“I may forget God but I will remember Anupama always – she gave me a news lease of life” says Dr. Ujjwala Dev, herself an M.D. physician, who was counselled by Anupama Gadkari when she was going through a very rough patch in life.
“What I remember most vividly is that she was full of compassion, but did not allow me to use her as my emotional crutch – she taught me to cope by making myself strong!” says Ujjwala, who was 40 then and Anupama, hardly 21, and new to Nagpur.
“She is a wonderful, wonderful lady; knows what she is doing, a master in her subject” says Vijaya Dhande, Founding Director of Sandipani ( now retired) who had Anupama as Student counsellor in Sandipani for a long stint.
So who and what is Anupama Gadkari ?
Her own website says she is a Consultant Psychologist, Psychotherapist, & HRD Trainer. Srujun, as her psychotherapy and counselling centre is called does Child & Parent Counselling, Adolescent counselling, Career guidance and pre marriage and marriage counselling.
She was a Psychology honours student of Mumbai University and went on to do a number of advanced courses and PG Diploma from KEM, Appolo Hospitals, Hyderabad etc. She has trained in REBT, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, at Phadke centre, Mumbai. But what is very significant is that her first job was with Institute of Psychological Health, Thane, that was run by the world famous Dr. Anand Nadkarni.
So what is REBT and how does it work? I ask her.
“In simple terms, rational emotive behaviour therapy is healing you with your own thought process. It is not just talk as people assume, there are specific exercises and techniques involved” says Anupama.
Disturbed people are often like someone who is drowning clutching at straws. They can embrace religious fanaticism as a coping mechanism, or go into other superstitious practise like wearing of precious stones, or worse still turn to alcohol and other addictions.
With counselling, they can learn the right coping mechanisms and work out their issues rationally and with cognition (understanding) believes Anupama.
For example, when she talks of Career counselling, it does not imply just guiding a child about careers available but it is giving her a complete insight into the process of Career development, having role models, personality and aptitude testing etc.
Anupama gives most significance to child and parent counselling which she says is the most crucial need of the hour. “Parents just don’t seem to have the time to talk with children these days” she rues.This disconnect is often filled by peers, and watching inappropriate TV.
“Even cartoon channels can be harmful. They are full of aggression and other elements not very desirous” cautions Anupama.
How to have your children eat, happily? – Since 99% urban parents are always voicing concern about their child not “eating properly” or “not being interested in food at all!” I asked her how this could be handled.
“Ohh! this is a big topic in itself” says Anupama, but goes on to explain how developing a liking for food and eating voluntarily is an ongoing process and most parents do not have patience for it.
“First of all you need to inculcate discipline in the whole family about meal times and eating together” explains Gadkari. “From the time a child is an year old, have him sit at the table with the whole family to ‘share food’. Give him small bite sized portions to begin with – let him observe, experiment and play with food. Teach him to appreciate the colours, the textures, the smell and taste of various foods. And then let him choose what he wants to eat! Do not be obsessed with portion size.”
She says hunger is a biological drive and should come automatically.
“Do not pander the child with chocolates, biscuits and fast food in- between meal times and please NEVER have the TV, I pad or smart phone on when the child is eating! How will she learn to ‘experience food’ if there is such distracting stimulus?” She asks.
“Forcing food down their throats is dangerous parenting – it can have serious repercussions later on. It can turn them into rebels and make them resentful of their parents” she warns.
All parents mean well by their children but they are confused about how to go about it, says the psychologist.
“They want to be different than their own parents were, want to be more encouraging and supportive but at the same time we have become a performance obsessed society. So no sooner a child learns swimming, they would like her to participate in competitions, become a ‘state-level’ swimmer at least. The concept of swimming for the enjoyment of it, is not there – it is considered a waste of time!”
She says that now without realizing it, we have structured expectations of children. We hold up examples of other children to ‘inspire them to perform’.
“This is very wrong! No child should ever be compared to any other! Each child is a unique human being.” Says Anupama.
Seeing all these pressing needs of society, Anupama, who re settled in Nagpur after marriage and first worked with schools and hospitals decided to branch out on her own.
Since she has worked in both Mumbai and Nagpur I asked her if there were any issues that were faced specifically by Nagpur youth. Like lack of career opportunities or easy availability of alcohol and a peer group ready to ‘party’ any time.
She replied that this does not seem to be the case. Youngsters who are very career oriented and think there aren’t opportunities in Nagpur, move out anyway. And in fact, youngsters who opt to stay behind have a very good support system of friends and extended family, that can be lacking in bigger cities.
“But still there are issues where a family or a person has to go in for counselling and psychotherapy and we wanted them to have the best facility available in the city.”
Srujan, which began barely 6 years ago, has a multidisciplinary team of clinical psychologists, special educator, counsellors and even a Yoga therapist. The area of work they specialize in is psychotherapy for various psychiatrist and psychological problems/ disorders, personality difficulties, academic problems and learning disorders. Lots of couples are coming in for pre-marital counselling too.
“It is a very healthy trend of going in for counselling before they go in for marriage; even parents encourage it or actively push them into seeking help if they detect problems. When the courtship period is over and the girl or the guy see a side of their future partner which they never anticipated, there can be trouble and confusion. A guy can be suspicious and jealous, a girl can have commitment issues… there can be many upsets. Counselling at this stage can either iron out the differences or help them realize that they are NOT meant for each other.” Explains Anupama.
“There are many issues at the family level too, leading to depression and even suicidal tendencies in some members who can also begin feeling guilty and helpless. When the whole family comes in for counselling, there is group support and the root cause of the problem can be located and removed.”
“It all boils down to coping with emotions or taking care of emotional disturbance. Long term mismanagement of emotions leads to extreme steps like committing suicides. It is seldom a sudden and impulsive decision. With student suicides, the irony is many very intelligent children commit suicide. It is fear and not bad marks that kills them…”
Srujan have handled over 15 thousand cases successfully ; apart from Indians, eight Pakistani, two Australian and one Italian family have availed of their family counselling services too.
Srujan has won five National and four International Creative awards for the campaign with Mudra group with the theme of Awareness about Schizophrenia. They conduct seminars on Peer counselling and Awareness about Depression with ASHA international, USA.
Anupama and her team does a lot of (free) counselling workshops in mofussil towns of Nagpur. They just did a seminar on Parent counselling in Chandrapur where 1,500 parents attended!