Being a therapist in 2020
‘It hurts so much because I see people discriminating with my friend’s family just
because she tested positive for COVID as if it’s her fault and it hurts to see her like
this, alone & isolated’ said my client during our 3 rd session in the first week of April –
almost a fortnight into lockdown.
I sat there listening, & empathising like I often did. But there was something else I felt this time, something I didn’t usually feel. A feeling like what if it all went wrong, what if I couldn’t control anything. Fear & uncertainty of a magnitude I probably hadn’t experienced in the
recent past. I knew why I felt the way I did – in addition to being a therapist that day I
was also a person as scared about COVID as my own father completed a week of
being isolated at a hospital.
Therapy has always been something that I’ve felt comes naturally to me. I’ve felt like
I can spontaneously connect with people, be there for them. But this year it didn’t. To
some extent because therapy was not about sharing a physical space with a person &
being with them while they felt vulnerable anymore. Therapy was now about sitting in
front of your laptop screen struggling to find emotional connect & creating pockets of
compassion conveyable only through the screen, with the kind of pitiful internet
connectivity one has available in our country. But majorly because like all of my
clients, this time I was very much a part of the anxiety, more in it than out of it.
I have had my share of pain this year, much like every other person I know. I was
struggling with my own fears of how COVID would impact my family; about the
social discrimination my family underwent owing to it. From something as painful as
grieving the loss of a pet & a dear family member to something as mundane as the
added responsibility of household chores & not having a quiet enough place to work at
home. Being a therapist, one would think we’ve got it all figured out. But the thing is
we don’t. The pandemic didn’t discriminate. It just came & changed lives for all of us.
If anything this year has been the biggest lesson that there might be in empathy. For
me, this year has been humbling in so many ways. This year I didn’t just hold
vulnerability but let myself feel it too. This will always be the year I became a little
kinder, a little more accepting of me, my own limitations, as a person, as a therapist.
This year for me was salt & sugar – grief & gratitude.
This year, I conducted over 200+ hours of therapy alone during the 3 month
lockdown. With my very close friends, we birthed ‘Therapeute’ – with the hope for
providing mental health support for all, therapists included. With our respective
journeys & trysts with COVID we attempted to create safe spaces for all, knowing
that this was a year of shared trauma. But just on the brink of starting this new year – I
know that we’ll all never be the same, nor should we be, nor would we want to like
Kubler Ross would stay. Keeping this year of the unlearning close to my heart and
looking over to a year with new hopes.
Mallika is a Clinical Psychologist and a Co-Founder at Therapeute. The organisation was founded in response to the Covid 19 pandemic to respond to the country's mental health needs