The Department of Psychology at Jain University launches a psychological assessment and counselling centre
There are health regimes and innumerable dietary instructions to keep the body fit. What about the mind? Mental and physical well -being are very closely related. In fact, WHO defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. So, does the mind require a health regime too? It does and that is where counselling comes in.
Contrary to popular belief, counselling is not there just for the clinical population but also normal people. “We all go through moments of crisis in our life and face stress, strain or confusion. At such junctures, we need a supportive system which is non-judgmental and can provide the required support within the framework of confidentiality. This can be offered only through formal psychological counselling,” says Dr. Shailaja Shastri, Head of the Department of Psychology, Jain University and the force behind Kalarava, Centre for Psychological Counselling and Assessment launched by the Department of Psychology.
Kalarava was formally inaugurated in the month of February this year by Sri U T Khader, Honourable Minister for Health, Govt. of Karnataka and is open to general public. It also happens to be the first ever counselling centre launched by a private university which is offering services to the general public. “In a subject such as Psychology, teaching, research and clinical practice need to go hand in hand. I believe that working with the public at large and thereby, dealing with contemporary issues that require psychological counselling makes teaching more effective. It also creates awareness on mental health issues and offers the people in need of counselling a credible place to come to,” added Dr. Shailaja.
For Survivors of Abuse
Reports of the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) shows that abuse is at an all-time high in India, be it physical, sexual, emotional or verbal. Kalarava is offering counselling to the men, women and children of all age groups who have undergone abuse in any form. Ms. Ashwini Ganig, Asst. Professor, Dept. of Psychology who specializes in abuse therapy is working with victims and survivors of abuse. “We try to help them to recuperate from the trauma caused by their experiences. The aim is to restore their self –esteem so that they feel assertive enough to deal with their life.”She points out that they have come across a number of cases of domestic violence and children who have undergone sexual abuse. Usually these survivors are left behind with a lot of negative feelings detrimental to their mental and physical well being and at Kalarava the counsellors are trying to lend them a helping hand.
Since Kalarava is a psychological counselling centre, often such cases come across where medical and legal support is also required. “In order to enable that, we are also offering referral services at Kalarava, so that those who come here can get the required attention and care.”
Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)
Kalarava brings together specialists from different fields, offering a wide array of services using various time tested techniques. One of these is REBT. The REBT principles for psychotherapy are currently being used by Ms. Soumya Puttaraju at Kalarava. Assistant professor with the Department of Psychology, she has recently completed her primary and advanced training programme in REBT from New York. “I am practicing individual therapy using the REBT principles which is basically about re-training the way a person thinks about his or her circumstances, thereby regulating their emotions and changing their behavior accordingly,” says Ms. Soumya. REBT is based on the premise that it is not the circumstances that cause anxiety or depression but rather it is the belief about these happenings that a person holds is the reason behind it. Ms. Soumya is also focusing on developing therapeutic techniques on the basis that a lot of therapeutic process happens while a person is dialoguing with themselves. “Your body is not just a receptacle of your emotions, but it also generates emotions of its own. I am currently looking into how this mind-body interface can give a person insights which he or she can apply to solve the issues they are facing.”
Learning Life Skills
In a world where children have to deal with a number of stress and strains, are literacy and numeracy skills enough to help them reach their optimum potential? Apparently not, and hence the WHO has prescribed norms for imparting quality education and training to supplement formal education and help children to develop life skills. These include health, hygiene, social skills, self-confidence and societal skills among others. Ms. Deepti Swamy, Asst. Professor, Dept. of Psychology is one of the life skills trainers attached with Kalarava and explains the process involved. “We develop different modules depending on the age group of the children, their attention span and requirements of a particular age. At high school level we also focus on memory training, goal setting and stress management skills.”Since the focus is on the needs of each age group, each module is different. For instance, the adolescents are given an insight into how to handle peer pressure. “Peer pressure has both positive and negative aspects. At times it can be good, as in it can give you the courage to do something that you are scared of but is beneficial to you. At the same time, it can also push you to do harmful things.” Trained counsellors from Kalarava, show the students through various activities when to give into peer pressure and when to resist. The training is imparted through workshops in schools, usually in a group setting.
Using Play as Therapy
One of the biggest challenges that a psychologist comes across is treating children. “A child cannot explain his or her problems like an adult can. Sometimes a child cannot even understand what he or she is keeping inside,” shares Dr. Sherin P. Antony, Asst. Professor with the Department of Psychology and a clinical psychologist. To overcome the problem play therapy has been introduced at Kalarava. This mode of therapy can be used for both the clinical and non-clinical population among children. But, how does play become therapy? Explains Dr. Sherin, “Play is a very natural mode of expression for every child. Children express their simplest as well as most complex emotions while playing.” Therapists garner information about the problems being faced by children by observing their activities in the play area. Dr Sherin also points out that play therapy can be used in combination with other counselling techniques as it also aids the therapist to form a rapport with the child. “Children are often not very open to strangers. Using play therapy, a therapist can overcome the inhibitions that a child might be having. By using things such as soft toys, doll houses, puppets, sand tray we can help children express their emotions.”
Career counselling is another area where Kalarava is offering its services. It is also one of the most prominent areas where faculties from the department of Psychology are engaged in. The centre offers a range of couselling services aimed at helping people make the right career choice. Consequently, the clientele ranges from students to professionals who are looking for a career change. “We do assessments on their personality, interests and aptitude of a person to see whether the three match their desired professions or a particular course they want to pursue,” informed Dr. Soumya Chowhan, Asst. Professor, Dept. of Psychology and a career counsellor with Kalarava. At times, when the interest levels are high in a particular area but the aptitude or personality doesn’t match, further counselling is provided at Kalarava to overcome the situation. “Our job is to help people understand where they would excel and have job satisfaction as well,” says Dr. Soumya.
Dr. Sherin and Dr. Soumya from Kalarava are also involved in clinical neuropsychological assessment which helps in establishing a relationship between brain functioning and behavior. “It includes the tests of a variety of cognitive ability areas. “If a person has met with an accident, suffers from conditions such as epilepsy or autism, neuropsychological assessment helps in understanding which part of the brain has got impaired,” explains Dr. Soumya.
Neuropsychological assessment has diagnostic applications and is also used to assess the response of a patient to a particular treatment. “Apart from MRI and other routine tests, neuropsychological assessment is also performed before any brain surgery. Its usage extends to areas such as diabetes, cancer, cardiac illness, among others,” added Dr. Sherin.
People spend a substantial part of their lives at their workplace where they have to deal with a variety of issues depending on their role in an organization. With increasing stress and strain, psychological counselling has gained a great significance on the corporate scene.
Kalarava is offering a host of programmes especially geared for working professionals both from the corporate and academic sectors. Dr. C Gnana Prakash working as Assistant Professor with the department of Psychology who has been dealing with people from both the sectors, points out that counselling and training is required at all levels, right from the labours to the sr. executives. “The modules are prepared based on the assessment of the needs of the people working at different levels. For instance, for senior level executives we focus on leadership, presentation and negotiation skills,” says Dr. Gnana. Apart from these professionals are trained on team building skills, anger management, listening skills and so on.
Besides, this, activities at Kalarava are aimed at training faculty members to handle their classes with a greater efficiency. “We believe that the more participative the classes are, the more attentive a student would be. Hence, we are creating training modules that focus on making classes interactive,” remarked Dr. Gnana.
Lending a Helping Hand
Kalarava is being run as a part of an outreach programme of the Department of Psychology at Jain University. It is committed to use psychological counselling and psychotherapy grounded in scientific approaches. With six committed psychologists and student volunteers, this psychological assessment and counselling centre would also give a practical exposure to the students.