Recovery Oriented Counseling- A possibility

In response to many queries about what I do in my counseling practice, here is a short response to what I do, its pathway. This is a recommendation, not plan. Everyone is free to create their own version of it,  but this gives you an idea of how I visualize this work and what years of experience have taught me.

Recovery oriented counseling (ROC) is an orientation that can enable people to function in spite psychiatric medication.  Ideally one does not define what ‘recovery’ would mean for another, for it is best the person defines it for herself. Unless someone wants to recover, nobody can help them or push them towards recovery. So the key question you could answer is- Am I living the life I want to? If this is not it, in what way should my life be different? If you can answer this question for yourself, I can support you towards accomplishing the goal you set for yourself.

Let’s understand recovery is complicated. Mostly people are accustomed to certain ways of living and being,  so they would not like to make changes…at least not easily. If you also think this way, then you need to again ask the question, ‘If I do not change something can I really ‘recover’, or will my life not be more of the same?’ Recovery becomes complicated because it requires us to learn new things. It is not impossible though, for people have a great potential for change and that is what gets activated when a suitable outsider as a catalyst supports them in understanding their life, or make different choices.

My counseling approach takes two forms

First is a counseling intervention, for which I meet in person/Skype and talk to an individual or family on a time-to-time basis. In the second form of work, we are a bigger team who jointly support an individual/family towards ‘recovery’. Currently our team works in counseling, homeopathy and functional nutrition. We are a support network for everyone and at times discuss about individual clients among ourselves. However a client usually meets the network if they agree for it and not without their consent. It means they would themselves be taking time with the concerned person and discuss with them directly, rather than me or anyone else being involved.

I am equally open to collaborating with other professionals who empower people with their knowledge in a particular area of health, to contribute in my work with their unique knowledge, whatever they be. (But I do not know and/or believe much in NLP, Reiki etc, so please do not ask me about them).

Individual clients and family  meet other members of our team separately -for each one works differently though our goals are coherent. Their professional charges are billed separately. There is no pressure on you, which intervention you decide to go with- just counseling or a network based recovery support.

Typically there are stages of recovery from serious mental distress. In an umbrella way I tell all clients it may take a minimum of two years at the very least to achieve some semblance of recovery and ‘normalcy’ (however you define it for yourself). But this means two years of continuous, regular efforts from all dimensions. Else recovery can take forever. It is my effort that all the knowledge I have gathered in my near 25 years of association with mental health/suffering, as a patient, researcher, therapist, teacher and mentor be put to the service of every single person I work with, so that they take the shortest path to recovery. However, my commitment is not the sole criteria for your recovery- your own commitment is equally or more so significant. You cannot expect that you will meet me once in three months and still recover in two years. For sure you can, I do not deny it is possible, but that would also mean you would have taken the path to knock at several support systems like me. I would draw the analogy of learning to walk after breaking a bone in the leg- one requires daily efforts and incrementally so. Only with consistent effort you build on yesterday’s strength and make progress today.

Please appreciate the fact that I am unable to respond to individual queries (especially over WhatsApp, unless an emergency). Kindly use messaging only for fixing up appointments. I keep exceedingly vested in counseling, research and teaching to respond to questions people may ask (unless they are on a forum like Quora, or some public forum). If what I have written here agrees with you, please feel free to set up a counseling appointment with me, and then let us see how you can be supported towards creating the life you always wanted to live.

Here is a tentative pathway in which we go ahead towards full recovery. Please appreciate that until we go over a majority of these stages one after the other, ‘recovery’ as you define it will not happen and stabilize. Stability is not just about understanding our life challenges, but about putting newer things in place and maintaining them over long spans of time- growing from strength to strength. I always encourage you to consider bringing other members of your family/friends into the dialogues, for they can also make  meaningful contributions, know what you are doing with me and support wherever possible and together we all contribute towards a common goal. It is important to include people, and weed out whatever sources of stress are coming from the family itself, for every family has its issues and talking about them helps more than one person usually- even if everyone doesn’t come into dialogues every single time.

Based on the work I have been doing I have a general plan of action laid out which could be shared with those I work with in future. There is no pressure on you to stick to this path, for this is my recommendation, not a fixed plan for you (you are always free to make your own as well, and share with me if you like. But you are equally free to not share it if you do not want to).  Experience teaches me that putting it down on paper thus also helps you map how far we have come together, and what to expect ahead.

There are people who can linger on in one stage for years, for I never push anyone to do anything. This is my plan to cut the long story short, for when I was suffering and recovering I had no such support. It took me at least ten years of struggling with a therapist. I do not have to cut your long story short, if you do not want it, and would rather go at your own pace. By all means, take your time- this is a long life after all. You can also recover like me, even without any help at all if you so choose- but there is no pathway for that, for you will have to create it for yourself.

There will never a pressure from me to fix the next appointment, be assured of it.  Instead I always recommend that people come back to me when they ‘feel up to it’. Nevertheless what follows is what I have gained in years of doing this work. Please read and familiarize yourself with the stages of recovery, via the sort of work I offer. Also kindly do not forget, recovery is your goal and plan (mine is only a recommendation). I am here to support that and point out the pitfalls on the path, if I can see them beforehand. Or even if I see them on hindsight with you, the effort is that we not repeat whatever we gain from one experience.

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Going off medication does not mean you will stop getting disturbed- it only means you  have reached a point where you are now stable with other supports. You have have to learn how to deal with what bothers you- hiding, ignoring,  burying your head in the sand, pretending it is not there like the pigeon who closes its eyes on seeing a cat…doesn’t drive the cat away. Or does it?

What follows is the proposed schema which will be variable for everyone. Or you can create your own. It is not even a blueprint, only a rough path, which everyone would have to follow, and this will take at least a few years of patient work with yourself, with or without an external support like me.

Stage I We meet once in week , for one (maximum two) months to establish rapport and a clear understanding of our goals, obstacles, problems, challenges, family etc. In these two weeks we have dialogues with whoever is part of the ‘network’ of support you have for yourself and I want to bring in from my side as well.

Stage II– We meet once in two weeks, consolidating the work done in the past and laying down further goals.

Stage III– From the next month onward we meet once in three weeks- and maintain this until we have managed at least some of the major goals. This is usually the stage at which we start the other things, including looking for alternatives to psychiatry and seeing what is happening on all fronts.

Stage IV– At this point we start decreasing our discussions and make it once a month or once in six-eight weeks. The whole effort is to bring you own confidence, intelligence and decision making to such a clear location that you would not require a regular connection with me.

Stage V– At this stage you do not need counseling but if you feel like occasionally checking back and updating me it is up to you, or not at all. Or if you are struck in a particular location and you just want to come in for a one-off discussion, you do so. There is no regularity in this- it may be once a month, once in six months, a year or five years, who knows. You are a free and well functioning individual and I am just a friend, you can turn to for you know that whatever I will say will always be objective, clear and non-baised.

In case of an emergency– Please understand that dealing with psychosis and its symptoms is not easy for anyone. Ideally if we are in regular touch we would be able to  see that no such eventuality present itself.  But in case it should happen I/we would be supporting the whole family in dealing with one person’s crisis, take psychiatric support if necessary or if nothing else works for then, and in general do all it takes to douse a crisis. I am not leaving you stranded to deal with anything, be assured of it.

I am a peer, and I work with deep respect, and recognition of our suffering, for I have been there and suffered it, so has my family. I am trying to do the most I can- and believe me I am at it all the time.

*supporting you create a life of your choice*