Updated: Jan 22
*All mentions of individual therapists and practices are non-specific
I’ve made a lot of mistakes which is one of the reasons that led me to consider trying out therapy again. The first time I tried therapy two years ago it just didn't work out. Not being understood, constantly having to re-explain experiences and up bringing while receiving blank stares made me feel somewhat worse of then when I started. Two years later due to a lot of personal relationship challenges I tried therapy again but this time made sure I found support that worked for me..
The first time I tried therapy was through EAP (Employee Assistance Program) in 2020 due to work stress, not being able to wake up on time, and my relationship with my family. EAP is very supportive and quite easy to access if your workplace uses the service.
You speak to the intake staff and discuss why you want to access EAP, you also get the option to find someone that is close to you and speak languages other than English. With this being said my experience with EAP wasn’t the most supportive. I found myself being forced to talk, repeatedly explaining family trauma, and didn’t feel I could open up in the environment.
There were times when the therapist just stared at me until I began to speak - I understand silence gets some people to speak but it did not encourage me to open up, but I felt forced to speak just to fill the silence. This all happened during the first lockdown in Melbourne which meant the first session was face-to-face, but the others were over the phone where I couldn’t create a supportive and comfortable space. I did leave with some strategies that helped with sleep but it wasn’t the most encouraging experience.
The main reason for restarting therapy in January 2022 was my behavior after a personal break down. How I dealt with communication, talking to family and just toxic behavior in general. This time I wanted to specifically find a south Asian therapist to support me in dealing with my actions and to make a positive change. I did my own research and found a few different culturally responsive therapists in the southeast of Melbourne. It didn’t take long but research is key and I was very happy with the professional I started my sessions with. For context I had to obtain a mental health plan before starting sessions, which is obtained from a GP.
During the appointment I was asked about my general wellbeing, reasons for wanting to access support, and completes a K10 questionnaire. My plan gave me access to 10 sessions with a psychologist of my choosing, which could be re-evaluated for more sessions after the initial 10. In terms of cost, it was $188.25 per session with Medicare rebate $88.25 which worked out to be $100 out of pocket per session.
My first session with the psychologist was a positive experience. I spoke about what I wanted to get out of the sessions, and the most supportive part of it was feeling acknowledged and understood without the need to constantly repeat past experiences. I remember one instance of explaining why my parents’ relationship was such a mess and why it gave me a lot of anxiety visiting home.
Without even breaking the therapist stated ‘I totally understand where you are coming from. South Asian family dynamics can be quite challenging’. Little things like that made the sessions worthwhile and we were able to develop strategies together. Therapy isn’t easy - it requires a lot of understanding and the ability to open up. It was my third or fourth session where I broke down in tears discussing how much worse I made a previous break up for both people involved due to my actions. My self-esteem was at an all time low – I ruined a lot due to poor communication, not sticking up for others, being very toxic and it all came out during these sessions. It takes time and commitment to see change in yourself.
My experience with therapy has made my current forms of communication with others so much better. I don’t overthink as much as I used to and have realized that many situations are out of my control. Resources like an ‘emotions wheel’ helped me express my feelings better during conversations which have helped improve my relationships with people. I had my last session in late October 2022 and the strategies and learnings I have taken away will stay with me for years to come. It doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes again, but I know I can always access therapy again if I need it as the support helped me improve and feel like a better person.
Sitting down with a psychologist isn’t for everyone, so I wrote this to encourage readers to find a support system and a mode of therapy that works for them. Our south Asian mental health practitioner list is a great starting point and Shakti will soon add complimentary/alternative forms of therapy/mental health professionals in coming weeks.