A psychotherapist in Kathmandu (5)

Tereza Nogueira, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and senior supervisor for ‘Child in Time’, writes to us from Kathmandu, Nepal where she’s spending two weeks working as a volunteer with Unity in Health http://unityinhealth.org.  Their mission is to work together to improve global mental health, and Tereza has travelled over to help plant the seeds for school counselling services in Nepal through training and discussion with adults at Tribhuvan University.  

My first workshop with the counselling students…

We had to be at the university very early in order to deliver the workshops as students attending the counselling psychology course start the day at 6:30 and leave at 9:30 to go to work afterwards.  There are 113 students in all semesters but only 38 were selected to attend the workshop.  An interest in working in schools and an ability to speak English seemed to be the criteria. I was interested to see that half of the students were men, which is something that rarely happens in the UK where the majority of therapists are women.  I was also impressed that they were very young people.

The director of the Unity in Health and the country representative joined me. After the initial presentation I invited them to do their introduction answering the following questions:

  • What brought you to counselling?
  • What are the qualities you think you have to do the work?
  • What do you imagine will be the difficulties?

Their honesty, genuineness and openness deeply touch me. Everyone’s profound wish to help was very clear. People opened their hearts and shared personal stories in such a way that I found myself wishing to take each and everyone back to the UK. During the break, many students came to talk to me and I was infected by their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn anything I could offer.

During the second part of the workshop I asked the students to imagine themselves back in their childhood and reflect on it using an image about a positive and a negative experience they had at school.  They engaged as if the creative arts were a natural way of working and reflecting. Professor Subba told me that it was in fact the first time the students were invited to share their experiences and he had not heard their stories before. I could see that he was surprised and intrigued by this approach. I got the impression that he was not very sure what the purposes of doing such a reflective exercise was, but he could see the students really liked it. 

Their account of positive experiences suggested that children tend to support each other more than relying on the adults in school as almost everyone shared a vivid experience with friends that they remembered with fondness.  We were shocked by how punitive and abusive their school years were as the majority of them shared that the teachers beat them with a stick. Sometimes they made the children beat another child. It felt very traumatic to hear and some of the students told their stories with a broken voice as if they were going to cry. Although this practice is now illegal it is known that it still continues. 

After sharing personal stoires, we discussed what would be interesting for them in terms of my input and it was decided that three lectures will be delivered in three separated days.

  • Working with special needs and ASD children
  • Adolescence development and common difficulties
  • Neuroscience and its implication for emotional wellbeing 

I have never worked so much in such a short period of time. I feel very tired and aware that I did not anticipate what this work would involve. As I am here I need to do the best I can hoping I manage.  I have prepared two of the lectures but tomorrow I hope to do a bit of sight-seeing so that I do not go away without seeing a Nepali landmark. Especially as I am not sure if I will be able to come back. I have to confess that it requires a lot of physical strengths to do this.  On Sunday at 4pm we are leaving Kathmandu at 11am and heading into the mountains towards the border of India. We will be there five days.  From what I’ve heard this could be the biggest adventure of my life. I will let you know how it goes when I’m back…

Read all Tereza’s blog posts here: http://childintime.co.uk/blog/