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Webinar – Does Online Therapy Really Work for Mental Health and De-addiction?

May 13, 2020
Webinar on the effectiveness of online therapy for mental health and de-addiction

In our weekly webinars, we talk about various industry scenarios and challenges of rehabs across the country along with the de-addiction and mental health challenges faced by the mental health community and people in general.

Ruchika Garg Photo

In the second webinar of the series, we invited Ms Ruchika Garg, a mental health practitioner and founder of Conscious Jiva. Being a survivor of clinical depression, her experience has helped shape the way she helps her patients.

The webinar was hosted by Mr Vikram Kumar – Managing Director of RehabPath, India. In the webinar, Ms Ruchika shared her thoughts and opinions about the effectiveness of online therapy for people suffering from mental illnesses.

In this blog, you can read the summarised version of the webinar, or you can watch it online here. 👇

Vikram – Can you tell us a little about you and Conscious Jiva?

Ruchika – I am the founder of Conscious Jiva and a spiritual wellness coach. I have been practising as a psychologist and hypnotherapist for many years now. After completing my master’s in clinical psychology from Christ University, Bangalore, I started practising as a counsellor. That is how I entered clinical therapy, mindfulness, and NLP.

Gathering experience from multiple clients, I noticed that, the people between the age of 20-25 do not have the required financial support to opt for therapy because of low awareness about mental health. It was the main reason for starting Conscious Jiva – creating a gateway for people to manage life in a better way without spending a lot. We arrange free coaching on our Facebook group. Besides, we also have a free ebook available on our website, which helps give clarity on various mental health issues and how to deal with them. If after that, they still feel the need for therapy, we are here. It is the bridge we are trying to build through Conscious Jiva.

Vikram – Many people, including myself, have not gone to any therapy session, let alone online therapy. It will be helpful for many people including our participants to know what generally happens in therapy sessions. Also, what happens in your sessions?

Ruchika – There is much stigma around mental health and therapies in general. Firstly, we must understand the difference between psychiatrist and psychologist consultation. A psychiatrist is a professional prescribing medication while putting you in touch with a therapist or psychologist. The job of a therapist or psychologist is to understand the root cause of your problems.

A therapist will take details of your problems, its duration, intensity and how it is affecting your work or personal life; further taking notes of your family, personal and relationship history, including academics. We find clues in all these questions that help understand our clients better.

Next step is to finalize the objective of therapy. Once they are set, picking up every detail one by one, we start working around them. After a few sessions, therapists evaluate your mental health progress. This is an overview of therapy sessions.

My therapy sessions – online or offline, have the same structure. In addition to all, I also keep an open eye to the spiritual aspect of therapy. If we look at depression, anxiety, or stress, currently spiritual elements are being overlooked while only considering family or relationship history, and similar. I make sure these are also covered in terms of spiritual aspects as it can be one of the causes of depression or anxiety.

Vikram – Picking up from your points, how long do these sessions go? If I visit you for therapy, how does the session structure look like? Also, how do I know I am feeling better?

Ruchika – A session is usually 45 mins to 1 hour long, depending upon the mode of therapy it can extend. Talking about my hypnotherapy sessions, it sometimes extends up to 1.5 hours. Ideally, a therapist takes 1-hour weekly session averaging for up to 5-6 sessions, depending upon the nature of the client and the efforts they are putting. Since most of your life is outside this therapy session, you also need to take initiatives. Say, if you have anxiety – for which one of the symptoms is breathlessness – on a scale of 1 to 10, your current rating is around 7 or 8. In the next session, you will be asked about it again. This is how you can see your progress. Sometimes, we feel stuck, and it is entirely all right. Now at this point, we must understand where this resistance is coming from and how can we do better.

Usually, the sessions carry on for 1-2 months, after that it depends upon the client’s situation. For clients who have intense issues, it can take up to a few more months. It is only in severe cases that it goes up to a year or more.

Vikram – We read about many kinds of  therapies like art and music therapy, general therapy, hypnotherapy. How does it work? Are these various therapies part of a single package or we approach them differently?

Ruchika – If we look at a few types like art and movement therapy, since they are not prevalent, it creates much confusion. The good side is these therapies are looking at the client’s background. For instance, if you look at children, we cannot expect them to react the same way as adults for similar questions. Children hardly express their emotions. For children, you have to take them into an area where they can feel safe and engaged at the same time. Also, instead of sitting across, you have to sit beside them, known as joining the child. Different therapies are built according to the needs of different people. We also have animal therapies which are specially used to treat autistic people. To understand the entire circumference, it takes a lot of efforts from both sides.

Vikram – As I can understand, it is not necessary to go under a series of these therapies. If one type of therapy is working for someone, they can continue with the same or whatever their therapist recommends. Is it correct?

Ruchika – Yes it is. There are also some situations where clients do not need their therapist to be very active. They only need their therapists to listen, holding a safe space for them to talk or grieve. Such clients become better when their load is shed. We have had few clients who were suicidal, but within a few sessions of only listening, they were perfectly alright, resuming work. So, it is only about catering to their needs.

Vikram – Many people today are suffering from mental or medical problems and their first reaction is to search online. Due to the lack of awareness and information in India, someone might end up with a wrong choice of therapy. How does a person in need of help decide where to go and how to start therapy?

Ruchika – As I understand, this question is for the entire fraternity of therapists. For instance, if I get one client who needs another form of therapy, I don’t practice, it is my integrity to educate them. In my opinion, every psychologist or psychotherapist should maintain a referral list as we cannot expect general people to know about it in detail. It is literally on our shoulders to educate people through various platforms. People in general will have a limited capacity in this area.

Note – If you are looking for a reliable, authentic, & unbiased information related to rehab centres providing online counselling and therapy across India, you can find the information here.

Vikram – On your YouTube channel, I saw a video titled – “happiness is a scam”. Can you explain what the video is about and why you chose this title?

Ruchika – This video comes from my personal experience and understanding. When I said happiness is a scam, I meant the concept of happiness is misunderstood in today’s time. We think happiness means to feel happy all the time, which is not possible. It is to be at peace with your feelings. Today you might be happy because of the good things happening, tomorrow if something goes wrong, you enter an emotional roller coaster – how does one stay happy then? You can only expect to manage that time and try to adjust.

If we take an example of this quarantine or lockdown, many people are facing mental health issues more than ever. There are people stuck away from home, worrying about their families all the time. When I take their sessions, I simply ask them if they want to be happy, and they start contemplating various things.

Happiness is not feeling it all the time – it is being okay with every situation, whether sad, angry or everything else you feel. Always look for the feeling and not the object to be happy.

Vikram – With COVID-19 situation in our country, the number of people in need of therapy has increased. Please throw some light on how to start with online therapy for various Rehab centers and individual practitioners.

Ruchika – The minimum requirement you must have is a relevant educational qualification. Besides, you need the confidence to do therapy. You must think like an entrepreneur not for doing business but for serving the needs of your target people. For instance, here, your target is people suffering from addiction. You must identify the needs that can help them feel better or get out of the situation. Also, you must have a website and be active on social media. It is also upon us therapists to educate ourselves constantly. If you want to set up an online system to provide therapy, educate yourself first on technology and new ways to connect. You can take help of those people who offer guidance on starting up an online business. It will help you avoid mistakes.

Vikram – As far as de-addiction is concerned, medication and diagnosis are required to undergo the treatment process. The situation we are in today, people cannot visit a rehab centre. What will be your take on this? Will any form of online therapy session help?

Ruchika – If the person is severely addicted or getting any withdrawals, I do not think it will be safe to take therapies for those clients. Until the situation comes where no one else can help, during that time, we can give them comfort in distress. It is also a considerable constraint for us. We can make sure we are in touch with at least one doctor so that in case something happens, we know whom to contact. A therapist should also teach them SOS things like tapping during distress.

Vikram – When a person is going for therapy, how do they know if that is the right therapist for them?

Ruchika – A therapist is right for you when you feel completely understood and safe to discuss your problems. These are two major criteria. It is also about compatibility between the client and the therapist.

A therapist may be thoroughly skilled but may not be compatible with your personality. You will know it when you are not able to disclose everything, or sometimes do not feel understood. If you think these criteria are met, it is the right therapist.

Vikram – Is there any difference between an online therapy session and an in-person session in terms of outcome?

Ruchika – I will talk about my experience in this regard. For three years, I practised completely offline therapy sessions, and then I switched online. Initially, I had the resistance about not being able to help as much; it turned out I was wrong. If you break the barrier of a mindset, you will be able to connect with the client and vice-versa. Further, you will be able to meet the objectives effectively. The outcomes will be the same as an in-person therapy session.

Vikram – Is there a message you would like to share with our audience?

Ruchika – COVID-19 is affecting a lot of people across the world today. It is a pandemic we know and are dealing with. Similarly, there is another pandemic we face but never talk about it – I call it “I’m not good enough” pandemic.

Most of us have problems today where we feel we are not good enough. For most things, we wait for approvals from others. Imagine the worst-case scenarios where no one in the world is ready to give you approvals. How many years of your life are you going to waste waiting for the acceptance only to do the things you’ve always wanted? I’m sure you wouldn’t want to wait for even a single day. Instead of wasting time to wait for approvals, start doing the things you love. Getting better with time doing things is your approval.

The best way to have a good journey is to start it. People who are waiting for a green signal, please start right now because there are no green signals out there that are going to take you out on the road.

You can join Ruchika Garg on her Facebook page – Conscious Jiva by Ruchika Garg. Also, make use of the free e-book available on her website.

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Find genuine information about rehab centres across India offering online counselling and therapy services.