If you missed it, rocker Bruce Springsteen just disclosed in his new autobiography that he has gone to therapy during down periods in his life and wrote that it was very helpful. He complained of depression, anxiety and self-doubt, even during the most successful parts of his career. It was a rare statement by a celebrity/public figure and reminded me that many of us men are afraid to admit that we need help and are often fearful of going to therapy. I’m here to tell you it’s ok – I get it. But there is no need to be afraid or ashamed. It doesn’t make you less of a man.
Many men will not seek out a therapist and often only do so when pressured by the female in their life. Sometimes a doctor will advise it or the legal system may mandate it. But overwhelmingly, I find that a female was usually involved in the decision to seek out a counselor for personal or relationship problems. Men are often responding to ultimatums and “threats” by their partners when they call to arrange an appointment. Male clients have told me that they think that talking about feelings is a sign of weakness. They worry that medications will be “forced” on them. Or, if they take the medications, the side effects will make them “less of a man”. I suppose fear of medication exists for both men and women. But it seems to really discourage a man from seeking counseling altogether.
We males have long been conditioned (by other men) to believe that expressing feelings is not manly or acceptable. Traditionally, sports and coaches have reinforced this belief as well. For most generations, young boys have been taught to never cry and to “suck it up” or “be a man”. We need to come together and cultivate a society that recognizes that it’s not about being a man or a woman. WE ARE ALL HUMAN. Much like how we’re trying to break the stereotype of saying “like a girl” and considering it an insult – i.e. cry like a girl, hit like a girl, etc. As a society, we still have a lot of work to do.
To add to our skewed view, since the therapy movement began in the 1950’s, most therapists have been women and counseling was a traditionally female solution to problems. Men were mostly ignored in advertising by therapists and drug companies. Interestingly, many of modern therapy’s schools of thought were developed by men and most psychiatrists in the past were males. But patients were usually women, who were expected by society to be the emotional ones.
Today, men will not use medications they often need for depression as reliably as women and their suicide rates reflect this. Another issue men have is TRUST – they worry that their innermost thoughts and fears will be disclosed to others by their therapist. This is far from the truth. Confidentiality is an important concept in therapy but is not always understood by clients. You should know that your identity and everything discussed with your counselor is protected by federal law. The only exception to this is a reported danger to yourself, others or children.
Thankfully, in recent years we have made some strides. Male attendance at counseling sessions has been steadily growing and this trend is encouraging. Seeking counseling is a sign of strength, not weakness. Taking care of yourself will have a cumulative effect on the people around you. When you take of yourself, you can then take care of your relationships and family. It’s all connected.
If you seek counseling, please reach out. Call, text or email Becker Counseling today at 732-406-4422 and firstname.lastname@example.org