I’ve been a psychotherapist specializing in men’s mental, emotional, and relational health for more than fifty years. Until November 13, 2022 I had never heard of Dr. Phil Stutz. That was the day I received an email from my colleague, Brian Johnson, creator of Optimize and the Founder + CEO of Heroic. Brian shared information about a new documentary film called Stutz by well-known actor Jonah Hill (Moneyball and The Wolf of Wallstreet.) Brian said,
I love Phil Stutz. He’s my coach, my Yoda, and my spiritual godfather.
I learned that Phil Stutz is one of the world’s leading psychiatrists and coaches—working with some of Hollywood’s most elite actors and executives over a 40+ year career. He’s also the creator of, and the bestselling author of, The Tools and Coming Alive. I bought the book and watched the Netflix documentary. Although the film and the work of Dr. Stutz is not focused exclusively on men, I believe his approach is uniquely suited to the mental, emotional, and relational needs of men.
“Why are you here?” That’s the first question psychotherapist Phil Stutz asks every single one of his patients, including Jonah Hill, whose documentary focuses on the therapist he says changed his life. Unlike many therapists whose primary approach is to sit back and listen, Stutz prefers to take a more active role in the process: He says his goal is to find out what his patients truly want and give them tangible steps to get there.
Watching the film for the first time introduced me to a man who is clearly a master therapist, but is also a man who is all too human and isn’t afraid to share his vulnerabilities as well as his wisdom with the world. I felt like I was meeting a soulmate, one who has been practicing his therapeutic artistry as long as I have, but one who has refined his art into practical tools that everyone can use to improve their lives, particularly men.
My business card reads, “Jed Diamond, PhD: Helping men and the women who love them since 1969.” However, like Phil Stutz my work with men began much earlier. In my case, it began in 1949 when I was five years old. My father had been committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital north of our home in Los Angeles as a result of his taking an overdose of sleeping pills. My mother insisted that I accompany my Uncle Harry every Sunday to visit my father. “Your father needs you,” she said.
Though I didn’t understand it at the time, I knew, deep down inside, that it was my sacred duty to fix my father and bring him home. Of course, I failed miserably. I dutifully visited my father every Sunday for a year until it was obvious he was getting worse, not better. I still remember the last visit. As usual, my uncle took my father and me to sit in the garden outside the chaos of the “nut house.” But this time my father was agitated and afraid and wanted to go back inside. He turned to me and looked back at my uncle. “Who’s the kid Harry?” He looked pained and confused. I was crushed. Not only hadn’t I helped me, but I he didn’t even know who I was.
I grew up wondering what happened to my father and worrying constantly about when it would happen to me. I pushed my fears away, went to school, eventually earning a master’s degree in social work and a PhD in international health. My dissertation study, not surprisingly, involved preventing and treating male-type depression.
For more than fifty years I have developed a different kind of approach to healing that I believe is more conducive to helping men and their families than what is practiced by most therapists. Here is a summary of my approach:
1. Asking “what happened to you?” is a better question to guide therapy than “what is wrong with you?
Even as a child visiting my father, I heard the medical staff discussing my father’s diagnosis. Is he psychotic? Is he manic or depressive? I heard one doctor offer a diagnosis of “PPP.” It was only as an adult that I heard the term again and asked the doctor what it meant. I was told, “Piss, poor, protoplasm. Some people just have bad genes that causes their brains to malfunction.”
I’ve come to recognize that what happened to a person, the trauma and wounds we experience, and the beliefs that we form, are much more important than the diagnosis we apply to a problem.
In my father’s case, and for many men that I treat, he had become increasingly depressed because he couldn’t make a living in his chosen profession to support me and my mother. He believed that a man who couldn’t support his family isn’t a man at all.
2. Searching the past for what happened to us can uncover the source of our wounding, but insight about causes does little to change beliefs and behavior.
My first job after completing my graduate studies in 1968 was working in a drug and alcohol treatment program. The men and women we treated had a whole host of what are called “Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)” and traumas. But knowledge was useless in helping a person to stop using drugs, to get connected to a higher power and tap the Life Force energies they needed, and develop healthy practices for living.
The tools we used originated with Dr. Bob and Bill Wilson who co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935 in Akron, Ohio. Deep sharing from the heart opened both up to the actions that needed to be put into practice for both to stay clean and sober.
3. The wounding that causes our problems occurs in an unhealthy human relationship and the power of healing must occur in a healthy human relationship.
During my training as a psychotherapist I remember watching an “expert psychiatrist” through a one-way mirror working with a patient in a mental hospital. After the demonstration the students met with the doctor where we were able to ask questions and receive guidance for our own eventual practice as therapists. I wanted to know why the doctor maintained rigid boundaries, would not look at the patient directly, and wouldn’t even shake his hand. The doctor explained that it was his job to allow the patient to project the problems with his past relationships with his family on to the doctor who should act as a blank screen for the patient’s troubled feelings.
In my mind this artificial structure took away any kind of human healing that could occur and was a lousy model for a healthy relationship. The rigid separation between the “doctor” and the “patient” needed to be bridged. Both needed to share their story and be listened to with an open mind and heart.
4. Healing is most effective when there is a three-part relationship between two human beings and the infinite healing power of the universe.
Even today most psychotherapy is seen as occurring between an “expert” healer and the “patient” or “client” who comes to get healed. Over the years, it is evident to me that healing is a team sport. I may be the designated healer, the one who gets paid, but the healing process occurs for both of us. I learn as much from my clients as they learn from me, maybe more. Together we are able to tap into a third healing forth, I think about as “Source,” “Higher Power,” or what Phil Stutz calls the “Life Force.” Together, we can make change for good.
I describe the healing process as a partnership between three Ss (Source, Self, Someone else).
Man Therapy and The Moonshot for Mankind
A year ago I invited a group of colleagues who had been working in the field of men’s mental, emotional, and relational health to join me in creating a Moonshot for Mankind. One of the men I invited was Joe Conrad, who had created an innovative healing program called “Man Therapy.” Together we’ve been meeting this year to bring the issues of men’s health to the forefront of awareness and to share programs for change with the world.
Man Therapy in an innovative suicide prevention and mental health program for working-aged men. Designed as a comprehensive public awareness campaign, Man Therapy uses humor to connect with men, break through stigma, and take action with life-saving tools. The innovative campaign and 24/7 digital platform encourage men to think differently about mental health and take action before ever reaching a point of crisis.
This post was previously published on Menalive.com and is republished on Medium.
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