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By Sushama Kirtikar -

“Veettukku Veedu Vasalpadi.” This is an _expression in Tamil for “Each home has its doorstep: meaning there are dysfunctions that each household has,” according to Shashi Raman, a counseling student in Wilmington, Delaware. This was part of a lively discussion generated within the South Asian psychological community when I posed the question, “Why do a large majority of Indians shun psychotherapy as an option for relief from pain?”

Sushama Kirtikar
As I had said in my previous column, I find in the Indian community of Tampa Bay a grave resistance to seeking psychological help. I am told that is not necessarily true of the younger generation in larger metropolises of the U.S., especially the North and Northeast. Dibya Choudhari, Ph.D., Department of Leadership and Counseling, at Eastern Michigan University states, “I think the idea that Indian culture is against psychotherapy is a simplistic and misleading concept.”

Dr. Choudhari goes on to elucidate, “When I am in India, it seems people just had to hear that I was a counselor and they would be flocking to emotionally disrobe (so to speak), whether I invited it or not.” It is true that in India, the notion of counseling is catching like wildfire. My friend, Havovi Patel, a counselor at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, reports a constant stream of highly stressed students seeking marital help. My niece, Aparna Vyavaharkar, in Mumbai has been hired by a tennis coach as a sports counselor!

Back home, we had a well-tested stable built-in system of supporters. We could turn to our elders, trusted relatives, and revered people in the community for help. Today, I hear this network is being whittled away treacherously by the emerging lifestyle of two income families. It is natural and inevitable that psychotherapy is becoming more friendly and popular. Here, in the U.S., the erstwhile network is practically non-existent or spread wispy thin at best, because of the established lifestyle of nucleus families and transient nature of most households. Most do not have time to form community connections, nurture them to the point of deep trust, and then depend on them for sharing innermost conflicts and turmoil.

If there is a death in the family, if there is a teenager in the throes of ‘adolescent angst’, if there is a marriage on the brink of collapse, if there is an upcoming layoff from work, if there is a diagnosis of a terminal illness, if there is … you get the picture; you need to feel comfortable to approach someone for psychological / emotional help. You do not want to feel isolated, trapped, helpless and hopeless. Taking the risk to make an appointment to see a counselor or psychologist may well save you months and years of heartache. I was recently told by a local psychiatrist that some Indian couples will even go so far as to seek sex therapy from a physician but will balk at the thought of visiting a psychotherapist, as that means having to delve into their psyche, which is frightening to so many achievement oriented and concrete thinkers.

I think it is time to shed those inhibitions and give ourselves permission to be well and happy. Let us consider the turn of the century trends and lay down our defenses in the interest of emotional stability and salubrious mental health.

Sushama Kirtikar, a licensed mental health counselor, can be reached at (813) 264-7114 or (727) 586-0626, or e-mail at

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