors to be attuned to their clients. This should not be confused with the ability to read minds.
- What suggestions do you have to ensure people get the best out of counseling?
There are several things, but mainly I would say make the following your priority to make your time in counseling worthwhile.
- Be on time for your sessions: This shows respect to your counselor and that you value time. This also helps in moving along with the sessions in a non-hurried fashion, providing ample time to cover what you have intended to cover.
- Be committed to progress and change inside the therapy room as well as outside: No matter how hard it may be, be committed to change. It is healthy to remember that we all are imperfect and a continual work in progress. There is nothing to be ashamed of during the journey. Be committed to completing any assignments agreed upon in the counseling session before the next session. This also conveys your interest and commitment in working towards change even outside the therapy room.
- Communicate with your therapist: This is an important one on the list to make sure that your time in therapy is worthwhile. Whether you are feeling connected or not, whether your needs and expectations are being met or not, please communicate and be honest about your experience in counseling with your counselor, giving them a chance to modify, redirect, and attend to your needs in a beneficial way.
- When it is appropriate to discontinue counseling sessions?
There are many reasons due to which clients choose to end therapy. Sometimes, it is because they have achieved the goals and regained strength and vision back for life; sometimes, it is because of a lack of connection with the therapist. It may also be that they want to take a break, or even because they are not yet ready to take that plunge for a major change. If you choose to end therapy for these or for any other reasons, it is important to communicate your desire to your therapist. This ensures that you have better closure and honor the work done and the therapeutic relationship you have with your therapists.
Home Shanti has set up a National Counseling Helpline – 1860-425-6555. Through this initiative, Home Shanti aims to bridge the gap in the demand for counseling and the number of trained counselors available in India. They are training counselors to build a network of professional counselors across the country, all connected to a single national helpline. Through this, help for you is just a call away! (Homeshanti.org)