Time for a new generation of therapists


For many years the idea for the next generation of therapists had been crystallizing in my mind, especially because repeatedly I could see that those coming with any form of university based training, were really not working for those requiring help of a serious nature. They came with their fixed ideas and notions, clearly etched in their minds, from a few years of study of ‘abnormal’ psychology, or other allied disciplines. They were reinforcing the idea of a ‘lack’ that these seemingly ‘ill’ or ‘deficient’ people had.

I was extremely troubled in my own one or two meetings with two clinical psychologists; never met either a second time- they were extremely silly, presumptuous, immature, bookish, notional and altogether feeble in their arguments. Then I had a long stint with my own Jungian analyst, for a span of almost a decade. It was a great thing, but did not help me recover from bipolar disorder- though it successfully showed me where I was lacking, where the grey areas of my life were and where I needed to look, in case I wanted to solve my dilemmas.

It was a span of twenty years for me to discover social constructionism- and to read the books that had to be imported from the US, before I would shake off the yoke of psychiatric nomenclature and stop defining myself as ‘bipolar’. It is almost a lifetime, come to think of it. But even then, when I wrote my first article about myself, I kept it within the confines of research- for I wanted to be sure I had a framework in which to analyze my narrative and not just another attempt at drawing attention to myself, which people with lived experiences of illnesses often end up doing, by representing the very thing they get out to rebel against.

It was more and more digging into the work of social construction, and in fact almost around the fag end of writing my book, that I encountered the idea of collaborative practices and that was the start of another new road. And by the time I discovered emancipatory epistemology, I was convinced that the ‘survivor’ or the ‘user’ tag was not for me. I believe that I have accomplished my reclaiming of myself in a significant way due to developing the ability to reject the labeling handed down by psychiatry, and that is an aspect of linguistics, not psychiatry! I had nothing against the label, in fact even enjoyed feelign that being bipolar made me more gifted and talented (which it did) but then to see that it incapacitated me so severely was certainly not the best thing to happen. And that was the disordered part of the game- painful, full of anxiety, suffering and endless melancholia.

What makes the new therapist?

New therapists are those who will come with these lived experiences of real suffering; which could be suffering due to illness, war, rape, divorce, or any other human or natural calamity. They ought to have seen suffering at close quarters, which would make them comprehend the nature of suffering in a universal way. This is the starting point of the new therapists- self experience, and not university degrees.

The new therapists will not confined to certain disciplines- but graduates, post graduates of most (preferably social sciences) disciplines, with a strong flair for communication, empathy for human beings, ability to write well and comprehend writing/research. But more importantly these would be people who want to put themselves through the discipline and rigour of understanding their own mind, and going beyond their verbal and social entrapment, determined to change the course of their lives by changing what is holding them back from growth and then be willing to do what it takes to develop an ability for reflexivity, collaborative action, linguistic transformation and critical abilities about everything that is prevalent in human society at present.

What are desirable attributes of such therapists?

One does not expect that all the attributes that are desirable in the new generation of therapist would be already present in them and if they are, we would have a way to ascertain that. If they have the attributes already why would they need to go through a training? I think the better response is that certain individuals have certain qualities that can be honed by training, mentoring and partnering with them to help them becoming more at ease within themselves, which in turn would bring around the centering of their energy and foci towards a universality that is desirable for the new generation of therapists.

The following are the traits that would be considered ideal-

  1. Desire to help others
  2. Willingness to learn about what they lack in themselves, by being humble enough to examine their lives in a serious, academic and philosophical way, rather than clinging on to their narratives.
  3. Be willing to enter into a certain disciplined training, and learn how to collaborate with others, and help one another in growing together and fostering relationships as part of a big team.
  4. They may be peer supporters already or may be considering becoming as such.

So these are some of the attributes we would also be looking for when we start inducting the people for the first group of training. Of course it is my hope that most of these would be able to get jobs soon, for they would have so much experience that no graduate or post graduate of any discipline coming from psychology, sociology, social work or clinical psychology would have the breadth of exposure that the emancipatory collaborative therapists would have- plus they would be real therapists.

Feeling like life can bring out the best from everyone, if they want to be their best.

Of course have no doubt about this, this is the most I can offer for the rehabilitation of those with lived experiences: offering employable skills, empowering them and society in a cyclical way- helping in their mainstreaming as best as I can.


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