No One Told Me It’d Be Like Dating: Finding the Right Therapist

June 6, 2023

GreenShield Cares about women's mental health

By: Nina Huynh

Book your free therapy today

Asking for Help is the Hardest Part… Right?

I was in my first year of high school when I realized I would probably benefit from talking to a mental health professional. I had struggled with big reactive emotions for as long as I could remember and after years of not talking to anyone about it, I started to feel desperate – to be heard, to be cared for and to be safe. I would hole up in my room, avoiding my parents at all costs searching online for answers to why I was so sad, how I could be happier and how to deal with interpersonal relationships on a regular basis. The summer before my sophomore year of high school, things took a turn for the worst. I’ll spare you the details, but I could no longer hide my depression from my parents.

It’s important to also note that during this time I was deep in the middle of my 90s rom-com John Hughes binge. Somehow all these movies had convinced me that asking for help was the hardest part and once I overcame that hurdle, the people that loved me would embrace me with open arms, tell me everything’s going to be okay and get me the help I needed. Obviously, none of the families in these movies were Vietnamese refugees with a habit of suppressing big feelings. When I finally told my parents how I was feeling and pleaded for them to take me to a therapist, their response was, “What could you tell them that you can’t tell us?”

I wanted to scream. I didn’t know how to tell them that they were the problem, so how could I talk to them about themselves? In that moment, it became very apparent that no one was going to save me – that even at my lowest darkest point, my parents still couldn’t hear me. I understand now that my parents came from a culture and generation that didn’t know how to talk about, process or prioritize their emotions. My big emotions were terrifying for them to witness, and they couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just shove them down and put on a pretty smile like they have their whole lives. But that’s the challenge with raising third-culture kids – these moments of contention are hard to avoid.

Why Do I Feel Worse Than Before?

I took it upon myself to reach out to my high school counselor. I didn’t know anything about talking to a mental health professional except for what I saw in the movies. In movies they always just seem to have a therapist that works perfectly for them. They pour their heart out, dig deep into their childhood traumas, have a revelation or two and they’re healed. There’s no process to find the right one, in fact, the idea that there could be a wrong one is literally never portrayed. So, imagine my surprise when talking to my high school counselor left me feeling worse than when I went in.

I felt judged and rushed. I shared how much I had been struggling and rather than offering compassion or a curiosity about what I was feeling, she just kept asking me if I was feeling better now so that she could sign off on my mental health and get on with her day. After that meeting, I don’t think I talked to another mental health professional until I was in university four years later. And believe it or not, the same exact thing happened.

I was going through a really tough time adjusting to the loneliness of university, missing my family back home and going through a break-up that no one seemed to care about. I reached out to my school’s free counseling program and was assigned to someone two weeks out. Feeling anxious, I showed up for more of the same: rushed meetings, zero curiosity, judgmental questions and walking away with a pit in my stomach, again feeling worse than when I went in. I couldn’t help but wonder if the problem was me. Maybe my problems aren’t important or interesting enough that no matter who I met with, the response would always be the same.

It was a hard reality for me to grapple with because I am someone that really believes in the power of talk therapy – I just had no idea that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to therapy. I had the power to pick and choose the right therapist for me and if anything, you get more success from finding the right match if you treat it more like dating than a drop-in clinic. I never thought to filter and find a professional that I could relate to and who had expertise on topics relevant to me. I grew up with the idea that you should always respect authority, so I never questioned doctors or professionals of any kind.  So, the idea that I could tell a therapist, “Thank you for meeting with me but this isn’t going to be a good fit for me” was literally terrifying and unthinkable. I probably never would have found this out if I didn’t start asking my friends and acquaintances for their advice and recommendations.

Finding The Right One

The first time I used a personalized counselling matching tool, I felt like I was filling out a dating profile. Greenshield has one that has over 50 matching options to ensure you find a mental health professional who can relate to your identity and lived experiences. I was able to specify and prioritize things like being a person of color, female, experience with family and children, changing work/life balance, depression and so much more. They say the third time’s the charm and let me tell you after close to 10 years of trying, I finally found a therapist that I feel understands me, hears me, and values me.

I share this because if you’re at the beginning, middle or what feels like the end of the sometimes brutal journey to finding the right therapist for you, don’t give up. Try asking your friends and family for their recommendations and use a personalized counselling matching tool that can get you matched up with a better therapist for you faster. Just like dating, sometimes it’s a lot of work to find the one and sometimes you get lucky right away – I hope you stick with it and good luck.

If you want to try Greenshield’s personalized counselling matching tool that I mentioned above, check it out here.

Start your journey to better mental health

Everyone needs support at one time or another during their life, which is why accessible and effective therapy matters. GreenShield Cares is here to help connect people to the therapy that’s right for them.

The GreenShield Cares program’s personalized counselling matching tool includes over fifty matching options, including culture, race, language, and religion, to ensure women can find a mental health professional who shares and/or can relate to their identity and lived experiences. The program offers virtual access to psychotherapists, Masters of Social Work, psychologists and other professionals whose specialties range from sex therapy, relationship counselling, and trauma, including therapists who specialize in Indigenous mental health services. Intersectionality is at the forefront of the matching process, and the diversity of Canadians is reflected in the diversity of the program’s certified practitioners, with hundreds of the program’s certified practitioners have identified as a person of colour, Indigenous, or Black.

Book your free therapy today