In touch with reality

Vineet’s internship at a mental health institution proved to be an eye-opener

Updated - April 13, 2019 01:01 pm IST

Published - April 13, 2019 01:00 pm IST

In our field of psychoanalytically-oriented dynamic psychotherapy, doing an internship is a necessity. We are supposed to visit a mental health institution for a month and observe doctor-patient interactions. After discussing with my peers and professors, I came up with a list of places where I could intern, and applied for the same.

The objectives were simple — we had to get comfortable with the clinical set-up, understand some common disorders in mental health and how they affected the patient, and build communication and trust with their family members.

I preferred a hospital setting as it would allow me to see the reality of mental health institutions in India. Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) hospital allowed interns to engage with patients extensively. I was asked to submit a letter describing the field I wanted to intern in. I wanted to intern at Clinical Mental Health Unit, Department of Psychiatry. There was no interview, and I was directly selected on the basis of my application.

Caring for patients

I was assigned the task of observing and engaging with patients. At IHBAS, the Clinical Mental Health Unit is divided into two subunits — I and II. I was allotted unit I for three days of the week. I had to observe patients and listen to them while junior residents took their follow-ups, work-ups, and prescribed medication. On the remaining three days, I was asked to engage with patients in different wards — male open ward, dual diagnosis ward, female semi-open ward, and so on. Every afternoon, I was asked to go to Saksham, a halfway house where people who didn’t have anyone to depend on, with undifferentiated schizophrenia, lived. It was a critically stimulating experience as this side of life, which is at the margins, often gets ignored. We learnt how to care for patients, educate their family members, and made the most of our clinical duties and ward postings.

I learnt the art of communicating a diagnosis, and also the fact that we do not have to arrive at a diagnosis too soon. The fact is that even ordinary things are difficult for people suffering from mental health issues. Sometimes, our experiences put blinkers on our eyes, and gradually, blind spots come out of theory into our own life. Not becoming a victim of those blind spots and learning to use expertise not to demean but to open more windows is what I took back from the experience.

Vineet Gairola, a student of Ambedkar University, Delhi, undertook an internship at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences.

Courtesy: Internshala (

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