Why did you choose to become a counsellor?
My journey of exploring the field of mental health started with trying to understand and make meaning of my own experiences. As I kept exploring I realised how our life experiences, and what happens around us are such a common human experiences and yet unique in their own ways. I started relating with people, to their experiences as well as witnessing diverse experiences of people and at the same time felt amazed with people’s ability to survive, holding onto hopes to live the life they wish for. In my journey, I realised the importance of having support systems to heal and grow. And the belief that everyone deserves to have hopes and live the life they hoped for themselves and that’s what made me choose to be in this field to support people in their healing and growing journeys.
What excites you about your work as a counsellor?
Being able to witness people’s life journeys, seeing people behind their problem stories, the uniqueness each of them carries, their hopes and eventually noticing instances of changes which is a step towards living the life they are hoping for. And being privileged to be a part of this process excites me the most.
What do you hope for your clients to experience after their first session with you?
I hope clients feel heard, respected and have a sense of safety after their first session. Usually, the first session is about getting to know the client, their context, what brings them here and their hopes from this journey.
The first session also includes getting them familiar with the therapy process by giving brief information about it and addressing their queries if there are any. I hope it would bring some clarity to them regarding the therapy process.
What would you wish to tell a client who is thinking about seeking counselling?
It might not be easy to decide to start therapy, thank you for taking a step forward. It’s very normal to feel a little nervous or anxious before beginning your journey. You can speak to a therapist to get familiar with the therapy process and to get to know your rights as a client and your therapist’s responsibilities.
Therapy is a safe, non-judgmental and compassionate space where you can be yourself. There is no right or wrong way to go about this journey, you can decide the pace of this journey, you can decide the areas you would like to work on in therapy and your hopes from this journey. You can ask questions, give feedback to your therapist, if you feel certain things are not working in therapy you can bring it up to your therapist. You have the right to discontinue your therapy at any point of time.
Describe the relationship that you would wish to build with your client in counselling.
A collaborative relationship that is safe, non-judgmental and empathetic. This relationship is a safe space to share lived experiences, feelings and reflections which will be witnessed with compassion.
In your counselling work so far, what has been your greatest learning from your clients?
People are always responding, doing “jugaads” (finding a unique way to tackle a situation) and carrying hope even in the toughest time. People are resilient but also their acts of resistance toward injustice bring change.
What are some of your strengths as a counsellor that you value and appreciate?
My ability to hold a warm, compassionate and safe space for the client’s lived experiences by listening to them empathetically, by being curious, by being comfortable with silence during our conversation.
What are some of the things you like to do in your free time?
I love taking naps whenever it’s possible, when I am not napping you will find me annoying my cat during her nap time. I take care of my plants and try not to kill them. Occasionally I do enjoy painting, and cooking and I can have never-ending conversations about food.
What are the areas of concern you address in counselling? Do you work with specific populations?
I majorly work with young adults and adults. I work with several mental health concerns including trauma experiences, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, workplace burnout, living with chronic illness, loss & grief. I am trained in Marriage and Family therapy and provide couple counselling. I also believe therapy is not only to reduce mental distress but also to engage in personal growth.
What is the therapeutic approach you use? How would you describe it to someone who wants to consult you for therapy?
I use a primarily person-centred and strength-based approach where the person and their experiences are at the centre of the therapeutic journey, where the client is considered as an expert of their life and focusing on their strengths, resourcefulness and ability to bring change in their life. My approach is trauma-informed and social-justice informed which means I acknowledge trauma experiences at the individual and systemic level (caste systems, religion, institutions, workplaces etc) and taking an affirmative stance (feminist, anti-caste and queer affirmative) in the therapy.
How do you make your therapeutic practice a safe and affirmative space for queer and trans* folx?
I make sure that I use inclusive language, starting with asking clients their pronouns and clearly stating an affirmative stance in the beginning of the therapy. I do acknowledge systemic challenges and their impact on a person’s mental health as well as I do acknowledge my privileges as a cis-het person. I do engage in trainings, books, educational materials, and lived experiences of queer and trans folx to unlearn my biases and keep learning to make the therapeutic space safe and affirmative.
The Quote Shamal Resonates With
Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.