Why did you choose to become a counsellor?
Choosing to be a counsellor is majorly informed by my own lived experiences of anxiety, grief and childhood experiences. This was always more than a career choice for me. Studying psychology and understanding the human mind-body connection has helped me and continues to help me understand myself, the people I interact with, and our meaning-making process to make sense of the world.
What excites you about your work as a counsellor?
Although I am deeply moved by the life stories shared by my clients, witnessing or listening to their acts of resistance excites me as a counsellor. It is also very exciting for me to witness the process of discovering and rediscovering ourselves, exploring the multiple possibilities of lived experiences, and learning from each other’s know-hows.
What do you hope for your clients to experience after their first session with you?
I wish for my clients to take back gentleness, slowness, reignited hopes and dreams with them after their first session with me - to navigate the journey of life no matter how challenging it may seem right now; to reclaim their identities; or to choose to rest or just be. I hope that they hold onto the understanding that our lives are nuanced and multi-storied (made of multiple stories), and often, there are no ‘quick solutions’ to our problems.
What would you wish to tell a client who is thinking about seeking counselling?
Seeking therapy for the first time can invite a lot of mixed emotions and thoughts. You have a right as a client to ask the counsellor as many questions about the process and logistics of therapy as you can. Understanding that the therapy process is not always linear or a space to get a ‘quick fix’ can help one be kind and gentle with oneself during this journey of reflection. Expressing your expectations and hopes from therapy can help the counsellor evaluate whether they can support you in this journey. I would also like to highlight that regularly going to therapy is not sufficient. Remembering to work on the therapy homework between sessions can greatly help one translate their reflections into action.
Describe the relationship that you would wish to build with your client in counselling.
I strongly believe in a collaborative process where both my clients and I are co-travellers in their mental health journey. Together, we explore the problem territories, the impact it has on their life as well as their hopes, dreams, values and commitments. I hope that both of us are on the same team while navigating the problem territory. We also plan together for the next sessions. I periodically check-in with my clients about how the therapy process is going for them and if there is anything that they would like to try out differently in therapy.
In your counselling work so far, what has been your greatest learning from your clients?
Through my work, I have learned that we can be harmed and yet, cause harm to others. And it is never too late to assume responsibility and accountability for our words, gestures and actions. This process is not as simple or easy as it may sound. There is a lot of guilt, shame or blame that may sneak up on us during this journey, which is why I have learned to embody kindness toward ourselves and others as we unlearn and relearn some of our patterns.
What are some of your strengths as a counsellor that you value and appreciate?
The therapy spaces I co-create are informed by the reflections from my lived experiences of mental health and the systems around us. My biggest strength as a counsellor is moving away from the expert-client model and pathologizing practices in therapeutic spaces. I welcome intentional silences that invite reflections with pauses while holding space for nuances as well as contradictions in conversations. I also appreciate the courage and authenticity while navigating the uncertainty in life.
What are some of the things you like to do in your free time?
I love to doodle, paint, learn a new skill and make crispy dosas in my free time. I also love to just be in nature, go on treks, observe the skies, soak in the greenery around me, and find patterns in them.
What are the areas of concern you address in counselling? Do you work with specific populations?
I support young adults and queer folx to navigate their experiences of anxiety, depression, and grief. I facilitate their exploration of the landscape of identity and intimacy, and support them to reaffirm their identity. I also work with birthing individuals and their supporting partners in their mental health journey before, during and after pregnancy.
What is the therapeutic approach you use? How would you describe it to someone who wants to consult you for therapy?
I use narrative ideas and practices in my work which highlight that we are made of multiple stories and identities. Some of these stories tell us more about our problems whereas some bring us closer to our hopes, values, and dreams. In therapy, we build on these hopes and dreams while renegotiating our relationship with the problem. I also use trauma-informed and queer affirmative lens in my practice while keeping in mind the unique history, challenges and contexts of every person I consult with. As a practitioner, I am also interested in knowing more about your strengths and skills as much as your concerns.
How do you make your therapeutic practice a safe and affirmative space for queer and trans* folx?
I embody affirmative practices such as sharing my pronouns in verbal as well as written communication, using the pronouns that reaffirm the client’s identity, exploring one’s understanding of their identity, sexuality and relationships, asking scaffolding questions to deconstruct the gendered ways of being in this world, addressing the politics of labelling and queer-‘normativity’ within the queer community, acknowledging the unique life stressors, exploring the available support including their chosen family and holding space for their lived experiences. I learn, unlearn and relearn about affirmative practices through reading, peer consultations, continued professional training and supervision.
The Quote Mrunmayee Resonates With
“Life is lived forward and yet, understood backward”