This is going to sound outrageous but if you’ve ever sought mental health services in Toronto, Canada, you will not be shocked by what I am about to say. I’ve been going to therapy since I was 15-years-old, that’s a total of 18 years and in those years I’ve seen maybe 20 different mental health professionals including psychiatrists, psychologists, general practitioners (GPs) who do therapy, social workers and psychotherapists. And please consider that I am on the high functioning side, imagine those who live with more severe mental illness – God knows their struggle to find help. Honestly, it can be quite interesting, challenging and exhausting at times searching for the proper help. Here are a few salient stories from throughout the years and my advice on finding the “one.”
Immigrant, brown, white, Chinese, Jewish, (not black which is a huge shame), young, middle aged, old, homosexual, straight, mothers or fathers – I’ve seen so many very different types of people for my mental health but I’ll try to stick to a few here. The majority of these experiences happened through referrals so I guess they were all connected somehow. Some were free, some I had to pay for, sometimes I had coverage, sometimes I did not. Looking back I got lucky with free or OHIP covered student services, medical centres (GPs providing therapy), and social workers, actually looking back I got hella lucky. Medication has taken a toll on my pocket during the times I didn’t have coverage, I’ll tell you that much!
The first medical professional I saw was an older (like plastic covered couches older) psychiatrist in her home. I do recall going with family members, the home being very old school/traditional and exactly what she said to me. She said, “You’re 16, you should be out dancing. Try some Paxil.” I kid you not. There was no therapy talk, no digging into my symptoms or situation, just here are some meds, make sure you go to prom. I never saw her again and didn’t take the Paxil. This was the first interaction with a psychiatrist that coloured the rest of my experiences with them.
In the beginning and a couple times throughout the years, there were short term transitional individuals I would see, not terrible experiences but I mean what can someone really do for you in a few sessions?
Before I left town for university, there was an older Indian man, maybe the age of my parents, he was lovely but nothing he said really got through to me. He was the first to tell me about cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). I recall him drawing a cycle diagram with arrows and circles and saying “A thought leads to a feeling and a feeling to a behaviour and a behaviour to a thought.” Honestly, it was just way too early in my journey to get any of it. I was still very much in an adolescent place, like what is this man telling me? What does this have to do with my crippling despair? Get me out of here! There was a lot of smiling and nodding politely.
When I went off to university in another city, I knew right away, obviously, I would need the extra support. My school had great on campus medical care for students in the form of a Student Wellness Centre. It lay in the basement of the student centre and was my refuge. He was a red-headed psychologist with a long beard (before beards were a thing), very gentle, caring, smart, real and a little hippie – okay a lot hippie. He was a great stable relationship for me. I do recall passing him by on campus and we’d acknowledge one another but not overly so to prompt anyone with me to ask, “aw who’s that?” He was there for me until I graduated and had to move on with my journey (and I also moved back to Toronto). After moving home, my early to mid-twenties led me to new mental health experiences which included new mental health professionals.
What has your experience been like with different therapists?
Content on this website may be triggering, please call 911 or go to the nearest hospital if you feel you are in a mental health crisis.
An online directory of social workers in private practice in Canada. findasocialworker.ca is a project of the Ontario Association of Social Workers (OASW), and each social worker listed here is a member of their provincial social work association and regulatory body. This directory is provided as a free service to individuals or organizations wishing to locate and engage the services of a social worker.
Psychology Today – Therapists in Ontario
Psychology Today has gathered here a group of renowned psychologists, academics, psychiatrists and writers to contribute their thoughts and ideas. They are a live stream of what’s happening in ‘psychology today.’ Their magazine, first launched in 1967, continues to thrive. Psychology Today’s directory provides a comprehensive directory of therapists, psychiatrists and treatment facilities near you. Lists include – Therapists, online therapy, treatment centres and support groups.
The Ontario Association of Mental Health Professionals (OAMHP) is Ontario’s largest association of mental health professionals. 3,000+ members embody the spectrum of mental healthcare providers at work in family health teams, hospitals, school boards, workplaces, community centres and private clinics – just about everywhere you find mental health services in your community.