Resource: Best mental health professionals
10 July 2018
In a resource-poor country like ours there is a paucity of centralized databases that offer information on avenues of mental health care. While there are web-based platforms that offer details of mental health professionals, the platforms are profit making, privately funded and have no mechanisms to verify any details (ethical practice, diversity-friendly etc.) beyond the professional’s qualifications.
Since its inception in 2012, it had been iCALL’s vision to develop a referral directory of mental health services across the country. One of the reasons behind setting up iCALL was to provide such services to hitherto marginalized and unreached sections of our society. However, iCALL understands that not everyone may be comfortable seeking counselling over technology and even for those who are comfortable in doing so, there can be cases where face to face interaction may be needed.
Almost 5% of the calls/emails/ chats were received for referral request, whereby clients would seek details of a mental health professional for face-to-face- consultation. Hence, iCALL continued to offer referrals through its personal networks, to clients seeking the same. During our multiple attempts to curate such a directory, iCALL faced many challenges. Mainly, the lack of any go-to-resource with details of professionals and not being able to establish if the professional was trustworthy. In 2016, a crowdsourced list of ‘Gynecologists you can trust’ started making rounds over digital media. iCALL was deeply inspired by the same.
The list aims to help people make an informed choice on which mental health professional to access for their needs from a wide range of options
Drawing inspiration from it, iCALL started its endeavour of developing the crowdsourced list of trusted mental health professionals. Given an acute shortage of trained and qualified therapists, finding a trustworthy mental health professional can be hard for individuals.
iCALL strongly believes in taking into account the voices of user-survivors in the process of therapy and this list was an attempt to collate discrete positive experiences of seeking therapy into one consolidated, comprehensive database. It allowed the user to enter these details anonymously, whereby the recommender, doesn’t have to enter an email/ contact or any identifying information. The list aims to help people make an informed choice on which mental health professional to access for their needs from a wide range of options.
Due to the stigma attached to mental health, prospective clients who are often willing to seek therapy might hesitate. At the same time, one may have many questions with regards to the professionals available about types of services offered, qualifications, affordability, non-judgemental attitude, diversity-friendly etc. It may not always be feasible/ comfortable to ask the professional or even an acquaintance. Hence, availability of information can be extremely empowering and foster access, when making a decision for seeking help.
Development of this list was based on the assumption that service users or acquaintances of the professional are in a capacity to recommend that professional through their personal experiences. These personal narratives are extremely dependable when seeking information about ethical practices, non-judgmental attitude or trustworthiness of a mental-health professional. iCALL does not verify the authenticity of each entry within this list or change any responses but just organizes the information.
The details regarding each mental health professional are shared across 50 parameters
In November 2015, when iCALL launched the list, with 95 entries from 10 different states. Presently, the list has over 175 entries with 130 unique names of mental health professionals from several cities spanning across 12 states of India.
The details regarding each mental health professional are shared across 50 parameters including professional qualifications, range of issues they work with, whether they’re disability friendly, their views on working with marginalized populations and individuals with diverse gender and sexual identities, their comfort and willingness to work with sexuality-related issues, their ethical conduct and so on. Some of the entries are made by professionals themselves, the same is reflected in the final list, to maintain transparency. Till date, three versions of the list have been released.
Given that there is no central regulatory body that offers or verifies such information in the field of mental health care in India, this list has been a stepping stone in making mental health care more accessible, by offering relevant information. In future, iCALL wishes to popularize the list and urge service users to share details of professionals from different states/ geographical locations. To name a few other plans, iCALL aims to organize the data in a manner that will allow the user to filter according to various demographics - like qualifications, geographic locations, mode of practice, price etc. -, make the tool briefer, host it on iCALL’s website (presently, available in a google spreadsheet), translate it in Hindi and seek feedback, in order to make it easy to navigate through the information available.