Stephenie Gee tries out the Mindish approach
WHEN zANETA ExCLAIMED,
“Steph, I got you a therapy session!”, my first thought was, “Damn, do I really look like I have problems?” My reaction came as a surprise, because as someone who has had her fair share of experiences with the mental health system, I know well what a misconception this is. And it was in that moment that I realised while society has progressed immensely in shedding the stigma associated with mental health services, we still have a long way to go.
A few days later, I find myself stepping off the elevator into Mindish’s newly opened space in Central. The first thing I notice is not, as I’d expected, that distinct sterile scent of clinics, or harsh lighting or framed credentials. Instead, it’s a combination of warm earth tones and floor-to- ceiling windows flooding the room with warm sunlight.
Things start off bold. “Do you have any problems that you’d like to address?” asks Katie Leung, a psychotherapist and registered clinical social worker. After making a 180- degree career change and walking away from a toxic friendship, I’m confident in saying I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
“Okay,” Leung replies with a nod. “That’s good.” Picking up on my nervous energy, nevertheless, she continues by taking the spotlight off me and directing it on to the therapy itself. Leung’s forte is narrative therapy, which views any perceived problems as separate from the person.
Simple questions are being asked – “How did that make you feel?”, “Who said that?”, “Is this something you’d like to change?” – but waves of uncertainty wash over me. Imagining my life as a book and with a pen in my hand, I begin to map out plots and subplots that are yet to be told. A couple spring to mind: life after graduation, moving to another city, getting a hedgehog. But the one that really stands out is relationships.
It comes at a time in life when all I see on my Instagram feed are engagement announcements, wedding announcements and pregnancy announcements. As content as I am with my current life and steadfast single status, with Chinese New Year celebrations around the corner (cue the dreaded dating and marriage questions) and my 24th birthday approaching, I do begin to wonder where my love life is headed.
I point out again that this is not a “problem” but rather that if I had to pinpoint a possible stressor that could lead to a potential upcoming quarter-life crisis, this would be the one. “I’m scared to date,” I tell her. “And why is that?” she asks. “Because I don’t want to be a heartbreaker,” I respond. From there a back and forth begins, and what emerges is at least one positive: a reassurance that I’m not a bad person.
Which brings us back to the beginning. Therapy isn’t just crisis intervention, nor do you have to reach a certain level of distress to be entitled to it. Walking into my session, frankly, I didn’t think it would do me much good. After all, I wasn’t facing any of the problems that fall under the large umbrella of mental health disorders. But the result? Like waking up after a long sleep. Slightly disoriented, but as refreshed and determined as ever.