The Restory Project
I met Anvitha in college when we were both pursuing our Master’s in Counselling Psychology. While we knew that we had quite a few things in common already (such as our love for desserts and aesthetics), we also discovered that we had similar views about therapy.
Our individual approaches to therapy had a major underlying belief in common – that while a therapist is supposed to be objective, they cannot remain neutral on matters of social justice. In class, on debates regarding feminism or queer rights, we found ourselves on the same side, often passionately speaking about matters that we felt deeply about and advocating for change. We took a feminist, queer-affirmative stance in our work – that is, we approached mental health with a feminist philosophy and emphasized respect for clients’ sexual and/or romantic orientation, and gender identity.
We believed that while it was important to study the different schools of thought, to read about their pioneers, it was also important to critically evaluate them. We wanted people to acknowledge that our mental health is affected by society, and as people living in an Indian society, we couldn’t always be helped by Western concepts in therapy. Psychologists had to understand the unique challenges that come with living in our society, for example: understanding that dating is still largely considered unacceptable by the families of Indian women, and they could thus not openly speak about relationship issues or conflicts.
We decided to set up our own initiative after graduation, called The Restory Project. Since I’m a writer on the side, I was especially fascinated by narrative therapy, and the idea that the stories we tell shape our realities. I discussed it with Anvitha and saw that it aligned with our view of stories being affected by socio-political structures. We were driven by the idea of helping individuals retell their life stories, reshape them in a way not dictated by others.
From our experiences during training, we noticed that marginalized people were especially hesitant to approach us, because they had experienced discrimination in similar spaces before. Making therapy a safe space for marginalized groups thus became an important goal in our journey as therapists. We also recognized the need for accessibility and affordability, and thus decided to offer sessions online, and on a sliding scale for those in need.
Launching our own practice right out of college brought with it unprecedented challenges and uncertainty, but so far, we’ve learned a lot and still find our job highly fulfilling.
Sahiti Gavarikar and Anvitha Vidyasankar are psychologists and co-founders of The Restory Project which can be found on Instagram.