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In a country where seeking professional help for mental health is looked down upon, how does being a counsellor look? We speak to Genevive Angela, a counsellor for young adults and women, to find out.
In this series, BriefCase, we will be meeting women at work in different fields, in different roles, to gain insight into their lives and work. With more women joining (or aspiring to) join the paid workforce, we live in exciting times, and this is an attempt to chronicle those times, one life at a time.
With many feathers in her cap – ranging from working with young adults at Osmania University to research on counselling for domestic violence to working in initiatives in the space of education and violence against women – Genevive Angela works in a field that is still not given its due. In conversation with the mental health professional who is up against several societal taboos in India:
How would you describe yourself?
I think of myself as a compassionate, enthusiastic, and solution-oriented person, providing care for young adults and women experiencing any kind of mental/emotional health issue. I’m also a dedicated and devoted wife, mother, sister, friend, and a perpetual learner; living a life of gratitude.
Why did you choose this field?
As a youth, I too faced a lot of difficulties. I struggled to deal with my own psychological issues of low self-concept, zero confidence in myself, and absolutely no goal and motivation to do anything worthwhile.
I was rescued and reached out to by so many different persons who were my guides, mentors, and counsellors – who taught me to believe in myself, valued and encouraged me in not only finding myself but also helped me find meaning in my work.
My choice to work in this field is a response – to share with gratitude what I have received, and pay it forward to make a difference in the lives of those I meet.
Describe your role so that it is understandable to someone who knows nothing about your industry.
I work as a counsellor at SAHAYAM, which is the Psychological Counselling centre of Osmania University, Hyderabad.
My work involves meeting the students who come with general psychological issues related to fear, anxiety, worry, anger, adjustments, relationship issues, suicidal ideation/ tendencies, and various forms of addictions. I also address problems related to study plan, concentration issues, goal-setting, time-management, management of stress etc.
As a counsellor, my role is to listen to them and facilitate the process of enabling them to find solutions to whatever issues they are struggling with. While assessing a student, if I find that there is need for medical help, then I do refer them to the doctor for medication and encourage them to come back to the centre for support counselling.
I’m a certified Master Trainer in HIV AIDS, a Supportive Supervisor for ICTC (Integrated Counselling Testing Centre), the Vice President for YWCA (Young women Christian Association), and a resource person for MAKRO Foundation, and COVA, Hyderabad, that works for suicide prevention and takes up important social initiatives in education and communal harmony.
What is the most exciting aspect of your role and your field?
The most exciting part of my role is meeting my students and women who trust me, open up their lives, and share their problems. They are my teachers, and I learn a lot from them. In fact, some sessions become so motivating, that I feel inspired to continue to work in this field despite a lot of challenges.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
The most challenging aspect is to work with existing institutions and systems that do not understand the need and value of psychological counselling. On account of which, it is not easy to stay motivated. One needs to be convinced personally to work in this area.
What is the most common misconception about your field?
The most common misconception is that counselling is not “work”; it is just talking, providing guidance, and advice. The other misconception is that Counselling is only for mentally ill people. If a student goes for counselling, he or she is looked down upon as having a “mental health” issue. Availing counselling is still considered a taboo.
If you had to change one thing about your field, what would it be?
I believe change comes from oneself. I’d like to conclude with Gandhiji’s famous words: “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
Diana has worked as an Editor/Writer and Content Manager for various digital platforms and
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