Updated: Jun 18, 2020
She was not the first therapist I have worked with, she was the third over an eight year span. I should clarify, after the initial session with the first two therapists, I did not continue working with them. At that time, there were a number of things that prompted me to stop the therapy sessions: money, time, and efficiency. Where do I start? How long would it take to hear my entire story? Would they understand the complexities and nuances of my story?
This third therapist I saw for a total of three sessions. I was determined to make it work. She practiced the therapeutic modalities that resonated with me, and she was able to address my concerns about time and money in a very direct and clear way.
Then I asked her the question: “How can you as a white woman, help me as a second-generation, Asian-American?” As I expressed my concerns, she validated them and shared that she has worked with many clients of different cultural backgrounds. Her reassurance and confidence put my mind at ease.
Three sessions later, however, something was just not clicking between us. As much as I wanted it to work. As much as I needed it to work. I felt like she did not hear me. She wasn’t getting it. And to be honest, I didn’t even know what it was that she wasn’t understanding.
It just didn’t feel right.
A couple weeks later, after a long day fighting off an emotional meltdown, I laid in bed unable to sleep or process what was going on with me. Then at 1 o’clock in the morning, I started sending out inquires to any and all Asian-American therapists that were accepting new clients. I did not check where they went to school or their experience. I did not check their specializations or the modalities they practiced. I just needed someone to talk to.
The next morning as I arrived to work, business as usual, I get a call from one of the therapists I had reached out to just hours prior. Within a few minutes of her consultation I felt my entire body begin to relax.
My heart soften.
I did not need to explain the level of expectation I felt day in and day out, in every aspect of my life. I did not feel ridiculous for doing well at work, yet still critical of myself. I did not need to educate her on the bonds and relationships in my family that I uphold so dearly.
All she needed to do was be there, and with her yeses, and ability to complete my thoughts--she understood. I did not need to be anything else, do anything else, but to be in the moment, be with my emotions, and to finally be myself.
My journey to finding a therapist reminds me of a bumper sticker I use to love: “There is one race, the human race.” Like this sticker, I wanted so badly to believe that my therapist and I could connect and grow despite the color of our skin. What I did not know was that, also like the sticker, by believing that there is only one race, I was disregarding the unique life experiences and cultural narratives that exist.