Let’s Get Real About Therapy
Therapy can be an incredibly transformational tool and a rewarding form of self-care. When I first decided to seek professional help, I didn't know anyone who took charge of their well-being through therapy. I felt alone in experiencing something that was so far from what I’ve been conditioned to believe.
What will people say? was at the forefront of my mind as I began my sessions. As I learned how therapy could help me be a much healthier and happier version of myself, the value I got out of my sessions grew tenfold, and the shame and guilt I once felt started to dissipate. Slowly, I became comfortable with myself, my experiences and most importantly, talking about my experiences with other people. I soon became an advocate for this life-changing form of self-care.
Don’t know what to expect in therapy? The following experiences might give you a better idea.
Being the first in your circle or community to seek therapy can feel isolating, but I promise you’re not alone. Below, I’ve collected the experiences of people like myself who use therapy as a way to support their well-being and grow into better versions of themselves.
What kind of therapy supports do you use?
My therapist has me doing CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), Gestalt, guided imagery, a bit of spiritual therapy.
Shaiful, 23: I use talk-therapy, and on my own, I make sure to pair that with lots of journaling and introspection work.
Parika, 26: I have an incredible racially and culturally informed CBT therapist who I now call upon whenever I feel the need to book a session. Otherwise, I journal.
Sara-Sati, 28: I specifically sought out CBT as I was very aware that my conditioning had a massive effect on how my thoughts would spiral and how they shaped the habits, behaviours, and cycle I was in. I paired that on my own with journaling, introspection and meditation.
What made you realize you wanted to seek therapy?
Sanzana, 26: My depression hit rock bottom literally at the end of 2020, and I experienced my first panic attack. It was also the first time I felt so lost (I was a people-pleaser, and that carried on throughout my childhood and as an adult) and my mom just triggered a switch in me where I turned off all my emotions (I’m a very emotionally tuned person). It was also the first time my mom said I should seek help, four years too late I realized after too. And after that panic attack, I recognized within myself that I’ve needed help for a while.
Shaiful, 23: I was experiencing a lot of anxiety as a result of the trauma and grief I felt from the loss of multiple loved ones and being unable to cope with the stress of my day-to-day life in general.
Parika, 26: Self-improvement and personal growth have always been exciting and essential to my well-being. I’m a very introspective person, but I remember hitting a wall of frustration with the world around me, particularly in my close relationships, when I felt I had outgrown my surroundings. It’s hard to embrace that everybody grows at a different pace than you when you have your heart set on having a circle that grows with you. On top of this, I was maturing out of young adulthood and into just straight-up adulthood, and there was a lot of grey area around what comes after you’ve checked off everything on society’s list in terms of your career. I needed to re-explore the parts of myself that I shoved aside to fit into the picture that capitalism painted for my life.
Sara-Sati, 28: After back-to-back events in my life unfolded (surgeries that impacted the trajectory of my young adult life, traumatic loss, night terrors and extreme paranoia, rejections, and consequently depression), I started having panic attacks with physical symptoms. I knew panic attacks simply were not something I wanted to become a norm in my life, and I felt professional help would be the best way to address this.
Did you have an opinion on therapy before you started?
Sanzana, 26: My main opinion was that I didn’t need therapy because I thought I coped well with my issues and depression. Because I was ‘fine’, I also had an awful perception of therapy thanks to my mom, who sought help in the past. Seeing how she hadn’t changed despite therapy, I assumed going to therapy wouldn’t help or change me.
Shaiful, 23: I thought that therapy was helpful, but I was slightly afraid to start and even felt as though it was inaccessible.
Parika, 26: I thought therapy was something that people went to because of an inciting incident in their lives. Whereas when I decided to go, it was purely for personal growth and self-awareness purposes.
Sara-Sati, 28: I was terrified of what it meant to be someone who thought they needed ‘help’. It was so ingrained in me from my social conditioning to be ashamed to ask for help for something I thought I shouldn’t need permission to have control over.
What did you look for in a therapist?
Sanzana, 26: I knew I needed a POC therapist to understand my POV. It was actually a process where initially I went onto Brown Girl Therapy and looked up their list of therapists within Canada/Ontario. Eventually, I stumbled about First Session and read my therapist’s bio and charges. Therapy is expensive, which is a barrier I experienced first-hand, but I thankfully have benefits with my workplace that did cover a portion of it. My therapist also needed to be a woman and ‘brown’ or have some sort of South-Asian descent.
Shaiful, 23: I honestly just wanted someone who had a plan and seemed interested in what I had to say while also offering me a different perspective than my loved ones,
Parika, 26: Okay, so my checklist was super specific because I reviewed many profiles on Psychology Today before I called anyone. I was mainly looking for a POC woman who understood South Asian cultural pressures but was more aligned with Canadian values. Basically, someone with a similar ratio of South Asian to Canadian as myself. One other thing that I feel I lucked out on was finding a therapist who has experienced a lot of similar struggles in terms of relationships. It made connecting with her so much easier and quicker because I could feel her empathizing with my darkest thoughts (and all my sessions with her to this day have been virtual).
Sara-Sati, 28: Luckily the first therapist I went to checked all the boxes for me: a young South Asian woman who would understand that I couldn’t “just talk to my parents”, and would understand the cultural upbringing that has shaped a lot of my mindset.
How has therapy helped you change the life you’re living?
Sanzana, 26: Well, I’m not a people-pleaser anymore (at least not as much as I used to me), and I’ve learned to set healthy boundaries within my relationships. I don’t feel as lost anymore and I’ve grieved a lot of things that I didn’t realize I had lost. Healing hurts, but it feels incredible when you get to the other side. If anything, I’ve started being gentler with myself and prioritizing ME over anyone else, and realizing it’s OKAY to put myself first
Shaiful, 23: Therapy has helped me focus on the now and recognize that living more mindfully/intentionally can really help me cope with my anxiety. I also look at things from different perspectives and even came to realizations regarding my childhood + the way I was raised.
Parika, 26: Therapy has helped me put more emphasis on holistically investing in myself. Holding space (especially emotional space) for others has always come easily to me but what I realized in therapy is how few people in my life had the perspective and emotional capacity to hold space for me. This has driven me to put self-reliance ahead of community for most of my life because I never got what I needed from others when I asked for support. To combat this, I’ve been practicing voicing my needs more intentionally as I realize them because I deserve to be supported in the same way I’m capable of helping others. I’ve also been returning to the activities that brought me the most joy when I was younger, particularly singing, going for walks more frequently and learning about all the things that I wanted to know regardless of what other people have to say about the subject.
Sara-Sati, 28: I was severely depressed and diagnosed with a Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which I didn’t even realize I had. My experience with therapy was life-changing: the panic attacks stopped, I learned how to recognize what anxiety is and the patterns that contribute to my spiralling thoughts, and I learned how to face myself and come to terms with all that life has thrown at me with courage and strength, instead of shame and guilt. The support I received during therapy and the resilience I have learned to build has been invaluable. The quality of my life has improved so much, and my head is a much happier place these days.