In a country where talking about mental health is taboo, Chhori Maharjan has started a new dialog. As director of NYF’s Ankur Counseling Center - the only such center for children and young adults in Nepal -- Chhori is proud of the center’s role in changing attitudes towards psychological treatment.
“In Nepal, everyone thinks that counseling is only for psychotic people,” Chhori said in a recent interview in her office in Kathmandu. “We have worked really hard to help people understand that counseling can help everyone. We make counseling easy and accessible for our children and youth. We let them know that it is OK to talk about and share their feelings. This is what we are changing.”
The center has treated more than 3,900 children and young adults in NYF’s programs since it opened in 2006. Some children have suffered unspeakable trauma, and have found healing through Ankur’s innovative sand and play therapies.
“We are a pioneer of children’s counseling because we are using therapies that work for children,” Chhori said. “Children don’t really have words to explain their experiences, thoughts and emotions. We encourage our children to express themselves through play therapy.”
The counseling center is part of NYF’s holistic approach to caring for the children in our programs. In addition to food, shelter and education, many of these children need help rebuilding their lives and are learning to write new stories for themselves.
Mental health professionals and academics in Nepal are also flocking to the center to learn about the latest therapies. Center staff regularly offers trainings for teachers, therapists who work with children.
More than 2,500 caregivers and teachers have attended training sessions at Ankur.
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