As a major step towards inclusion, Mariwala Health Initiative (MHI) has released a resource book for mental health practitioners (MHPs) titled Queer Affirmative Counselling Practice (QACP). The book aims to help mental health practitioners in identifying and addressing the unique stressors faced by LGBTQIA+ persons as they navigate through challenges faced in institutional, social, and individual settings.
Speaking about the importance of incorporating a queer lens in mental health counselling, Mr. Harsh Mariwala, Founder, Mariwala Health Initiative and Chairman, Marico Ltd. said, “Globally, there is much conversation on diverse genders and sexualities. There is a need for society to accept and affirm this in personal spaces as well in workplaces. Therefore, mental health professionals will also need to acquire new knowledge and skill sets to be queer affirmative in their counselling practice. Whether an individual provider or a workplace – we have this unique potential to be a safe space. You can move quicker, nimbler, and better – so what is stopping all of us from making our mental health spaces and workspaces safe and affirmative?”
In 2018, the Indian Psychiatric Society declared homosexuality a sexual variation and not a mental illness. There is, however, a long-standing history of pathologising queer-trans identities which continues to dominate mental health practice in India. Even when services are queer-friendly, the mental health of queer individuals is judged on heteronormative parameters. The Mental Health Practitioners helpbook QACP Resource Book challenges this perspective and attempts to create pathways moving beyond queer friendly services towards queer affirmative practices.
Talking about the book, Dr Dayal Mirchandani, MD, DPM, and the Director of Behavioural Science Network, says, “It is a comprehensive book that provides a deeper understanding of sexuality and gender, bringing to light external sources of power such as cultural, psychological and religious ideologies and how they are internalised. The privileged position of people who fit into the socio-cultural norms of “normality” and the negative effect of growing up in a sexually repressive and homophobic culture are all discussed in the book.”
The Mental Health Practitioners helpbook QACP Resource Book for Mental Health Practitioners is authored by a core team of MHPs – Dr Ketki Ranade Assistant Professor, TISS, Dr Shruti Chakravarty (Chief Advisor, MHI), Pooja Nair (Consultant Therapist, MHI) and Gauri Shringarpure (Therapist, QACP Faculty). The book is a culmination of three years of insight gathering from queer affirmative training courses provided to over 350 MHPs across 40 locations in India.
Highlighting the need for MHPs to learn affirmative counselling, Dr Chakravarty says, “LGBTQIA+ persons experience discrimination by systems and institutions which compel suppression of their voices, expressions, and identities. The heteronormative system conditions people to uphold strict ideas of gender and sexuality and discriminates against those who do not conform. The pervasiveness of this socialisation is reflected in formal mental health curricula and is harmful to LGBTQIA+ persons. Affirmative counselling is an opportunity to unlearn heteronormativity in mental health practice. The Mental Health Practitioners helpbook Queer Affirmative Counselling Practice Resource book integrates the lived experience of queer-trans persons with tools and insights of how to be queer affirmative in practice.”