The pandemic has witnessed a rise in mental health issues across age groups due to various causes. In such a premise, Dr. Ananya Sinha, Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, NIMHANS, Institute of National Importance), with an MPhil in Clinical Psychology from IHBAS (Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences), has found her dream project, TherapHeal, a mental health service to make this society a healthier place for all individuals. TherapHeal (therapheal.in) was officially launched on the 9th of October 2021 in the International Psychology Conference Dubai (IPCD 2021), Dubai, organized by the Heriot-Watt University. Dr. Ananya Sinha was invited to conduct a workshop on Grief Counselling. “With 10th October being the World Mental Health Day, I believed it would be the perfect launch day,” she said.
In conversation about her brainchild, Dr. Ananya Sinha affirmed that TherapHeal is a piece of her heart and a long-held dream since her childhood. She maintained that she has been keen on contributing to the society, and being a ‘wounded healer’ herself; she realized the vitality of mental health early on in life. “That planted the seed for TherapHeal, an accessible online global platform of licensed mental health practitioners,” she added.
One needs to be constantly updated about the latest evidence-based approaches and ethical and legal paradigms to navigate the complex landscape of mental health practice. TherapHeal aims to provide professional mental health services as there is a considerable lack of professional development spaces in India where trained and specialized practitioners provide training or supervision opportunities. “Such spaces are not only for trainee therapists or novice therapists but also for experienced ones who want to upskill themselves. Structured supervision helps in ensuring quality care to the clients. Owing to the rising need for such spaces, this has been explicitly kept as an aim,” the founder of TherapHeal said.
In TherapHeal, Chief Clinical Psychologist Dr. Ananya Sinha informed that the clients are provided resource materials to equip themselves with relapse prevention or any other skill required to enhance or maintain mental wellbeing. “The clients are also given the option of taking booster sessions with their therapists after termination,” she added.
Reality: An Inspiration
Despite the growing outlook of normalizing seeking psychological help, there is a continued stigma attached towards the idea of therapy and the people who provide such services. Dr. Ananya Sinha mentioned that India has 1.3 billion people with only 4000 trained and licensed mental health professionals! In the wake of the Covid- 19 pandemic, there was a steep rise in the awareness of mental health issues. Stigmatization and stereotyping about mental health and seeking therapeutic support are very prevalent in India. “Despite being aware of one’s mental health needs and feeling a strong need to initiate therapy, most people hesitate to reach out for help. Some associated concerns also lie in questions, ‘What will I tell my office if I am regularly taking a break to attend therapy sessions?’ or ‘How will my family react if they know I am taking therapy?’ To top that was the additional logistical issues like commutation, where traffic adds up to 1-2 hours of travel time in some cities. There are some remote cities in India where trained professionals are not readily available,” she explained.
Such elements of the harsh reality in the Indian context of the premise of mental health proved to be indicators for a strong need for competent mental health services that are not only easily accessible but also private and confidential. “TherapHeal was born to make mental health services accessible and convenient. Reaching trained licensed mental health professionals is now just a click away,” Dr. Ananya Sinha proudly claimed.
The heart of achievement lies in a great team.
Speaking about her team of TherapHeal, Dr. Ananya Sinha contended that her team in TherapHeal is a group of carefully curated mental health professionals. They have all received their training from the best institutes in India and abroad. “Most of them are already known for being leaders in mental health services; I am happy to provide a platform to them to reach out to the masses. My team consists of Global experts, Global associates, and licensed mental health professionals from different backgrounds who speak other languages to cater to a broader audience. I have taken a lot of time and given a lot of thought to assembling them, and the team is growing. Each individual brings a specific technical skillset to the table and completes us as a well-rounded organisation,” she said.
Patience and perseverance: walking through difficulties
Providing mental health services, especially in the premise of the pandemic, would be extremely important but also tedious. With TherapHeal, Dr. Ananya Sinha has a lot of ground to cover in a short period. In conversation about some stumbling blocks, she revealed that the team is overwhelmed with the response, love, and trust people have shown to TherapHeal. With a determination to live up to their expectations, they require a lot of resources. “I don’t consider anything difficult right now, but we have a lot of hurdles in front of us which we have to cross to reach where we see ourselves. We are, however, looking for funding and investors so that we can realize the dream we had seen with TherapHeal,” she disclosed.
What makes TherapHeal unique?
The founder of the service asserted that TherapHeal is unique in more than one way. It’s a one-stop solution for all mental health-related needs as they provide assessment and therapy services for clients, including individual therapy, couples therapy, family therapy, and group therapy. They are presently running grief support groups while simultaneously providing our services in schools and colleges by hosting student-oriented mental health programs. “We also offer corporate services like Employee Assistance Programs, employee wellness programs, entrepreneur stress management programs, leadership training, and workshops. This is a global online platform consisting of a team of ethical, multiculturally competent, licensed mental health practitioners. Everyone in the team is licensed, not only in India but in different parts of the world, including New Zealand, Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia, and Dubai. This is helping us cater to a more extensive global clientele. Parallelly, we are also providing professional development spaces for mental health trainees and practitioners,” Dr. Ananya Sinha informed.
Spreading the word
Do we know enough about mental health and when to seek professional help? The answer is no. By providing a range of mental health services, TherapHeal also intends to spread awareness about mental health and mental illness since awareness is the first step in alleviating the issues. She told she expects the awareness programs, particularly about addressing the myths about mental health, to change people’s outlook. Dr. Ananya Sinha further explained that #Breakthestigma is one of the core goals of TherapHeal.
Aligned to this goal, they plan to run multiple global campaigns using social media and physical mediums. Speaking about the stereotyping of psychologists and psychiatrists as ‘shrinks,’ the founder of TherapHeal said, “one can call a rose by different names, but a rose remains a rose. So, the label is not essential. What is critical is to understand that only trained and licensed professionals are equipped to address the complexity of mental health issues, So choose wisely.”
The impact of TherapHeal
The pandemic had put forth a huge demand for mental health services. TherapHeal, through its online global presence, will be able to make mental health services easily accessible, that too in a private, confidential space. “As an organization, we will hopefully be able to address the mental health concerns of a large group of people. Given the pandemic is in its last stage, TherapHeal’s impact on people will continue,” the founder affirmed.
A message for you!
The mind-body relationship is a well-established empirical fact. If one can fight the stigma in their mind of seeking professional support, they can open the doors for a much healthier, happier, and peaceful life. “TherapHeal is a safe, non-judgmental, and empathetic place. Come to TherapHeal if you are looking for compassionate, understanding individuals who are committed to the cause. You will always find us by your side, even if you are not a client to us. We will be uploading many free materials that people can access through social media (Insta page: therapheal.mental health) and our website (www.therapheal.in). We are always by anyone who needs us in any form,” Dr. Ananya Sinha encouraged.
In conversation about future endeavors, Dr. Ananya Sinha revealed that due to the increase in demand for mental wellbeing services, growth in the field is inevitable. TherapHeal has pledged to move with people and customize their offering with the need of the hour. “So as for the plans, the near future looks super action-packed, and many projects are waiting to be implemented. For example, e.g., we are seriously looking at corporate and media tie-ups and are in talks with a few corporates already on some projects. Once they materialize, we will expand our portfolio,” the founder of TherapHeal, Dr. Ananya Sinha, signed off.