The year was 2016. I had just graduated from college. I didn’t know I was depressed at the time, but I was. I had just moved to San Francisco to work for a startup and every day I made 125 cold-calls to HR directors at companies across the US. I didn’t have many friends and my girlfriend at the time lived 3,000 kilometers away. I vividly remember waking up on a Saturday morning, I wanted to hang out with someone but had no-one to call. Ironically, after making 625 calls there wasn’t one I could make for myself.
For those who know me, this probably comes as a surprise. I’m quite a joyous person, and for the majority of my life have tended to enjoy most days. My time in San Francisco was uncharted territory.
Looking at my journal entries from that time, it was evident that I was experiencing serious internal distress.
Sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself.
Sometimes I feel as though I’m hurting the people around me.
Sometimes I feel as though I’m worth nothing.
I’m sad. I feel gloomy. I feel tired. I feel foggy.
The thought of doing anything else tires me out.
I wish I could lay in bed all day and watch movies.
I have no energy.
Things got particularly tough a year into my time in San Francisco.
I wouldn’t wish this upon another soul.
It’s like every possible shred of happiness has been sapped from your body.
The past, present, and future: nothing matters anymore.
It’s like I’m constantly waging a war against myself. Whoever wins, I lose.
I wish life was easier.
Fortunately, things got better. I left San Francisco and spent time with family, traveling, and eventually, I moved to Calgary. Reflecting on my experience in San Francisco, it felt formative. And today, I can say that I’m happy. Not all days are great, but most are, and life is enjoyable.
Life is subjectively very good. It’s warm, cozy, enjoyable. I’ve got great friends. I’m in great health. Money isn’t a problem. Emotionally I feel like where I need to be in life. Like life has meaning. Has depth. Has wonder. Has significance.
Looking back, I now realize that I didn’t know what was causing my pain. Hindsight being what it is, it’s obvious that I was suffering from social isolation, a meaningless job, and a relationship I subconsciously knew was over. In time I came to these conclusions. When I did, I changed my circumstances and outlook and my mental health significantly improved.
After this experience, I got to thinking, how does one get to this level of personal understanding? How does one get there faster? For me, talking to a therapist helped. Specifically, it helped me understand what I need to live an enjoyable, meaningful life.
So I asked myself, why did it take me so long to find a therapist? There were two reasons: first, there are an overwhelming number of credentials, specialties, and types of therapy and second, there’s no way to determine the quality of a therapist prior to meeting.
Credential, specialties, and types of therapy: too many, and very confusing. When finding a therapist, the first stop is often a Therapist Directory, with Psychology Today being the most popular. When I counted I found 46 unique credentials/certifications, 74 unique specialties and 64 unique types of therapy. That’s 217,856 potential combinations. Did I want a Psychologist specializing in Career Guidance and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? Or did I want a Family Counsellor specializing in Depression and Attachment-Based Theory? Frankly, I had no idea.
Quality: who knows? When selecting a new dentist, hairdresser, or a restaurant, I check Google’s ratings and reviews to determine who’s well-received. There is no equivalent for therapists. On paper they would look good; well educated in relevant areas and specializing in the right things. When we’d have our first session it just wouldn’t work.
What I learned is finding a therapist is a bit like finding a new favorite restaurant. Except you don’t know what cuisine you like out of 75 available, there are no reviews or ratings, and your first meal costs $150-$250 dollars.
This concept of ‘therapeutic fit’ isn’t just ‘fluff’, there’s a reliable association between good therapeutic alliance and positive therapeutic outcomes. Surprisingly enough, the quality of the alliance is more predictive of positive outcomes than the type of intervention. When I was in my first therapy session, it was evident we didn’t ‘fit’.
So what does a depressed person do when faced with adversity? They give up. And that’s what I did.
It wasn’t until I was in better shape that I put in the work to find someone I clicked with. And that relationship has paid significant dividends. That’s a little backward, isn’t it? That people are only able to find a therapist when they’re able to expend the energy to do so?
At Dawn, we make it easy to find great therapists. And we do it for free. How do we do it? We use technology to learn about you and the therapists in your area. Once we’ve found a therapist we think you’ll like, we introduce you and provide the opportunity to interview them. When you decide that you want to start therapy, we can book on your behalf and as an added bonus, we’re able to negotiate a sliding scale (discounted) rate for you if price is a barrier. Regular therapy is effective therapy, and price is the most commonly cited barrier to regular therapy. We’ll help you negotiate a rate that you can afford to pay.
So how do we ‘match’ you to therapists? There are three parts:
Personally, if a gym is more than 15-minutes away from me, I won’t go on a regular basis and I suspect this is common. Therapy is no different. It needs to be convenient, regular, and affordable. That’s why we’ll ensure your therapist is available when you need them, accepts your insurance, is in your price range, and is conveniently located.
You may have an idea of your soulmate. You might wish them to be driven, goal-oriented, and the life-of-the-party. The actual person you fall in love with might be caring, family-oriented, and a tad bit introverted. That’s how love seems to happen — you have a person in mind and life has other ideas.
Finding a therapist is a bit like that. We’ll make sure to collect your preferences on what gender, age, and therapeutic approach you prefer. We’ll also work to understand what issue you want to work on and what personality type you’re looking for in a therapist. Often, a therapist will check all of the above boxes and there’s no spark, no connection. And per the research above, that’s what really matters. That’s why we’ll give you an option to talk to multiple therapists before committing to one.
Therapeutic quality is theoretically difficult to measure and in practice, is not calculated. We at Dawn believe this is where the industry is missing the mark. There is an inherent, if difficult to measure, quality in services providers. Think of the last time you got a bad haircut. Or when you went to physiotherapy and the practioner gave you irrelevant exercises. Contrastingly, think of a time when a service provider went above and beyond; when a mechanic fixed an intake valve for free, or when a massage therapist made a particularly thoughtful remark about your life.
Therapists are no different; some are better than others. We crowdsource ratings and reviews for therapists and only present you with the top performers.
If you’re looking to try therapy there’s never been a better time. Let us help you find your match. If you’re interested in joining the team or collaborating, please reach out.