Findings from my cross-cultural study comparing British and Indian attitudes towards counselling, published in 'Counselling Psychology Quarterly', UK, report that there is lower awareness amongst Indians in India regarding counselling, even compared to those of Indians living abroad in Britain. And, also that those living abroad had a greater awareness about available counselling services compared to Indians in India.
At a time when there is an increasing mental pressure amongst citizens of all classes, it becomes important to bring to light the reasons why people within the country refrain from reaching out for a much needed and perhaps a 'secretly desired' professional assistance for their everyday emotional upheavals. It becomes important to understand, what causes this difference between the individuals with a common nationality to differ in their levels of awareness and attitudes towards an important service concerning mental health well-being?
The prevalent condition of Indians in India can be attributed to the fact that counselling in India is still far from being popularly recognised or governed by recognised body writes Arulmani, of The Promise Foundation, Bangalore,in his paper 'Counselling Psychology in India: At the Confluence of Two Traditions '.
Additionally, most people in India view counselling as restricted to mental illness, while it can factually cater to a range individual aspects relating to development of personality, improving relationships, skills, increasing work performances and more.
According to widely accepted definition of counselling given by British Association of Counselling Psychology (BACP), counselling is a professional time-honoured service that helps "people explore and solve their own problems, increases self-esteem and helps people develop skills to resolve their past and present problems" using their resources and keeping in mind their subjective environments.
In a given scenario where this knowledge is absent or there is partial awareness on this, very many individuals approach counselling for some entirely wrong reasons like "advice" and sometimes even seeking paranormal guidance. Most people in India are misguided about the role of counsellors. Largely, people thought of them as mind-readers, face-readers, handwriting analysts, body-language experts, personality analysts, future predictors and solution-providers.
These beliefs are contrary to the facts, but an authentic documentation from professionals who experience this reality in day-to-day practice can be an effective research-based tool for the spread of awareness about counselling in the right direction and for bursting myths about it. As a result, client expectations and legitimate counselling practices will be in sync for more benefiting therapeutic results and reducing disappointments from misguided information.
Interestingly still, findings from my research paper titled 'British and Indian Attitudes towards counselling' confirm that Indians with previous experiences of counselling (both in India and abroad) have a more positive attitude towards counselling practice. One can understand that Indians in India who were counselling clients were satisfied with counselling services received in the country and that they benefit from it as much as Indians using counselling services while living abroad in Britain. This can be viewed as the brighter side, and encouraging news for both counselling professionals and those interested in seeking their services.
The idea is that well informed citizens about this will be at an advantage for wiser decision-making and for using psychological support, which is better accessible today than ever before. It will also help a large number of people avail to financially viable means of counselling such as telephonic-counselling, psychological 'apps' on smart-phones and also services from non-profitable agencies.
A trend for physical fitness caught the interest of millions of people in the country and has gained widespread acceptance with visibly flourishing gyms. Mental-health too is hinting at the requirement of an increased attention emotional well-being for better adaptability to fast changing lives. Its is not only about mental sickness anymore, but about increased fitness and efficiency to be upbeat with life challenges. For this, there are several therapies offered by professionals focusing on individuals, families, groups, communities and organisations for skill development and empowerment.
Using this kind of counselling support is likely to bring a change for the better in terms of mental fitness. Also, it is important to remember, in the words of famous Arnold Schwarzenegger, "The mind always fails first, not the body. The secret is to make your mind work for you, not against you".