When the pandemic hit earlier in 2020, almost everyone was affected and in dire straits. But music composer Srijan Mahajan and entrepreneur Ankur Kampani felt the hit deeply as they realised that the very purpose of their life was non-existent. “We realised that over the years, we had become professionals whose identity and existence was tied very closely to our work,” Mahajan says. Both of them started feeling lonely, began overthinking, and that is when they decided to give therapy a shot.
After going through nearly 5-6 different therapists over nearly 2-3 months, they began to feel that while the therapists were very experienced and good, they did not fully understand the problems that both of them were facing. “Artists, entrepreneurs and creative professionals are their bosses. We do everything on our own, and hence, our perspective towards work is very different. I don’t think a lot of therapists could understand the implications of this,” Mahajan explains.
And that is what gave birth to Pause - a mental health platform for founders and artists. While both Mahajan and Kampani knew what they sought out of the platform for the cohort of artists and entrepreneurs, Aditi Kumar, a Delhi-based Counselling Psychologist, addressed the mental health aspects.
Identifying the need
While Mahajan and Kampani both had deep insight into the community’s problems, they also researched and fully understood the perspective of the mental health practitioner with Kumar’s help. Kumar adds that the idea of Pause was intriguing and much required as there is a rise in the community of creatives (entrepreneurs and artists).
Both Mahajan and Kampani say that when it comes to creative professionals and entrepreneurs, even their close friends and family members have difficulty understanding some of their struggles. “People don’t understand why we need to work 16 hours a day, sustain a venture without any immediate returns or put out our art for the sake of it,” Kampani says. “To most people, it doesn’t make sense.”
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Kumar agrees that the problems faced by this community are unique- both internal and external. General therapy includes the first few sessions just trying to understand the person’s context. This often gives the idea of not being understood or trying to be categorised generally. She explains, “This cohort is anything but that! Their interaction with the environment becomes different from the minute they decide to be on this path. They are faced with more questions than answers, and uncertainty becomes a huge part of their daily lives. Coming to therapy with uncertainty attached is overwhelming- you don't know if you have financial backing for another session, you don't know whether your years of work will end up as a promised success.”
All of this often leads to existing usual mental health solutions not working for this cohort, leading to high dropout rates. In most cases, this cohort is self-aware and usually needs a space where they feel accepted and heard without constantly explaining their background.
Of context and process
Kumar believes that Pause is constantly trying to improve mental health solutions for the entrepreneur and artist community by providing a well-researched context. The therapists at Pause try to understand the cohort by looking into their personalities, personal lives, and specific struggles. She elaborates on how the process is different by saying, “Once we have this context, Pause tries to build a toolkit of best-fit solutions, looking at various therapies and practices. Instead of letting various sessions unfold the context of a client, we already provide a known context, making the client's mental health journey goal-oriented and specific.”
Having identified the community and its characteristics, in terms of their work, their possible personal life, their financial life etc., the first step for the trip was to identify broad areas of concerns that the cohort could be facing from the inception of their journey. Kumar shares, “Within these broad categories, we further identified specific issues. Post problem identification, we looked at identifying solutions that would work best for the community owing to their unique nature.” These solutions were then categorised into short, medium and long term solutions. The solutions were made to help any client keep track of their progress and identify the changes they could see in their daily lives.
The differentiating factor
So what is it that makes the therapists at Pause different in their approach towards clients? Mahajan mentions that their focus has been finding empathetic and open-minded therapists who would not flinch from knowing that Pause had an unconventional way of working. “And by that, I don’t mean that we were changing the therapeutic process entirely. The biggest difference was the approach towards clients and understanding the client,” he elucidates.
They add that Pause therapists also go through the same drill of interviews as either of them. “We strongly believe in the psychologist's existing knowledge and years of training. Our main aim is to not teach some new therapy but rather help them look at the context and solutions Pause has created for this specific cohort, and imbibe them in the already existing set of skills of psychologists,” Kumar spells out.
The Way Forward
Mahajan and Kampani mention an app in the works, which they aim to launch in early 2022. Speaking about the services that the app will provide, Kampani shares, “The app will have self-help tools for those who need to deal with surface-level issues. Additionally, there will also be a hybrid model which will be a combination of therapy and self-help tools with progress tracking.” Mahajan adds, “Pause is aimed at helping the cohort undergo therapy and use self-help tools which help with problems that impede daily functioning. A client can explore their deep-rooted trauma as well if they like, but our primary focus is to help this cohort live their daily life smoothly.”