Dr Shruti Chakravarty

Dr Shruti Chakravarty

Chief Advisor at Mariwala Health Initiative (MHI)

Shruti Chakravarty, PhD, (cis woman;she/her) has 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector, as a mental health practitioner, researcher, trainer, and social worker. Her areas of engagement have been mental health, gender and sexuality, from a rights-basedperspective. She has an independent therapeutic practice based in Bombay, hasin-depth experience working with LGBTQIA+ clients in the therapeutic space, andhas co-authored the Queer Affirmative Counselling Practice (QACP): A ResourceBook for Mental Health Practitioners in India. She has completed her PhD on thesubject of queer intimacies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Shruti is Chief Advisor at Mariwala Health Initiative (MHI) and also faculty at the QueerAffirmative Counselling Practice course run by MHI

Objective: To introduce participants to a queer affirmative lens on working with the LGBTQI+ community

 

Why is it crucial to be queer affirmative?

Is it enough to be queer friendly while working with queer clients? Can “queer friendly” convey the magnitude of what MHPs need to undertake in order to work with queer clients? Does a merely queer friendly service take into account this relentless erasure and marginalization of LGBTQI+ communities? Does it hold mental health practitioners (MHPs) accountable for their complicity in the historical pathologization of LGBTQI+ communities? Is it equipped to respond to the needs of queer/trans clients by incorporating the issues and stressors inherent in living on the margins of a heterosexually defined world? A queer affirmative lens asks these questions and focuses on ethical work with queer/trans clients – work that includes: deconstructing, as MHPs, our own locations of power, privilege, and prejudice; educating our selves about queer/trans lives; adopting an affirmative stance vs a neutral one; and advocating for the rights of all marginalized groups.

For too long in mental health, queer sexuality had been considered through the lens of heterosexuality. This is an incomplete, incorrect and harmful gaze. Very little existing curriculum, course, research, trainings or materials represent the realities of LGBTQIA+ communities in valid or authentic ways. Current psychology curriculum promotes a mainstream understanding of gender as man and woman and sexuality as heterosexuality. However, people’s lives and experiences go much beyond this. Thus, current curriculum, research and therapeutic practice (including supervision) may not adequately equip practitioners to respond in aware and sensitive ways to people who fall outside the mainstream. To meet this gap, there is a need for practitioners to equip themselves with perspective and knowledge that is drawn from those on the margins. A queer affirmative lens is rooted in lived and felt realities of those who find themselves pushed out of the socially acceptable categories of man, woman, heterosexual. 

 

The mental health community has been complicit in pathologising those who don’t fit. Ideas about ‘correct’ gender and sexuality continue to be taught and ‘cure’ is still offered. Currently, our limited understanding of LGBTQI+ realities impacts the quality of therapeutic services offered to them. The Mental Health Care Act 2017 as well as the Supreme Court judgement on Sec 377 in 2018 have strongly urged the mental health community to participate in the wellbeing of all sections of society. When we speak of being queer affirming, we are beginning to challenge structures that pathologise and discriminate against queer/trans persons and participate in promoting their wellbeing in a deliberate and affirming manner. This session will examine notions of normal/ normative gender and sexuality. It will cover unique life stressors faced by the LGBTQI+ community and will highlight a few ways of being queer affirmative in our response. Building our understanding of principles and concepts queer affirmative counselling practice (QACP) will equip practitioners to recognise social inequalities with regards to gender and sexuality and their impact on mental health of people. A queer affirmative lens will support practitioners to modify their ongoing practice to make it responsive to diverse needs of the queer/trans community, address distress and promote well-being of LGBTQI+ persons. Queer Affirmative Counselling Practice (QACP) is envisaged as an opportunity to reorient ourselves to an anti-oppressive therapeutic practice, and to reflect on why any work in mental health needs to be political.

 

Learning outcomes:

  1. Recognise the need to equip oneself with additional knowledge on gender and sexuality that is rooted in the lived realities of queer/trans people. 
  2. Introduction to basic principles and concepts of queer affirmative counselling practice (QACP).

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