By Indu Matiyani, Counselor at UKK Clinic
Not having heard of it is not as good as having heard of it. Having heard of it is not as good as having seen it. Having seen it is not as good as knowing it. Knowing it is not as good as putting it into practice. So, learning only happens when both learning and experience is placed into practice. This expression above is true for my present job as a counsellor at Umeed Ki Kiran Clinic (UKK) in Jahangirpuri. I cannot say getting into this clinic was a piece of cake. I applied thrice for this job but never got through as the selection process was rigorous and it is fair as the job demands a lot of precision and motivation. Well, someone has rightly said that fourth time’s a charm so, I finally got selected on 5th March 2019 and started my very own journey as a counselor at this clinic who is providing medical and psychosocial care to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
Despite being nervous and anxious, I was excited too to start a whole new chapter of my professional life which is not easy but is interesting. For the first few weeks, I was given training by my supervisor (a Clinical Social Worker) on the kind of services the clinic is providing and also, she helped me understand more about counseling and our project in detail. It may sound a bit of an overstatement but once you start working here, you will know the difference it makes in your life. Sometimes, it can be emotionally taxing too but when you see that your work is making a difference in the life of another person then it sure is worth something and gives you a lot of satisfaction.
My journey started at the clinic and I attended a training given by my supervisor. Firstly, I was given a lot of material to ponder upon so that I can have the theoretical knowledge and I was shadowing other counselors to understand in-depth counselor-client interactions. I had a whole month in my hand to understand everything but my learning never stopped even after that month was over. What I realized in this project that learning truly is a never-ending process and since counseling is such a vast field, one never can really be sure that they know everything. Every survivor comes with their unique stories and every story/problem requires different interventions. Hence, it proves my point that learning is indeed a continuous process.
When I finally started meeting survivors face to face, I actually got to know a lot of things I can be achieved together with them in a counseling session. I started with basic knowledge but eventually, I grew as a counselor by the training I received as quality patient care is a top priority at this clinic. We were trained on different topics like counseling Pre/Adolescent SGBV survivors, self-harm and suicide, SGBV mental health refresher course, and my personal favorite, Problem Management Plus. Also, once we did a reflective exercise in order to enhance awareness in the roles we fulfill as counselors. I was also trained step by step on how to deal with the survivors when they come to us for care. Initially, triage is done for the clients to establish what kind of help the survivor needs. Accordingly, the survivor is sent to either a counselor or a doctor or both. In counseling sessions, we start by describing the clinic’s work, confidentiality, and what counseling is in layman’s terms and if a client is still struggles to understand then we put forward some examples to substantiate our explanation and tell them the importance of coming back for follow-up sessions. Then an initial assessment is done wherein the counselor seeks to know the brief history and current problem the survivor is living with. Suicidal assessment is also done for every survivor who comes in for session, and survivor and counseling session goals are being set too. Then further dates are agreed for follow-up counseling sessions, considering the survivor’s comfort and counselor’s availability.
Also, Problem Management Plus (PM+) has proven really helpful in our role as counselor. It aims to address both psychological problems (e.g. stress, fear, feelings of helplessness) and, where possible, practical problems (e.g. livelihood problems, conflict in the family and so on). This particular intervention is interesting and easy to conduct with clients. By doing this intervention, we understand that the problems facing by clients are challenging to solve but there still might be ways to provide relief from their impact.
There are few psychoeducation groups that we counselors run in Jahangirpuri. Presently, the groups that are being run are women, children, adolescent girls and boys. The overall objective behind running these groups is to give people a safe space so that they can freely express themselves. Also, to give them information around different topics like Self-esteem, SGBV, types of violence, how to protect themselves, etc so that they can help themselves and others in times of need/crisis. Although we counselors do pass on the same information in our counselling sessions but in order to reach out to a large number of people, we started taking sessions in the community too. These psychoeducation sessions are the best way to engage the community as per my experience.
We also conduct awareness sessions in nearby schools in order to disseminate information relating to our services and also topics concerning adolescents. After taking such sessions myself, I believe that young minds need guidance to polish their personality and if such kind of information can be instilled in them at a young age then they can surely change society so in a way we are making agents of change, one school at a time.
My work as a counselor at UKK clinic comes with the freedom to think outside the box. I have a lot of ways to creatively express myself and the most important thing is that my opinions matter when it comes to work here. I have also developed a can-do attitude because we are all allowed to make mistakes as we all learn from them. I also learned that it is okay to struggle as it is completely normal. Few key skills like doing work on time and giving a high level of care to SGBV survivors is very important when working in an environment that demands swiftness and a high level of accuracy. The work experience really motivated me as a person and gave me a better outlook on how my life can be in the future.
I strongly believe that things are not impossible if genuine passion is put into doing it. This is what I have been doing for more than a year. But this is just me painting a picture of my own experience, but it could be any of you who will read this experience of mine and then maybe you will be able to recreate your own experience some day by working here as counselor in the Clinic called a ‘ray of hope’ in English and otherwise widely known as ‘UMEED KI KIRAN.’