During the two year course of my master’s programme, I was prepared and sufficiently informed of the challenges that the professionals in not just the mental health sector but any helping profession face. Little did I know, however, that my graduation would concur with a pandemic that would change the face of the world in unprecedented ways. With the incoming lockdown, people all over the world faced an array of mental health challenges. At this time, some of the themes that I found myself working with frequently were- restriction in space and movement, feelings of helplessness, health anxiety, sense of lack of freedom and control and uncertainty about the future. As a novice in the field, I found my own self grappling with questions of worth and competence. To set up a private practice with little experience, adapt it to the virtual setup and hold space for complex human emotions all while making meaning for my own self, was a challenge that no amount of caution could have prepared me for.
During the peak of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India, I was not just experiencing for myself , but also holding space for all kinds of grief- anticipatory, disenfranchised, complicated, displaced, collective, vicarious and cumulative. The most significant challenge for me at the time was to switch roles between a griever and a holder. While my training had prepared me to deal with themes of grief and loss, the intensity, unexpectedness and sheer frequency with which grief caught me unguarded, jolted me to the core.
“How do I hold space for a client’s loss while I myself am grieving?” was a question I was constantly asking myself, my supervisor and my colleagues. At this moment, I found solace in two things- reading and disengaging. I looked up resources on grief, tried to build my vocabulary and have conversations about it with my peers in an attempt to understand my own as well as the experiences of others around me. This was also the time when I realised how important it was to disengage from time to time. Yes, meeting and sitting with my feelings was crucial and resourceful, but when it became too much-more than my body or my inner world could capacitate, I chose to withdraw only to go back and process them when I felt prepared. I consider myself fortunate and extremely privileged to have found comfort in my family, my friends, my therapist and movement during that moment of disengagement.
There were days when I found it difficult to find the motivation or energy to be there for another person, days when I was brimming with feelings of my own and did not have the space in me to hold another’s. But there was only one thing that kept me going- the honour of being invited into another person’s innermost world. To be a part of someone’s personal journey and have them trust me with their vulnerable selves has been an unparalleled and extremely moving experience for me. While it leaves me feeling responsible and makes me question my competence, every single day- it also gives me the drive to learn and be intentional with my practice. It’s what motivates me to not just continue being a therapist (despite the numerous challenges) but also to ground my practice in theoretical and empirical frameworks. I still continue to learn and explore, a year after my formal training and for that, I express my gratitude to everybody who has let me be a part of their worlds. To everybody that I have ever worked with, thank you.
Somya, Katharsis' founder and mental health therapist, is a passionate counselling psychologist and well-being advocate. She accomplished her education in psychology from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi University and Christ University, Bangalore. Having formerly worked as a school counsellor, Somya's expertise lies in working with children and helping them adjust around the school ecosystem. Some of her spheres of competence include management of socio-emotional issues like anxiety, mood swings, adjustment to life transitions, relationship issues and personal development. Somya adopts an eclectic, holistic and creative approach in her therapeutic practice.