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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

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