Psychosocial Support during the COVID-19 pandemic, April 2021

A Training Manual for Counsellors

By Rahbar A Field Action Project of the School of Human Ecology,  Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Tata Institute of Social Sciences In Collaboration With National Disaster Management Authority

Section 1: Need for psychosocial support during the pandemic

 Section 2: Frameworks for psychosocial support

 Chapter 1: Theoretical underpinnings Chapter

2: Value-based framework Chapter

 3: Ethical perspectives

 Chapter 4: Tele-counselling skills

 Chapter 5: Personal and professional development

Section 3: Psychosocial interventions

Chapter 1: Addressing basic needs Chapter

2: Sharing information

Chapter 3: Reducing emotional distress

Chapter 4: Containing anxiety

Chapter 5: Responding to low mood

Chapter 6: Regulating anger

Chapter 7: Assuaging guilt

Chapter 8: Working with grief

Chapter 9: Managing risk for suicide

Chapter 10: Mitigating stigma

Chapter 11: Nurturing narratives of resilience


This manual is aimed at helping mental health professionals to provide psychosocial support and care to individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 and their families. The interventions described in this manual can be conducted by counsellors and other mental health professionals (e.g., social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists etc) who have training in mental health. The interventions can be applied in brief (1-2 sessions) and remote (over telephone) contexts.


This manual is divided into three sections: Section 1: Need for psychosocial support during the pandemic.

This section describes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a specific focus on its impact on mental health in the Indian context.

Section 2: Frameworks of psychosocial support. This section describes the various frameworks that lay the foundation of the psychosocial interventions described in this manual. This includes the following chapters

Theoretical underpinnings.

 This chapter describes the theories which guide psychosocial support work.

• Value-based framework. This chapter describes the core values which lay the foundation for the framework of psychosocial support described in the manual.

• Ethical perspectives. This chapter describes the ethical perspectives that guide telecounselling during the pandemic.

• Telecounselling skills. This chapter describes the skills and competencies counsellors can use in conducting telecounselling sessions.

• Personal and professional development. This chapter describes the key frameworks we can use to aid our personal and professional development as counsellors, viz. reflective practice, supervision and self-care. Throughout the manual, exercises for reflective practice, supervision and self-care have been woven in to help counsellors to reflect on their work and promote professional development.

Section 3: Psychosocial Interventions.

This section describes in detail how counsellors can intervene when working with specific concerns described by their clients. Each chapter in this section starts with an introduction about the relevance of a particular concern in the pandemic. We then describe the scope and the limitations of the role of the mental health professionals, with respect to that particular concern. Key concepts informing the theoretical framework of the interventions are discussed. Subsequently, clear and detailed guidelines for counsellors are presented on identifying concerns, preparing to intervene and providing interventions.

We have also mentioned certain pitfalls that we need to avoid. This section includes the following chapters:

 • Addressing basic needs.This chapter focuses on helping clients who may experience difficulties with meeting practical needs such as food and water.

• Sharing information. This chapter describes the ways in which we can share information about COVID-19 with clients.

• Reducing emotional distress. This chapter discusses the theoretical foundation of working with emotions in counselling and how we can support clients who present with high levels of distress.

• Containing anxiety. This chapter focuses on specific frameworks and techniques for supporting clients to manage anxiety in the pandemic.

• Responding to low mood. This chapter elucidates specific frameworks and techniques to help clients who are experiencing low mood in the pandemic

Regulating anger. This chapter describes specific frameworks and techniques to support clients who are experiencing anger in the pandemic.

 • Assuaging guilt. This chapter discusses specific frameworks and techniques to understand the experience of guilt in the pandemic and the ways for us to intervene.

• Working with grief. This chapter focuses on grief in the context of the pandemic and helps in identifying ways of supporting clients in bereavement through brief counselling.

• Managing risk for suicide. This chapter describes how to understand and mitigate the risk for suicide in the context of the pandemic, through brief and remote counselling.

 • Mitigating stigma. This chapter discusses the impact of stigma on mental health in the context of COVID-19 and what we can do as mental health professionals to manage it.

• Nurturing narratives of resilience. This chapter discusses opportunities counsellors may have to identify clients’ stories of hope and resilience in the pandemic, as well as interventions to build hope and support resilience at individual, family and community levels.

One thought on “Psychosocial Support during the COVID-19 pandemic, April 2021

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  1. Dear Dr Murthy

    What a comprehensive manual! Thank you for informing us about it. It will be a great resource for CanSupport at this troubled time. Is it available online?



    Sent from my iPhone


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