Supporting Men In Therapy

June 09, 2022

Supporting Men In Therapy

According to a poll by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), about 1 in 10 men reported experiencing some sort of depression or anxiety, but less than half of them sought treatment. Furthermore, an estimated 6 out of every 10 men will experience trauma within his lifetime.

Societal stigma prevents many men from seeking help for their mental health struggles, and this has very real consequences. Men are almost twice as likely to binge drink than women, and almost four times more likely to die from suicide than women.

Why Don’t Men Seek Help?

So, why are men so much less likely to seek therapy than women? We spoke to one of our clinicians, Nachman Friedman, about men’s mental health, and he had this to say.

“There are three main reasons I see as to why people don’t go to therapy,” Nachman explained. “Those reasons are fear, not wanting to show weakness, and shame. These reasons can overlap, or might not even be applicable for all people. And men face additional layers to these three reasons due to societal expectations for them.”

“People often avoid therapy for the reason they avoid other medical places: They don’t want to find out what is ‘wrong’ with them,” Nachman continued. “For example, they have a tooth hurting, but they don’t want to go to the dentist and hear that they have a cavity. Until it really hurts, they don’t want to go to the dentist. There’s also this idea that only ‘weak’ people go to therapy, and that you are supposed to be able to handle life alone and without help.”

Nachman said that the third reason, shame, is particularly strong with men and therapy due to societal expectations. Societal norms dictate that men are expected to be able to handle everything, and that going to therapy, for some men, means they have “failed.”

Therapy Is Not A Weakness

“I've learned that sometimes men look at their life as if it’s a resume,” he explained. “And with a resume, you don’t want to show any ‘weaknesses.’ With a resume, you can leave things off, like if you didn’t have a perfect 4.0 GPA or other imperfections. Therapy is still unfortunately seen as a weakness by many. And society puts a lot of pressure on men to be more than average. They want their life, or their ‘resume’ to come across as exceptional.”

Nachman goes on to say that therapy is far from a weakness, being shameful, or something to be afraid of. He said that instead of approaching therapy as “Hey, you need to be fixed,” it should be looked at as “Hey, you’re wonderful, how can I support you and help make you even better?”

Many of Nachman’s patients are children, and he sees a similar pattern with many of the boys and girls that visit him, a pattern that he calls the “post-game interview.”

“In almost any sports interview, the interviewer will ask a question like, ‘How were you feeling during that last play there?’ And the player will say something light and fluffy like, ‘Oh yeah it was a great play, I’m super proud of all the players and their work, and I’m happy to be here.’ Sometimes I will hear similar things from the boys I speak to. They will say ‘Oh yeah everything is great with school, no problems with any of my siblings, yeah, it’s all great!’ But we both know they don’t really mean that.”

Nachman encourages men, and others in therapy, to dig deeper within their feelings and go past the “post-game interview.” At the same time, he, like most therapists, says he meets people where they are at with their feelings, and doesn’t push them to go further than they are comfortable with.

JF&CS Supports Men’s Mental Health

Nachman calls for a cultural paradigm shift when it comes to how people view therapy, saying: “If you have cancer, nobody questions why you are in the hospital. Nobody would say, ‘Oh you’re so weak, why are you relying on radiation for your cancer?’ It should be the same with therapy. We need to stop looking at therapy as a way to ‘fix broken people’ and see it for what it is: An opportunity to build and upgrade ourselves to be even better.”

To men struggling with their mental health who are looking for help, Nachman says to them: “Everybody can use some help. If you have the option to find help, it’s in your best interest to get help. Only good things can come out of it. If you are contemplating it, we are proud and thankful for you for even considering it. Please call JF&CS and make an appointment. We are here for you.”

At JF&CS, we support men in their quest for better mental health. We provide more than a dozen different types of therapy for every need, and our therapists are some of the best and highly licensed therapist in the Atlanta area. We aim to break the stigma behind men and therapy, and are here to provide support for men and everybody wishing to improve their mental health.

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