Komal Narang is a counsellor and mind-body therapist at Anna Chandy & Associates. She also holds certifications as a trauma therapist and a transactional analyst. Narang helps her clients navigate mental health problems, relationships, career choices, and anger issues.
In our conversation, Narang argues forcefully for the need to seek professional help to deal with our emotional and mental problems.
“I usually say we do a lot for our physical grooming. What are we doing for our emotional or mental grooming?” Dr Narang said. “So if you’re sitting on the fence, please examine what is stopping you from going in for help.”
Q. When should one see a mental health professional?
A. There are many signs and symptoms. These signs could be on an emotional level. For example, feeling sad, feeling low, or even getting angry. Or at a thought level, having negative thoughts, too many negative thoughts. Or at a behavioural level: somebody might tell you why are you behaving like this. Or you might yourself realise that your behaviour has changed. Something that is disturbing you is making your behaviour unusual. For example, not feeling like going out, meeting friends or being social, not feeling like getting out of bed.
There may be physiological signs, for example, changes in appetite or having some chronic pain. When you see all these symptoms last for more than 3 to 4 weeks and are not resolved, this is a good indication to start thinking about going for professional help. This could be either going to a counsellor. If you’re confused about going to a counsellor, then maybe go to your general health practitioner, who might then guide you on how to go about it or whether you need counselling or any other form of medical help.
Q. How do you find the right mental health professional?
A. The way to find the right mental health professional is to look for the credentials, whether they are certified or not. Also, ask your mental health professional if they are undergoing therapy themselves and if they are being supervised. This is something which a lot of people don’t know about. You can find an authentic mental health professional based on these ethical principles. Because we are also humans. When we are counselling and being psychologically available to a client, we also need to have to go in for counselling or therapy ourselves.
Q. What typically happens in a first therapy session?
A. Usually therapeutic interventions don’t happen in the first session. First session is about rapport-building, contact building where the counsellor or the therapist starts getting to know your your background. There is a need to understand what you’re going through and get to the root of your problem. And to do that, a therapist or a counsellor will typically ask you a bunch of background questions, so that they can build a collaborative relationship.
Q. How many sessions does it take before one starts seeing some impact on one’s mental health?
A. This is quite a complex question to answer because it depends on where the client is coming from. If it’s like, for example, a situational issue or a circumstantial issue, then maybe it will require less number of sessions. But if someone wants to explore deeper issues – childhood issues, trauma for example, – then this would be a more long-term based therapeutic intervention.
Q. What if one is unable to open up or connect with the mental health practitioner?
A. Well, we at Anna Chandy and Associates, what we do is have a very open conversation. We have all the associate profiles and in the initial stages, we ask the client to go through the profiles and see which therapist they would like to work with. And after the initial session, if they are uncomfortable or it doesn’t work for them, then we offer them a choice to work with some other professional. We try to understand what made them uncomfortable, what was their mismatch, and what was bothering them and we guide them. So I would say if it doesn’t click for you in the first session with your counsellor, take at least one more session. And if you’re not feeling safe or comfortable, you always have the option to be open about it with your counsellor or have a dialogue with your counsellor. And if it still doesn’t work, explore other options.
Q: How would you advise someone unsure about seeking help?
A. I usually say we do a lot for our physical grooming. What are we doing for our emotional or mental grooming? So if you’re sitting on the fence, please examine what is stopping you from going in for help. Are there some fears, some biases, some inhibitions? Actually, that is the bit you can discuss with your therapist in the first session. But take that first step, maybe speak to friends or take support from someone who helps you find the right therapist.