A Guide to Therapy For Men, From a Man Who’s Been There
For some guys, the real “F-word” is feelings — just thinking about them can make a man cringe. But when it comes to dealing with mental health issues like depression, therapy can be a central resource in a guy’s recovery.
After a few years of going to therapy to help with depression, I’ve learned seeing a therapist is like seeing a coach or any other professional. Even if a guy doesn’t like to talk about his feelings, that’s OK. Therapy is about more than that. A therapist offers insight, an outlet to get stuff off your chest, mental health expertise and an unbiased perspective.
When I first started going to therapy, I avoided talking about what was really bothering me — feeling lonely, wanting more friends and feeling lost at work and school. I even hid thoughts about suicide.
Eventually I realized two things: One, my therapist could only help me if they know what was going on. And two, it was up to me to apply what we practiced and discussed outside of meetings.
Here are some things I’ve learned as a guy in therapy. If this is something you’re pursuing, hopefully it can help.
1. Be open and honest about what’s really bothering you.
A lot of guys don’t like to admit the problems they’re facing because they want to be the person everyone else can lean on. Admitting feeling stressed or sad seems like admitting to weakness, but that’s not the case. It takes courage to reach out and be honest.
There are still subjects I don’t like to talk about, but now I recognize the power of talking. Often things that seem stressful and overwhelming in my head don’t seem so daunting once I’ve talked them through with someone else. Even when I think I know the answers, it’s better to talk things out. Otherwise I might try to downplay how I’m doing, and I’ll never really face it.
2. Bring notes and set the agenda.
Like many guys, I wasn’t used to having conversations about myself or how I was feeling. Writing notes before meetings helped me prioritize what I needed to discuss, which keeps meetings focused and productive. It also helped me stay on topic if I get stressed, anxious, or try to cop out and not bring something up.
3. Give talk therapy time to work.
Many guys are results-driven and might give up on talk therapy if they don’t see immediate improvement. Talk therapy takes time and commitment. Be patient, and don’t get frustrated if you don’t see “results” after one or two sessions.
4. Finding someone you trust is key.
Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, community mental health workers and other professionals who offer talk therapy can all be just as helpful. It’s not about where you go, it’s about finding someone you can trust and giving them a chance to help.
Today, I’m working for HeadsUpGuys, a website that tackles men’s depression. The more I learn about the topic, and the more men I talk to, the more I realize how ingrained male stereotypes are in our society, and how often they prevent men from reaching out.
No guy wants to look weak or like he can’t handle things on his own. This type of thinking works when a guy is carrying his groceries back from the car, but not when applied to serious mental health issues like depression.
Therapy is an important piece of my recovery and one of the simplest ways to fight depression.