Webinar on “How to counsel COVID patients” by Dr. Meena Hariharan

On May 28, 2020, MOHAN Foundation organized a webinar on “How to counsel COVID patients”. The session was conducted by Dr. Meena Hariharan, Director - Centre of Health Psychology at University of Hyderabad. She is also a Life member of MOHAN Foundation.


She began the session by explaining “What is counselling?” She said,” Counselling is a process of assisting and guiding clients/ patients especially by a professional health worker to resolve personal, social, or psychological problems and difficulties. Effective counselling should have confidentiality, listening skill, empathy and behavior analysis. The most powerful context during counselling is to be able to read the body language of the patient and have Nonverbal Communication in Psychotherapy (NCBI). With the grim reality of coronavirus becoming more prominent, people are becoming more restless, confused and fearful. But the most affected are the ones who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are in quarantine. To deal with their mental health crisis, health workers are playing a key role counselling them and giving them emotional support”.


Dr. Meena then categorized COVID patients in 3 different groups who are supported and counselled by health workers:

  • Group 1- Patients who are admitted to the hospital. They have some kind of respiratory distress and are in critical condition.
  • Group 2- Patients who are tested positive and have symptoms of COVID infection.
  • Group 3- Patients who have been exposed to a COVID positive person, and because of their travel history, they are at a high risk of getting infected. They are kept under quarantine.


She explained the trauma that the patients have to go through. She said it is very important for the health workers to understand the background and trauma that a patient is going through for effective counselling. Patients are often separated from the general population and are treated differently. They access information about COVID which is mostly overlapped and unrealistic. They are disowned by society. All these circumstances generate immense fear, anxiety and stress within the patients.


During the webinar, participants raised many questions such as:

  • A family during home quarantine gets stigmatized because of the COVID sticker on the door. How to deal with such a situation?
  • A child is tested positive. He/she is admitted to the hospital while the parents are in isolation. Their fears and anxieties get doubled. How to deal with this situation?


In the end, Dr. Meena emphasized the fact that providing emotional first aid to the patients is the most important aspect of counselling. Close to 50 people attended the webinar.


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