She lived in a small city. Both her 10 and 12 years old children were fairly independent. She had the space to start her counselling practice. Marriage and then children had made it not possible to practice so far.

She rented a consultation room and visited all the doctors she could. It was not encouraging. Most doctors had no concept of counselling. They did it themselves, they said. Some said their patients did not need counselling. The psychiatrists were the worst. They smirked patronisingly and sent her off promising to send patients. With the ready, broad smile that meant they won’t do any such thing.

One asked for commissions from her fees. She politely said she will let him know.

She passed the empty hours in her consulting room reading on her subject. She had never been happy with the perfunctory training they had provided in college.

After sitting empty for five weeks she started to visit the schools in the city. She gave a talk to the teachers about the kind of children who could be helped by counselling. She gave a write up in the local newspaper.

Gradually she had a trickle of patients. She was pleased and enthusiastically worked on them. She often gave them much more time than the allocated slot. She did not charge much and often saw a client for free. They were at liberty to call her on her mobile.

People were happy with her input and very slowly, her practice began to build up. She was exhilarated. And pleased at the results of her trials.

However, her home life increasingly got disturbed with her clients calling anytime. Initially, she would answer all the questions happily feeling important. Now she was starting to get irked. Most queries were something that could have well been dealt with during the next session. She realised that some dependent clients wanted some sort of reassuring contact with her. But majority of the calls were due to a culture of inconsideration taking her for granted.

She introspected and realised that she had been craving for approval from her clients and hence, went well out of her way. Also, insecurity about having a insignificant practice had crept in. She started informing new clients about the defined situations only in which they can text her. And that she would reply when she can.

Most people who walked in her room had their own concept of what she would do. Many wanted her to fix the others in their lives. In two to three sessions. Some wanted her to encourage them to think positively and give moral support.

All wanted her to solve the problems in their life.

Except the ones who came in because they were forced to by someone else and sat sprawling on the chair with crossed arms and an attitude of ‘Dare to change me? What can you tell me that I already don’t know?’

She had to patiently explain what she can and cannot do. Both the client and she would work on what blocked them from being able to manage their problems themselves. Such obstacles usually came from childhood experiences and would take time to resolve. Instant breakthroughs could happen but usually they took an amount of time. Quite a few clients never came back disappointed that she would do no instant magic.

Once she accepted a gift from a child client’s grateful mother. The mother soon started behaving like a friend and expecting special treatment. That was a mistake, she realised.

An occasional male client would fall in love with her. She would kindly and firmly explain the process of transference to them and they would work on it. If anyone crossed a boundary she would inform him that therapy might have to be terminated if such behaviour recurred.

One client who stopped coming after only four sessions proved troublesome. He began stalking her by phoning her odd hours from different numbers with sex talk. And leering at her standing outside the clinic. She felt frightened. After a talk with her husband, they took the help of the police to warn him. He scampered off and was never seen again.

Some clients would be so grateful that they would offer her more than her fees. She always refused.

Her reading about her subject continued to deepen. She found a forum of fellow counsellors on the net where they shared experiences and brainstormed if someone needed suggestions helping a complex client.

Because of her profession she grew faster than her husband. Her understanding of human behaviour and life was deeper. She found she was unable to share with her husband or carry him along. He was too dismissive of what she said. He felt threatened by anything about him that she pointed out. She was trying to change him, he felt. And becoming assertive. He had never bargained for this in his marriage contract. Besides, her growing financial independence did not go well with him though he welcomed the extra income.

They started becoming distant from each other. She felt sad. He preferred to not notice. He was damned if he was going to allow her to treat him like a patient.

More than an occasional client brought a situation which seemed eerily similar to hers. She would wryly smile that how easy and clear it was to help them but she could not manage her own marital life smoothly.

She also realised that there is a lot of baggage between a husband and wife. It was not as clean a situation as in the counselling room. The loneliness and disappointment she felt was bitter and acute. She found solace in her children and work. And at least she could share on the internet forum.

Once she started having feelings of desire for a young, handsome, psychologically minded male client. She indulged fantasising about him without qualms. She felt sure she would not let her needs enter the counselling relationship.

Her reputation continued to spread. The city had grown exponentially. Awareness of psychological issues and counselling was increasing rapidly. She could charge what she was worth. She would take only self referred patients now. The one who were ready to work.

Now she stuck to the time slots. Strangely, that accelerated therapy by quickly evoking issues like that of dependency and power. These would then be worked on.

Other counsellors had sprouted over the years. She reached out to them and they formed a group. They met regularly and supported each other by sharing their skills to enhance each other professionally and personally. They often went together for workshops in the metros and kept upgrading their knowledge and skill.

Now she did not have to balance the line between personal and professional, when approached by relatives and friends. She explained that it would not be in the client’s interest to be seen by someone they have known otherwise. For example, they might try to make her take sides within the family instead of working on their own issues. Or they may worry about giving sensitive information about their family to her. She referred them to colleagues after making sure they understood the pitfalls of being treated by a relative or friend.

She started doing peer counselling with a colleague. She had recognised her own unresolved issues which came up every now and then despite the composed surface. Her need to be liked and approved had not disappeared from her personal life. She was the third of four sisters and had been the unnoticed one.

Once her husband committed a blunder at his job. He was in danger of being fired. He went into a state of panic and was unable to sleep or eat. She took care of him as much as she could. Looking at his state of near complete collapse, she gently suggested if he would see a colleague of hers. He snapped that he was not mad. After a week of being in a state of torment, he gruffly asked what her colleague could do.

He returned from his session in a more settled frame of mind. Though he did not reveal to her that he found it helpful. He went regularly for his sessions. And even started to take an interest in her work. Though, of course, she did not tell him anything that conflicted with her duty of confidentiality to her clients.

Thanks to her job, she was wiser than her years. And aware that there were issues within and without that needed continuing work. She understood that was a lifelong process.

She was happy with the way she had been able to bring up her children. Her husband now respected her more having got an experience of the counselling world.

She had seen a wide spectrum of life, thanks to her profession.

Her clients continued to amaze her. Each client was unique with a unique complexity. Some had been through so much and yet had strongly survived. Many showed exemplary courage and changed deeply entrenched behaviour. It was a privilege to be a witness to the story of their life.

Quite a few of her ex-clients kept in touch and reported how well they were doing.

It was gratifying to know she had been a catalyst in the change.