I never thought I’d become a therapist. My parents encouraged me to “help others” in whatever profession I chose. I was lucky to not be indoctrinated with the mantra to become either a “doctor, lawyer, or engineer” as most of my first-generation Indian-American friends were by their parents.
As a child I realized that things seemed to affect me more than they affected other people, and that I easily empathized with others’ emotions. This facet of my personality, paired with my fascination with the human mind, steered me toward studying Biopsychology, Cognition & Neuroscience at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, my hometown. After graduation, I felt that helping people, on a very direct level, was my calling. I then completed my master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling & Behavioral Medicine from the Boston University School of Medicine.
Being a first-generation Indian-American in the field of mental healthcare has offered a unique perspective. I constantly have two lenses: American and Indian. These two perspectives constitute who I am as a person, from my values and personality to my quirks and preferences.
In terms of openness around sharing one’s emotions, coping with life stressors, and one’s sense of self, Indian and American cultures can contrast greatly. This is something I look forward to talking about in future posts. As a psychotherapist who’s been informed by both sides on a personal level, it’s crucial that I stay conscious of my own biases that can impact the work I do with others. It can definitely get confusing at times.
However, these two sides allow me to more easily be a culturally-sensitive therapist. This means that when I work with my clients, I strive to understand their cultural contexts. Specifically, how their cultures have informed who they are, the way they feel, and the decisions they make.
As I counsel others, regardless of their cultural backgrounds, I find myself reflecting more on how my Indian and American sides have shaped me, and continue to shape me. As a therapist, whether I like it not, I’m challenged to hold a microscope to parts of myself although it may be difficult at times. I have a feeling that I’ve only begun what will be a lifelong journey of exploring the human mind — both in others and myself.