"As a first generation Chinese-Canadian growing up in the Greater Toronto Area, mental health was not really a conversation in my community."
Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) mental health professionals are underrepresented in Canada, so it's important for us to shine a light on professionals of colour with fascinating backstories and a host of experience!
Hi everyone, my name is Judy Lui, I'm a registered psychotherapist and the director of Your Story Counselling services, a clinic offering in person and online services for Individual, Couples, Family, Sex, and Trauma related Psychotherapy.
We are proud to have a diverse team with us, as of writing this all of our clinicians identity as Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) and many of us speak a second language. We also offer free/low cost therapy services for First Nations/Indigenous folks as well as refugees. We also run a therapist intern training clinic where the public can access therapy at a lower cost with our therapist interns. I myself provide psychotherapy services to individual and couples and also offer supervision services to other psychotherapists.
Why did you decide to open your own practice?
As a first generation Chinese-Canadian growing up in the Greater Toronto Area, mental health was not really a conversation in my community. I struggled with anxiety, an eating disorder, and the hidden symptoms of ADHD my whole life and did not know that being neurodivergent was part of what was going on for me (Not to mention all the other racial identity issues and trauma one endures as a BIPOC person and as a person with multiple minority status).
I simply thought that I was flawed and that I was not OK. This mystery started unravelling as I experienced my first social sciences course in high school, which redirected my pursuit of a career in advertising and visual arts into instead the world of psychology and psychotherapy.
After working in multiple non-profit agencies, family services, addiction services, and other private practices I opened Your Story Counselling in 2017. I felt compelled to help so many other folks like me who found themselves struggling to understand their own identity, their own trauma, and their own place in life. I wanted to create a space that allowed people to celebrate themselves for who they were, a space where they could look at their own journey thus far and understand the past so that they could begin to carve out their own preferred future, their own story. This desire is still the core value and philosophy that drives our work in the clinic today.
What challenges, if any, did you encounter during COVID?
COVID has completely changed the world, we have been very fortunate and lucky to brave the storms and make it through to (sort of) the other side still with an office and a practice in tow. Helping clients through a virtual platform has its own unique pros and cons, and I truly believe that virtual counselling (through a video or phone) has its many benefits, in fact, prior to COVID we have always had virtual options available to our clients.
We made a very important decision to keep our offices open during this time, with strict sanitization, social distancing, shields and protectors in place to ensure client and clinician safety. We recognized that for many folks, virtual and online platforms were not always feasible or safe/confidential enough and I'm very glad we were able to overcome this challenge and provide something essential in such times of crisis.
Cost can be a prohibitive factor for some people. Tell us about your intern program and how this could help to accommodate low-income clients.
Absolutely! We really recognize that cost is a barrier to many folks, in particular to those whose identities are most marginalized. We made the conscious decision to take on therapist interns and create a student training clinic at Your Story in order to help create more opportunities for access to mental health in our community.
Our Masters level therapist interns are consistently monitored by a clinical supervisor and adhere to strict protocols and rules that help guide their training. What therapist interns lack in years of training they more than make up in their enthusiasm, hard work ethic, and constant learning/growth.
Our interns go through rigorous hiring and training process prior to starting their work with clients and could provide a great option for support for folks whose insurance does not counselling or that the amount covered is not enough to have consistent support at the full fee. Our fees for interns are considerably lower (from $20-$100 depending on availability for individuals and couples) and create an opportunity to receive quality therapy in a financially affordable way. I would highly recommend this option for folks that would like to start therapy but need to be financially conscientious on how to budget for such support.
Why does representation matter to you?
Mental health is such a stigmatized topic, especially within many BIPOC communities. Many of our counsellors have a similar story as mine, and those roots create a strong passion and empathy that helps us connect with folks that are seeking services and looking for a therapist that not just have the clinical training in such matters but have their own lived experiences as a BIPOC person within this world.
Psychotherapy is part humanity and part science/theory. Our training provides us the theory, but it is the therapist's humanity and own unique story that helps make the theory and it's implementations work effectively.
Psychotherapy is a predominantly white and anglicized system and while each of our clinicians bring their own unique story and training backgrounds, we are united together as a team in our passion to bring the lived cultural and intersectionality context into our work. I truly believe that this distinction allows our clinicians to notice more in our work with clients, to treat our clients as a whole of who they are rather than as the problem or issues they are facing and bring to therapy.
What impression do you hope to leave with your clients after a session with a Your Story Counselling clinician?
I believe that owning our story for all it entails is the bravest and strongest thing a person can do. I hope that clients leave their sessions feeling seen, heard, and witnessed. That they are reminded of the strengths and resiliency that have helped them get this far in their lives and that they leave each and every session a little more hopeful and more confident in how they may enhance what they already have. I hope that folks leave feeling hopeful in their own ability and agency to create the change that they would like to see in themselves so that they can continue to carve their own path in life and create the story they have always wanted.
Connect with Judy and her clinicians on the Althea Therapy app today.