Kapil Nayar, NCC, ACS, LPC, believes every conversation can lead to an opportunity to learn, grow, and heal. That is why he surrounds himself with the top professionals in the field of mental and physical wellness.
Throughout Nayar’s career, he has sought answers, clarification, and enlightenment through the support of his peers and mentors. He notes that they have “always given me the opportunity and support to dive into any subjects I was interested in.” And that support started very early in his life.
“From a very young age I felt like I was imprinted to be a doctor,” says Nayar. Both of his parents were doctors, but it was his own determination and curiosity that propelled him in school. His parents were pleased when he was accepted to Temple University, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he studied biology, health care management, and religion, with a goal of pursuing a career in psychiatry, like his mother.
“At Temple University, I just loved learning,” says Nayar. “I feel like biology is one of those subjects that just never ends. And I’m finding that it parallels really well with psychology.” However, in his final year at Temple, Nayar applied to several medical schools but was not accepted. Frustrated and disappointed, but also undeterred, he followed another path and entered an offshore medical school, St. Matthew's School of Medicine, in the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean, where he studied biochemistry, anatomy, pharmacology, and similar courses. This had the effect of clarifying for Nayar that while he was interested in the brain, he was also very much interested in the mind. As a result, he made the decision to leave medical school to pursue counseling psychology.
Nayar was accepted to La Salle University, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he earned a master’s in clinical counseling psychology, while simultaneously completing a master's certificate in psychopharmacology from the Neuroscience Education Institute in Carlsbad, California. It was during this time he began exploring and earned certifications in hypnotherapy and mindfulness.
Much of Nayar’s current practice centers around mindfulness and psychopharmacology, but he incorporates multiple healing modalities throughout his sessions. With a majority of Nayar’s clientele seeking help with addictions, the complexity of each case draws him. “I think the thing I’m most fascinated with addictions is that there is no clear-cut answer,” he says. “So that goes back to the concept of constantly learning and trying to figure out what is going on.” His early interest in addictions counseling was nurtured by a mentor, George Koren, who fueled Nayar’s interest in brainspotting, EMDR, neuro programming, and pathway formatting.
“I’m fascinated with the psychological and the neurochemical aspects,” says Nayar. “Where neurochemistry and addiction meet sparks a whirlwind of mental health issues. While medications are important, it may be time to delve back into oneself through techniques found in hypnosis and mindfulness, in conjunction with talk therapy. In speaking with clients, there seems to be a significant amount of folks that have interest in tapering off of medications, which then becomes a conversation point with their physician.”
Nayar believes just as important as seeking out knowledge is the experience of sharing that knowledge. In working with substance abuse populations, inpatient, PHP (partial hospitalization program) and IOP (intensive outpatient program) settings, Nayar offers a lecture to clients on the neurobiology of addiction and neuroplasticity. This presentation integrates pathology, neurobiology, epigenetics, and the working concept model of neuroplasticity.
“Clients approached me feeling completely disgruntled with their life process. They were flourishing until a specific age, then picked up a drug, and then felt their life collapsed,” he says. “The intent behind this lecture was to provide a visual road map so they can see they aren’t alone in their journey and to give them hope and show they aren’t the first to have traveled this road—feeling connected to others who have struggled in addiction.”
In addition to counseling in a private practice, Nayar dedicates time to teaching in collegiate settings. He’s previously taught at Valley Forge Military Academy and College, in Wayne, Pennsylvania, as well as Rutgers University–Camden County College, in Camden, New Jersey. Today, Nayar lives in Arizona and teaches courses in ethics, substance use disorders, and psychopharmacology at the Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.
Nayar continues to consult with doctors in all fields of wellness in a harm reduction support group that meets monthly. This group is comprised of patients, psychiatrists, harm reductionists, addictionologists, medical doctors, and more. “Being able to have these supportive dialogues, hear their insights, and get in depth with it is so rewarding. I find it to be fascinating, and it’s an educational experience that just keeps going. And I feel that at my core, that’s all I want—to keep learning.”
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nayar experienced a steep learning curve in transitioning his clients and students online. “What’s thrown me throughout this transition has been the disruption of rapport,” he says. “I speak on this with nearly every client and help each other to recognize that while we are seeing each other, cognitively there is some distortion in this vacant space that telehealth programs like Zoom unintentionally create.”
Nayar offers multiple approaches, including recorded mindfulness exercises. One of those was recently featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Many clients like to do my recorded sessions right before they go to bed,” he says. “It’s the most quiet and comfortable time of their day, helping them get into that restful state, so that they can ease into sleep.”
As Nayar practices his own daily mindfulness exercises, he’s had much to reflect on with the current COVID-19 crisis and the civil unrest fueled by the murder of George Floyd and systemic racism. Nayar says, “Over the last few months I've reflected over advice from my own mentors. They taught me ‘if not me, who?’ That pushes me through rough patches and sharing that perspective with clients helps.”
While disheartened, he understands the vital role he plays in his clients’ lives and in society as a whole. He is determined to be a better ally and advocate for social justice. “Counselors are the glue for a large portion of society that press on and fight the good fight. Maintaining that mindset and relaying it to our clients reinforces ownership of their destiny, all the while being present at every misstep or hurdle that comes their way. I think that may be the core to composite wellness and connectedness.”
It’s a trying time for all of us, but that’s why the counseling profession is so important. Continuous dialogues with people from different backgrounds have helped Nayar learn about all aspects of life. It helps to clarify where he finds meaning and to see shared purpose and connectedness. “Part of the beauty of this profession,” he says, “is being able to deliver this in session, when the moments come, pay that forward. In the wise words of Dr. Anthony Fauci, ‘Now is the time to care selflessly about one another.’”
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