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From doubting therapy to falling in love with it.

Being a psychology graduate, I always had this interest in knowing about others. I was always fascinated by the case studies during lectures of abnormal psychology and it is one of the most vivid memories I have of my college. Ask any psychology student, and they would tell you how much they reflect on their lives due to the subject itself. This happened with me as well. I thought I was always in touch with my inner world and felt like I had not much need for therapy. After all, I had already reflected enough.

To give you some context, I was body shamed when I was in school, I was aware of that, but until I talked about it inside the boundaries of the therapy room, I never realised how it had impacted me and continued to impact me still. Similarly, there were other personal issues that I was aware of but I never understood how to accept them or how much they influenced my day to day functioning.

As I moved forward in my profession, choosing counselling as a specialisation, I realised that more than knowing about others, it was first important to get to know myself. "Until you, as a therapist are aware of yourself, you can't ask your client to be aware of them" was a motto of my professor which she passed onto us and till today, and it has stayed with me. As a part of my course structure, we had to take sessions of personal therapy, it was mandatory. And it is during those sessions that I realised the importance of counselling in my life. I already knew the issues I had been struggling with, with my body, but I didn’t really understand how it had been impacting my thinking about myself and my relationships with my friends and family. I realised how closed off I had been and how I had given up on my relationship with my body weight, accepted that it was not in my control and this is how things were always going to be.

As I began therapy, and started addressing my thoughts and feelings it started to feel that I was not learning anything new. I felt stuck. I still remember, throughout my sessions, I kept on telling my therapist that I know what's wrong with me but tell me what to do about it. Her reply to this was "let us figure it out together today", but I just wanted to get done because I thought I knew my problems. But turns out, she was right and before I realised this, I decided to stop the therapy for a while.

Our brain has the ability to change with experience, both structurally i.e. how neurons connect and chemically i.e. how it works. That is how we find ourselves being different than how we were as a child, in school, or even a day before. Our brain can form new connections and rewire old ones based on the way we think, the experiences we go through and what we learn.

It was I suppose after 4-6 months after I stopped taking sessions that I could explicitly see how much I had changed. My relationship with my friends, with my family had changed; I was finally able to talk about my concerns, hold a proper friendship with few people (which had been impossible in the past). I was finally able to go to the gym and lose weight not because I was ashamed of my weight earlier but because I accepted that if I want, I can do it. I always wanted to lose weight, but because people judged me for it, I had started wearing this mask that “ I don’t care what you guys feel, It’s in my genes, and I can’t do anything about it”. Playing this blame game with my genes stopped me from doing something I always wanted to do. But with the help of therapy, the blame game stopped, and I continued on the path I always dreamt of walking. It was then I realised that during my sessions, I was always focused on completing the degree requirement, just doing the right things to get "happy" or "better" or "healthy" and not to work on myself. And I’m sure many of you might have given up on the idea of therapy or the process, thinking the same.

In my journey as a mental health professional, I’ve noticed, for some clients, therapy initially focuses on creating awareness, but for me, it had to go beyond that into a deeper understanding of myself. I sometimes feel that even when I was not focusing on working on myself, therapy managed to change me, and now I find myself wondering, what could have happened if I would have worked more mindfully towards it? In retrospect, these sessions taught me what I could do with my issues, how I could help myself instead of accepting them as my fate or even unchangeable reality.

So now, I go back and continue sessions anytime I find myself not being able to connect to my inner world, my true self. I realise that every day we wear masks to try to impress someone, I wear a mask of a hard-working doctoral student in front of my professors, but at the end of the day, it has always been helpful to be in touch with my true self.

Research now shows that psychotherapy works the same way. Talk and techniques used in therapy helps us rewire our old unhelpful connections and form new adaptive thought processes and emotions to create lasting change in our behaviour. And the best part, you can see these changes in brain scans of people before and after therapy.

I suggest everyone out there to take up few sessions of counselling, see if they can connect with their therapist, if not move to other therapist but take up some sessions to get in touch with yourself. I'd also like to say that, more than searching for your romantic partner, find your therapist so that s/he can help you to find, yourself.


The author of this piece is Vartika Varyani, a trained psychologist, currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Organizational Behaviour/ Human Resource Management from IIM Indore. In addition, she also provides career guidance to students. You can find her work at LinkedIn and Instagram.

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