Mental Health

How Do I Deal? Sahaj Kohli on Exploring Identity, Building Community, and Finding Therapy

In Issue #168, Brown Girl Therapy Founder Sahaj Kohli shares a few quick tips for anyone who may be looking for a therapist right now.

This May, we’ll be exploring various aspects of mental health in a new series called “How Do I Deal?” As we navigate Mental Health Awareness month during COVID-19 this year, we feel like this current moment in time requires us to go a few layers deeper as we learn how to manage all the grief hope, whiplash, fear, anxiety, and sadness we may be feeling in this moment and beyond.

Originally published in Girls’ Night In Newsletter Issue #168.

I’m Sahaj Kohli, and I’m so thrilled to be the guest editor this week, as we explore mental health and how we all deal with ours a little differently. I’m a writer, a South Asian American, and am currently in graduate school studying to be a mental health therapist/counselor. So it’s probably a surprise to no one that I love the month of May, when we take time to recognize Mental Health Awareness Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot more about how my bicultural identity shapes and affects the way I show up in my everyday life. As a child of immigrants, my dual identities often pull me in various directions simultaneously. While I have the freedom to pick and choose from both cultures and communities, sometimes I also feel isolated and like I don’t truly belong in either.

Enter Brown Girl Therapy, a wellness and mental health community I created for first- and second-generation immigrants. I created this community because I found myself constantly curating who I was in different circles to feel accepted. I wanted a space where I could honestly explore what it meant to be bicultural, to be the first in my family to marry outside of my race and culture, and to educate on, promote, and normalize therapy and support-seeking behaviors in marginalized communities.

I’ve had the privilege to be able to approach this work from the inside as a future mental health professional, but presently I find myself on the outside. I recently moved to a new city and have decided that it’s time to find a new therapist. As I’ve broken this down, I wanted to share a few quick tips here for anyone else who may be looking:

1) Get clear on your why. What are present struggles you want to work through? What are you hoping to get out of therapy?

2) Ask around. Ask trusted friends for referrals, scope out databases like Psychology Today or Open Path Collective, and/or call your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.

3) Set up a lot of consultations. It’s exhausting but finding the right fit is important. Know that these initial calls are as much about them getting to know you as it is you getting to know them. Ask them about their work or what therapy looks like in the room with them. For folks like me where finding a culturally-affirming therapist is of the utmost importance, make sure you ask the therapists about their experience working with/for diverse clients, and ask how they incorporate multiculturalism into their work.

Finding a therapist can be daunting but here’s the thing: it’s worth doing the work to find a good fit. The number one indicator for success in therapy is the relationship between the therapist and client, and just like you don’t vibe with everyone, you won’t vibe with every therapist. Stay patient with yourself through the process. Therapy is a great tool for healing and growth, but you are not broken. You do not need fixing. You are enough, and that’s what I want you to know above all else.

What’s helped you most as you’ve looked for a therapist? Click here to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and be a part of this conversation.

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