Differentiated as a child, Richa Khetawat counsels against discrimination at Family Counselling India
She got married at the age of 19, was firmly asked to discontinue studies after that and then there were periods when she was not spoken to by family members if she insisted otherwise. Rather than discourage her, it made her all the more resolute to educate herself and prove to the world that given a fair chance, boys and girls can both make a name for themselves.
Freedom and encouragement come from your environment, something which was denied to me as a child. That itself is negative encouragement, but encouragement nonetheless which went a long way to establish myself,
says Richa, now a clinical psychologist and counsellor at Family Counselling India.
Though well over her past now, Richa admits that her growing up years were a trigger for her to be determined in educating herself. With her father into the hardware business, there were no women in her family who had pursued higher studies and thus she too was not expected to pursue the dream of higher education.
Richa, however, did the unthinkable. She completed her Masters in Clinical Psychology from Delhi University, where she shifted after marriage, and an advanced training in Psychology Diploma certified by Edinburgh University. For this Hyderabad born girl, it was then time to turn entrepreneur with her venture, Family Counselling India.
Mental problems need to be addressed in India
During her higher education days, Richa was moved by the fact that in India, one out of four people suffer from a mental or emotional condition and need help.
And the range of problems is huge – it varies from very personal conflicts in their relationships to being entangled in unclear expectations to being unable to handle children’s behaviour in a nuclear family. Then there are career issues too which often leave an individual baffled and in the middle of nowhere.
“Parents are often hassled by their children’s behaviour, there is anger, anxiety and aggression, all of which needs to be addressed to retain the mental balance,” says Richa. Then there are children who are specifically asked to seek help from experts, who too approach Richa for counselling.
Richa laments the huge stigma attached to seeking expert help when unwell emotionally.
No one minds when you go to see a doctor for a physical injury but the moment you mention a counsellor, the eyebrows go up,
says Richa stating it to be rather unfair. “It is but obvious to reach out to experts when one is unable to regulate emotions and manage relationships, very important elements which in turn adversely affects quality of life,” says Richa.
Face to face versus online counselling
Thanks largely to the huge taboo attached to seeking help when in mental distress, Richa started her online counselling venture, which she claims is as effective as face-to-face interaction.
The biggest advantage of online counselling, according to Richa, is the fact that one can opt for it from the confines of their homes. It is certainly more convenient and accessible, where an appointment gets booked at the click of a mouse.
Often people don’t feel like coming out of their homes when they are suffering from some mental condition and then online counselling comes in handy. Richa says that emotional problems are often due to a person’s genetic make-up too, and need not always be environmental triggers, and such individuals also need help.
On an average, Richa attends to five sessions in one day. However in cases where medication is involved, physical counselling works the best.
The venture was meant to reach out to women
When Richa started out, she thought her venture would be a means of redressal for women in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, who by virtue of being where they are, are unable to talk out their problems. But she was rather surprised to see women and men equally vulnerable.
Though the social rulebook for women does make it rather suffocating for them and that eventually leads to emotional problems over a period of time, at times hormonal and gynaecological problems also stem out as a consequence.
“Awareness is a big problem. Once that sets in, there is gradual acceptance on the individual’s part that they need help,” says Richa.
This psychologist plans to stick to the online format of counselling and will look at partnering with more counsellors once the volume of appointments go beyond her manageable limit.
Originally from Hyderabad, Richa currently juggles between Hyderabad and Delhi for her personal commitments.
Family Counselling India started operating from last year but became an independent online entity only from February this year.
Mother of a daughter
Given that she had a rather conservative up-bringing, Richa says that has ensured that it doesn’t affect her 8-year-old daughter. “I have ensured to the extent possible to keep her away from everything adverse. She doesn’t have any gender stereotypes in her mind for sure,” signs off this proud mother.