In a study I conducted last year, the main reason that men gave for not considering treatment for depression was basically, “I can fix it by myself.”
Memories jump to mind of things I’ve fixed myself, and a smile comes to my face, especially if it was something I’d never done before.
Doing things yourself makes you feel good. You learn from your mistakes, you enjoy your successes.
There are many instances, however, when we choose between doing something ourselves or using the expertise of someone else.
You can file your own divorce, or you can go to a lawyer. You can prepare your own meals, or you can go to a restaurant. You can organize your own business finances, or you can go to an accountant. You can pray alone, or you can listen to a pastor’s sermon.
I could go on and on.
What’s so different about mental health?
We consult with others for their expertise. We admire when leaders surround themselves with people whose opinions may be different than their own, or whose expertise is valuable. We want them to ask for advice. When it’s given, that leader may or may not follow it. But we admire them for questioning whether they have all the answers.
What a therapist does is no different.
Somehow, because of how therapy is portrayed on television and movies, we’ve come away believing that counseling is all about warm hugs and fuzzy feelings. I’m not sure why. Between Bob Newhart and Lisa Kudrow, surely we’ve seen a range of therapists.
Yet many men believe it’s not for them. Therapy’s too “touchy feely.”
If you’ve ever been to a really good therapist, or talked to someone who has, you’ll find out something different.
Yes, therapy involves focusing on feelings. And yes, the relationship is supportive.
But good therapy is hard work. Whatever the therapist has to offer, whether it’s a specific technique like EMDR, whether it’s a therapeutic mode of treatment, like cognitive-behavioral or emotionally-focused, whether it’s group, couple or individual work – it involves pain and, at times, harsh honesty with yourself. That therapist has experience with mental and emotional pain – and what you can do about it. He or she isn’t there to tell you what to do, take over your life, or solve your problems for you.
Far from it.
A therapist is a consultant, a guide. Their experience comes from working with hundreds of people, just like you, and learning what helps. That could be specific suggestions, recommendations, connections between past and present, insights, or the healing from an accepting relationship itself. However, the information you give about yourself, about your history — those are the tools that a good therapist has to use to help you make the changes you want to make.
Plain and simple.
Many of the men I’ve seen will tell you it’s the hardest work they’ve ever done.
I understand and respect that men are still taught, and many believe, that displaying vulnerability isn’t the thing to do. Men may mock other men for doing so. Women who buy into the stereotype can have a fear response if their man reveals vulnerability.
I’ve only gained in respect for the men and women who’ve I’ve been honored to work with — who risk connecting with emotions they believed they couldn’t feel without breaking — who choose to talk about abuse they’ve suffered, so they can heal.
They didn’t break. They got stronger.
They’ve chosen to stop passing down the myth that men must hide their pain.
Men are killing themselves in record numbers.
Isn’t it time for healing?
Photo: Getty Images