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It has been a long time coming but it seems that India – well, at least parts of it – is slowly taking off its blinders and joining the conversation about mental health. While we still may be lagging behind in terms of finances and public/government resources, something we got a hard reality check about while investigating the usefulness of suicide helplines, there are more and more people opening up about living with mental illness. We have podcasts normalising the conversation, people willing to seek therapy after years of hiding behind masks as more unique therapy groups and alternative approaches to seeking good mental health are popping up.
Among a handful of international residential psychotherapy and recovery centers in the world that are managed by mental health professional is Tatva, located in Corjuem, Goa. Tatva perceives the individual as a whole being, focusing on their emotional awareness and wellness. Their work is distinct for they adopt a multi-disciplinary approach that encompasses psychotherapy with a variety of self-exploratory endeavours through art, didactic lectures, first-hand experiences of nature and travel therapy involving cultural immersion.
“At Tatva there is an intersection of emotional well-being with cultural immersion. Creative people usually have various methods of expression. Art forms the basis of our therapy. Moreover, since we welcome people from different backgrounds this enables an exchange of ideas and creative thoughts. It can help people connect and express themselves better,” says Kripi Malviya, one of the founders of Tatva. A psychologist, experiential psychotherapist and mental health advocate, Malviya set up Tatva with David Stanton who has a thirty-year long career in the space that has provided him with the expert skills to take on the roles of psychotherapist, supervisor, consultant, among others.
“A lot of people find it hard to express their emotions verbally and take to creativity. They find themselves through artistic expression. Art and healing are inseparable – thus we do a lot of nature therapy, lean towards artistic collaborations with people around the world,” adds Stanton. “We also focus on social justice and social well-being,” he says.
Tatva’s view of therapy is a collaborative experience where engagement with oneself in the safe space that they’ve created is encouraged as a step towards holistic healing. All aspects of your life are given importance and attention. Out of the traditional therapist office setting, you’re immersed in your surroundings which allows you to gain a deeper understanding of yourself, your journey and that of those around you.
Initially based in Thailand, the duo relocated to a river island in the deep interiors of Goa, surrounded by nature’s beauty, which they say perfectly encompasses and compliments their therapeutic approach and ethos. The peaceful residential space allows guests to examine themselves, introspect and map out their journey of healing.
“A lot of people come to Goa to unwind. It’s a more open-minded and enriching community than most places. We want to change the perception of Goa being simply a place about chilling and drinking beer,” says Malviya. Wanting to stay true to Goa’s creative community and peaceful environment, Tatva facilitates clients’ interaction with the community.
“Many interesting people live in Goa,” says Stanton. “There are so many musicians and artists that have also moved here, and while it may still be a small art scene, it is definitely starting to build. We take our guests to places like these; heritage walks, gallery openings and heritage buildings where they can interact with the art and culture around them.”
Tatva’s doors are open to anyone and everyone (as long as you’re above the age of 18, though they do have separate programmes for children and teenagers) and they offer a variety of programmes. There are residencies for creatives, artists and writers, training workshops for educational institutions, organisations, mental health centers and addiction treatment centers around the world. They also set up a Wellness Area at music and art festivals that provides “a safe space for people undergoing challenging experiences during festivals including harm reduction & psychological first aid.”
“We don’t discriminate, we’re open to everyone. We expect guests to come for a minimum of two weeks as it takes some time for people to settle in and form relationships. Workshops can be half a day or for the entire weekend. We have people that have been coming in for years. We do offline and online therapy sessions (which has increased in recent times) suited to the person’s needs, we have a framework but there’s no standard approach or method that can apply to everyone because everyone is different. We want to build meaningful relationships, that’s what we focus on,” says Malviya, when asked what a typical therapy programme or residency would encompass. Tatva also happens to be the founder of the the Indian Association of Existential Psychotherapy and the Poetry Therapy Society of India, the only ones of their kind. For those recovering from addiction, it is also a space for tertiary treatment in mental health after primary care or detox, and starting in early 2019 they will begin specialised LGBTQ therapy as well.
“Tatva serves as a retreat amidst nature with good vibes. There are several therapies and each requires a different approach, but the essence of each remains the same – mental well-being,” adds Stanton.
There’s a lot of meaningful work that Tatva is doing, not just through the services and space they offer but Malviya and Stanton along with their team also educate people about mental health, encouraging people to talk about their feelings and emotions, and furthering the creation of an environment where such conversations can take place without being stigmatised.
Tatva is a pioneer in its approach to mental wellness – here, you go beyond therapist-patient conversations. It is an all-encompassing experience that enriches you mind, body and soul (however cliche that may sound) in a peaceful space that they’ve created, conducive to artistic exploration and creative expression for wholesome healing.
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