Why did you choose to become a counsellor?
I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to lead their best and most fulfilled lives. However, the path to that can get a little difficult sometimes. My choice to become a counsellor is in the hope to aid people to be themselves, to grow, and to truly live their best lives. I have always derived my energy from people, and growing up, I knew that I belonged in the service sector. Nothing has ever captivated me more than the human mind and behaviour, and the field of Mental Health is a reflection of that. Our mental wellbeing is of such great significance, and yet unattended to. Thus, being a practitioner in this field allows me not only to serve it, but also be in wonder of it every single day.
What excites you about your work as a counsellor?
When someone chooses to take that first step – to pick up the phone and say, “I want something to change”, I know its a courageous step. The fact that you chose me to traverse this journey with you, is exciting and gratifying. I absolutely enjoy when individuals make breakthroughs, when they change old patterns, or even when they learn acceptance. Being able to witness the spectrum of human emotion and behaviour, the sheer acts of courage displayed, and being able to have the opportunity to learn something every single day, is something I truly cherish about my work.
What do you hope for your clients to experience after their first session with you?
I think the answer lies in the question – hope! Several of us reach out to counselling when we are feeling lost, confused or overwhelmed. And if only there was a switch to ‘undo’ all that - but there isn’t. Therapy takes time, and change may be a longer process, but the feeling of hope and comfort can be immediate. So, I would want my clients to take back hope with them - that they have started this journey, taken the first step, and there is someone to make them feel comfortable through it.
What would you wish to tell a client who is thinking about seeking counselling?
I know it’s difficult and scary and nerve-racking to start something new. And when you seek counselling for the first time, you may have a lot of questions - it’s okay not to have all the answers! Counselling is a shared space that allows you to explore your experiences in a safe, non-judgemental, and confidential manner and achieve goals that you want for yourself. But the emphasis lies in it being YOUR space. As the person engaging in this process, you have every right to bring up things you might agree with, or things you don’t, things that are working for you, and things that are not. And if you still feel unsure, ask away - the only silly questions are the ones not asked!
Describe the relationship that you would wish to build with your client in counselling.
Irvin D. Yalom said, “Often the therapist is the only audience viewing great dramas and acts of courage. Such privilege demands a response to the actor. Though patients may have other confidants, none is likely to have the therapist’s comprehensive appreciation of certain momentous acts.”
And I completely resonate with that responsibility. I would like to build a relationship that is genuine, comfortable and adds value. One that encourages questioning the why, while seeking the how.
In your counselling work so far, what has been your greatest learning from your clients?
No one could have said it better than Yalom, “We are intellectually challenged. We become explorers immersed in the grandest and most complex of pursuits—the development and maintenance of the human mind. Hand in hand with patients, we savor the pleasure of great discoveries— the “aha” experience when disparate ideational fragments sud- denly slide smoothly together into coherence. At other times we are midwife to the birth of something new, liberating, and elevating. We watch our patients let go of old self-defeating patterns, detach from ancient grievances, develop zest for living, learn to love us, and, through that act, turn lovingly to others. It is a joy to see others open the taps to their own founts of wisdom. Sometimes I feel like a guide escorting patients through the rooms of their own house. What a treat it is to watch them open doors to rooms never before entered, discover new wings of their house containing parts in exile - wise, beautiful, and creative pieces of identity.”
I believe that my biggest learning has been that one can only understand life backwards, but we have to live it forwards. That eventually, you will have to let go of the idea of having a better past. Healing and growth have no timelines, and they will look different for different people, but they are undoubtedly possible.
What are some of your strengths as a counsellor that you value and appreciate?
I think my biggest strength as a counsellor is my belief in people. I strongly believe that each one of us possess the ability to lead more fulfilling lives, and to change the things that prevent us from doing so. I lay the foundation for support, comfort, empathy, and safety right from the beginning, and ensure that they stay unwavered throughout. I have been credited for my listening skills, use of analogies, apt nudging, and humour, too! I try to Mold my sessions based on what approach would seem to work best for the individual and make it a regular point to address/check if we are aligned.
What are some of the things you like to do in your free time?
I have always loved to dance and try to include it in my life as much as I can - from teaching it professionally to learning new routines and form. Other than that, you might find me reading or engrossed in a show. I derive my energy from the people around me, so I make sure I spend enough time with them, too!
What are the areas of concern you address in counselling? Do you work with specific populations?
I hold experience in conducting in-person, video, telephone and online counselling, primarily for the adult population. I have worked extensively in areas of anxiety, conflicts, relationships, marriage, gender, parenting, covid-related stressors as well as work related concerns such as stress, performance, and productivity challenges. My work in group settings as well as with couples has been well received for its experiential and relatable approach.
What is the therapeutic approach you use? How would you describe it to someone who wants to consult you for therapy?
I find my interest in exploring alternative, novel and current approaches to counselling and using various techniques to tap on emotional well-being. I use concepts of Person Centered Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy in order to offer an empathic space for individuals and explore their deep seated experiences and help them make actionable changes in their lives.
Simply put, here is how I would describe my structure:
Exploration - what is it that we are working with?
Goal Setting - what do we want to achieve/ where do we want to go from here?
Execution - how do we get there?
Maintenance - how do we ensure we stay in this changed place?
How do you make your therapeutic practice a safe and affirmative space for queer and trans* folx?
My training and work in the past has included learning, unlearning, recognising and understanding about the experiences shared by the queer and trans community. I believe that every individual in therapy is an expert on their own lives, and especially with the LGBTQIA+ community, I let their stories guide my work and approach. I am cognizant about individuals’ identities, pronouns and orientations in my sessions and continually consume information through articles and workshops to update myself and be a better aid.
The Quote Ankita Keswani Resonates With
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.