Welcome to a DocScopy section which will take us to an eventful professional journey of Dr. Keerti Kukreja, a psychotherapist practicing in Delhi, India.
Let us find out about the professional events in Dr. Kirti Kukreja's life, how her professional growth has reflected in her personal growth and how understanding mental health can make life so beautiful, in this candid conversation between Dr. Kirti and Dr. Meghal Rohilla from Medbound Times.
Dr. Meghal: Hello Ma'am! Hope you are doing well! Welcome to this interview. For starters, I would like to know about your professional journey from inception until now.
Dr. Keerti: I started my professional journey in this field by doing a Master's in Social Work (MSW). Along with my studies, I also started training as a volunteer for rehabilitation. During my time there, I encountered so many complicated cases which I found myself handling very efficiently without proper training or degree. It made me feel ignited and inspired enough to pursue this as a profession
In London, I was part of several day centers and went to Ealing Hospital in London for part-time volunteer experience.
On returning to India and after getting married,I continued to work in voluntary organizations and hospitals for youth mental health, apart from taking some courses. But still, I was not satisfied since I had started to have that desire to receive proper training in mental health. That's when I started reading books to educate myself and started to enroll myself in advanced courses in neuroscience and mental health for further qualifications.
All these experiences and studies are helping me to deal with my cases today and now I can diagnose the patient in the initial two sessions as per DSM criteria.
Dr. Meghal: It has been how many years since you entered into this profession?
Dr. Keerti: To be precise, it has been consistently 19 years since May 2003. I am not considering my journey in London since it was just a training phase.
Dr. Meghal: Apart from your initial experiences, what factors and incentives contributed to your decision to become a psychotherapist?
Dr. Keerti: Yes, there are many... The biggest factor is my aptitude. I realized years ago then that my aptitude is a huge advantage and will help me to achieve great heights in my profession. Secondly, I believe that I am my biggest client and patient. My understanding of Mental Health helped me to identify my potential and grow realistically. Thirdly, as a kid, I have been very intrigued and fascinated with spirituality. I wanted to introduce myself to a deeper essence of spirituality and especially know about Vedanta knowledge and Indian psychology.
Dr. Meghal: Do you posses any particular area of interest in psychotherapy since this in itself is quite vast, for which you have deep-driven passion for?
Dr. Keerti: Yes I do. Neuroscience, like I have mentioned before is one area I absolutely love. Also, I have a strong inclination for hormonal and the endocrinal system and its relation with the physiology of the human body. This drives me to understand mind and brain functioning - how the sympathetic system is aroused due to anxiety, its effect on increasing blood pressure and its management by deep breathing, for instance. All these things are interwoven with each other. Also, studying the HPA axis, its relation with physiology has helped me to apply its concept in personal life as well.
Dr. Meghal: You must have been facing certain challenges during the years you have been practicing. What are those points when you feel low and you wonder why you shouldn't have chosen this as a profession?
Dr. Keerti: No, I have never regretted it. My profession is my heartbeat and something I love and will continue to do so till the end of my life. Well when it comes to challenges faced, yes I won't deny but I do face them, Especially when it comes to Indian clients, The family members are not as supportive as they ought to be. It's not that they don't want to get treated or are reluctant, but they do not want to pay money despite a lot of time and emotional investment which is quite draining.
They want the problem to be fixed immediately after a single session which practically is impossible since ironically, they do not even provide that environment to nurture and grow. Therefore since there is no cooperation and understanding from the family of the patient, the entire burden comes on me as their doctor which does get challenging. My efforts at times seem to go in vain since there is no appropriate reciprocation from their end.
Still comparatively, patients falling in the age group of 14-35 years are open and talk to me, but older adults give a lot of hard work! On the other hand, NRI patients are quite cooperative and non-judgmental.
I'm positively passionate about my profession and after a week off, I come back strong with a new strategy so I'd love to say I finally won.
Dr. Meghal: As a doctor, if you have ever diagnosed any mental health issue in your own family, have you ever faced the dilemma of a doctor versus a family member? And if yes, how have you tackled it?
Dr. Keerti: Well to be honest, when I diagnosed that mild ADHD is running in my husband's family, I recall that it was challenging and a little demotivating to accept it initially. But I think for me it turned out to be an angel in disguise and it is a great relief when I think about it now. I gave my children such a healthy culture and grooming, which obviously wasn't that smooth. We had our own shares of disappointments and learning, like a mixed bag. I did not disclose it to them initially like I do with my patients. But they have been very obedient to me and today I am proud of them.
Today I am glad that I learned this in time so that I could be with them and have expectations from them on a realistic ground rather than something impractical and demotivating for them. To sum up, yes it was hard but at the same time, rewarding too.
Dr. Meghal: Any striking case which you would like to share with us?
Dr. Keerti: Well not any particular case that I can recall, but I do want to share an interesting situation. Quite a few years ago, I and my family used to go out for lunches and dinners with our friends. During our conversation, I made observations about their children (who were very young at the time) and predicted the need for sessions in the years to come because of my experience. When after 5-6 years they contacted me, I actually recalled that I had already known this time would come and that observation helped me a lot with their sessions. Today they are settled in Canada and working well for themselves as students.
Dr. Meghal: How has your profession helped you personally?
Dr. Keerti: My profession has helped my relationships, especially with my family to be beautifully productive over the years. I personally have seen myself grow more open and non-judgmental as an individual.
Dr. Meghal: What are your vulnerabilities and trigger points?
Dr. Keerti: I have come to realize that one of my biggest vulnerabilities is that I tend to overdo it. If for instance, the time limit for a session is 55 min., I would end up taking that single session for more time than decided since I had this tendency to immediately help my patient in his or her treatment, which actually is not possible, until and unless they go on their own journey of self-realization and acceptance. At the same time, I execute empathy more than required which can be avoided so that I don't feel burnt out towards the end.
Something that triggers me is that many of my clients tend to underestimate me, my profession, my expertise in my field, and the entire process of psychotherapy. Out of arrogance or frustration, they do try to teach and guide me and especially mothers of kids end up being bossy.
Dr. Meghal: What are your personal coping mechanisms when you feel triggered?
Dr. Keerti: My life revolves around two very important things, namely inquisitiveness and learning. Through experience, My monetory expectation which has minimized to a certain extent, I aim to inquisitively learn things with perseverance.
Dr. Meghal: Any case details that you would want to tell us which still has an impact on you?
Dr. Keerti: Hahaha, yes of course. It's about the London days that I remember. I was with one of my colleagues from Gujarat in a training session. At that time, she was assigned to deal with a mental patient. During their conversation, she lost her patience, which is a big no especially while dealing such sensitive cases. Because of his mental state, he physically assaulted her, which I witnessed. Immediately he was calmed down and I was asked to handle him. Since then, I have been quite deeply studying about psychotic cases!
Dr. Meghal: If not into this profession, what do you think you would be pursuing professionally?
Dr. Keerti: I would definitely would have been part of a business or have opened my own NGO.
Dr. Meghal: Finally Ma'am, to conclude, I would ask you the last question. What suggestions would you like to give to aspiring and young counselors in the making?
Dr. Keerti: I would be brutally honest here but only get into this profession if you have the aptitude for the same. As a doctor, before treating the patients, you yourself are supposed to be sane and mentally healthy. That you can only be if you enjoy this profession, with an aptitude for it, since this profession doesn't offer much money in India. So one can only survive if you have a passion for it.
Secondly, psychotherapy is a very dynamic process. One needs to keep updating themselves with the latest news and research. First, explore yourself and life at a deeper level before you go for clients. The more you know yourself, the more you understand life.
Dr. Meghal: That was an amazing and an insightful conversation with you ma'am! Thankyou for your time and guidance!