This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Sadaf V. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

What ‘Dear Zindagi’ Got Right (And Wrong) About Therapy In India

More from Sadaf V

Some called it “India’s first film on mental health”, while others called it just a feel-good movie. Personally, I do not feel the creators of the movie wanted to per se introduce some staggering concepts. They just perhaps realised that there is a wave of mental health awareness happening, and they wanted to share a good story around it. As a psychologist and a therapist then, I feel they got the following things right:

1. Yes, most people do seek therapy for relationship troubles.

Even when people may have dysfunctional coping patterns like avoidance, drinking or displacing their anger on others, most people tend to come for therapy when these issues come up in their relationships. Some reviews of the movie said that her seeking therapy for a breakup is a “first world problem” – but I disagree. A study by Harvard of over 75 years indicated that relationships are the single most important factor to a happy life. So, yes, relationship issues are a very valid reason to bring people to therapy.

2. Even most urban people have misconceptions of who should go to therapy and why.

In many scenes in the film, we see people’s reactions to Alia’s going to therapy. These are some really urban, modern people and yet they react as if she is doing something regressive. Sadly, this is a pervasive attitude in India.

3. Therapy takes time.

The movie shows Alia going for multiple sessions over months. And this is for “seemingly” simple issues like breakups and family problems. I think this is an important lesson because many clients come to therapy seeking immediate, magical solutions.

4. Self-esteem plays a role in most of our problems.

The movie shows well how a childhood incident has made Alia very guarded. This affects how she conducts herself in relationships. Therefore, most relationship issues do have roots in our own insecurities and defences.

What The Movie Got Wrong:

1. Therapists in India don’t own villas!

I was thinking of whether I should include this one, but I decided I should. Most people in India do not feel therapy and counselling should be a paid process since it’s just “talking”. It is very difficult for most therapists and counsellors to make ends meet. Most of us do other jobs like teaching or research on the side, to support our practice. The starting pay for counsellors is anywhere from ₹9000 to ₹15000 per month. Further, therapists and a range of professionals have been disenfranchised according to the new mental health bill. This bill only gives importance to the psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.

2. The client is not so passive.

Shahrukh Khan keeps touting advice and Alia keeps getting enlightened. This is a dangerous myth to propagate because the whole point of therapy is to get the client to question themselves and change their perspective to a healthier one. Yes, this is done gently, through questions and reflections and the therapist walks as slow as the client may need. When we show that the therapist is going to “enlighten you” – clients go into the passive role. The whole purpose of therapy is defeated then – if you won’t initiate the change, how long will it last?

3. There’s a reason we do not meet clients in very informal settings.

We see SRK going cycling and ferry riding with Alia. The reason why most ethical codes call it bad practice is because therapy is supposed to be treated as a different kind of relationship. By making it so commonplace, there is a danger of crossing lines. The client needs to feel that this is a structured relationship with an end goal of learning and change. Thus, the boundaries and rules.

4. The older man advising the younger girl… really?

I can’t help but think – why did they have to recreate this creepy patriarchal dynamic? They could have had a same-aged man. Or a female therapist. Or a male protagonist (client). Maybe this was incidental. But then again, movies on social themes do carry some responsibility, don’t they?

Overall, I think it was a pleasant attempt and will hopefully bring the conversation of therapy into the mainstream. But, we have a long way to go when it comes to more accurate descriptions of the process and it’s usefulness.

You must be to comment.

More from Sadaf V

Similar Posts

By Ananya Bhuyan

By Barkha Pawar

By Rushikesh Barje

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below