I'm sorry to inform you, dear reader, that the whole time I wrote this post I was thinking about this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rbordn0qViw
"Once again, I am looking for a therapist. But now, I've got medication, I've got self-awareness, and I'm back."
A little context: I am a huge huge fan of therapy, annoyingly so. If therapy was a pop star, I'd be that one groupie you'd find at every concert and press event with maniacal heart eyes dressed head to toe in overpriced merch.
My fascination with unpeeling the layers of my inner psyche runs way back to when I was a child: every year I'd keep a highly analytical diary, and I was obsessed with talk shows addressing everything from abnormal psychology to issues in love. In China, we had our own versions of the infamous Dr. Phil, and I was HOOKED.
It's no wonder then that going to therapy was one of the best decisions I've ever made in my 24 years of existence. And it will probably still be one of the best decisions I've made even as I'm on my death bed.
Why do I love therapy so much?
Maybe it's because I'm a Gemini and us Geminis loooove to talk about ourselves.
Maybe it's because I'm a chronic overthinker and sometimes it's nice to just take my unending thoughts, shove them onto someone else, and be like "here, you take this."
Maybe it's because my mommy issues make me crave that nurturing comfort that my last long-term therapist provided (Funnily enough, she got pregnant at the end of our time together and asked me: "Does me having a child and having to end our time together stir any emotions in you?" Apparently my mommy issues are pretty obvious.)
Or maybe it's because therapy feels like the one place I can commit to myself, talk about myself, and indulge in healing practices without feeling the guilt of being selfish or "too much." Growing up as the disconnected middle child, I never felt like my issues were valid enough to be spoken about. To talk about how I was feeling was synonymous (in my head, at least) to self-centeredness. It was greedy to take up space during a time when space was limited. Love for my family meant swallowing my pain to spare them of the poison I knew festered in me.
So to me, a therapist's room is a sacred place. And after three years away from that sacred place, I'm itching to return. Even a 15 minute consultation feels like a soothing balm to my soul, a quiet reassurance that I am worthy of taking up space.
I'm officially back on the market, and oh boy, this is one tough market to crack.
To anyone reading this who has embarked on that arduous journey of finding a therapist- you know what I'm talking about. The endless calls and emails, finessing your insurance provider, being put on hold, having to retell your story over and over.
Finding a therapist as someone who has a lot of therapy knowledge is also a really weird process. I'll be the first to admit it: I'm very picky. Picky in ways that sometimes makes me feel like a bad person.
For example, the first thing I look at on a psychologist's profile is their headshot. As if one photo provides any indication of their expertise and personality.
But really, as a young woman of color, is there anything quite as off-putting as the cold unsmiling gaze of an older white man peering deep into your soul?
So I find myself quickly ruling out any male therapists, while having to remind myself that my comfort is what's most important here.
With a similar twinge of guilt, I also scroll past the profiles of therapists who are in their 50s and beyond.
Every so often I'll do that thing where I click on the "Asian American," "female-identifying" and "accepts BlueCross BlueShield" filters even though I already know there's only three providers in all of Boston, and then I'll laugh out loud to mask the very real pain of underrepresentation. It's a fun time.
Now when I do come across a profile I like, I send them a concise but convincing email that usually goes something like this:
Hi ____, I came across your profile and felt like we'd be a good fit. I'm a 24-year-old looking for weekly sessions with a regular therapist to address these following issues: .... I’m a mental health advocate myself and always commit to working very hard in therapy. I'm really looking forward to addressing these long-term issues and improving my life. Would love to set up an initial chat with you some time!
In my message, I try my best to convey that I will be an absolute pleasure to work with. If therapy was graded I'd be a straight A student who finishes all the bonus homework. I let them know I am willing to do The Work. I will be the best patient that ever patient-ed. Please please accept me. But like, in a breezy casual way.
Sometimes they just never respond. Or they'll email me back with "Sorry, I'm not taking any new patients right now." Or they'll add me to their 6-month waitlist, a small consolation.
Fortunately, I am not an urgent case. Having been on medication and seen a psychiatrist extensively in the last few years, my mental illnesses are now manageable and can wait. I feel very lucky in that sense, because I know what it's like to be in crisis mode, frantically dialing numbers and just trying to get your foot in the door of ANY psychologist or counselor's office.
I approach my search this time with calmness and as much patience as I can muster, really giving myself time to feel out each prospective therapist. The issues I want to address are not easy ones. They involve the unresolved traumas of childhood, abusive relationships, self-hatred and guilt.
They involve the kind of deep digging that leaves you reeling for days, sometimes unable to get out of bed because of the sheer heaviness of it all. They involve feeling unsafe temporarily so that you can regain a grander sense of safety.
I want to be certain before I entrust these things to someone.
And so I am still searching, still emailing and cold calling. It's tiring, but it'll be so worth it.
In the mean time, I've come up with some journaling prompts for myself and for anyone else who may also be on the hunt for a therapist, whether its your first one or not.
I hope you'll give therapy a chance if you have the means to. You can also check out my episode here for more in-depth instructions on how to find a therapist.