Why men do well in therapy

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*Karen Nimmo is a clinical psychologist based in Wellington.

OPINION: Men can be particularly successful in therapy. The problem is getting them there.

Even in 2022, there is a perception that men don’t “do” therapy. Perhaps it persists because, just as men are significantly less likely to visit their GP, they are probably less likely to sit on a stranger’s couch to express their feelings. And some still fear that asking for help is a sign of weakness.

But when they do, men make excellent clients, especially, in my opinion, in brief or solution-focused therapies. I found them able to talk as if they had never had a chance to talk (often because they didn’t). They do their homework, make suggestions and eagerly come back.

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I don’t like gender stereotypes because people are complex, and that’s also outdated, so forgive me for this indulgence in describing men versus women. But I saw him often.

Men will often say that therapy is the first time they really open up.

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Men will often say that therapy is the first time they really open up.

Women tend to come to therapy after asking the opinion of several people: family, girlfriends and even colleagues. They will also have done a lot of research online. Therapy is almost never the first time they explore their thoughts and feelings about a problem.

But men will often say therapy is the first time they’ve fully opened up. They may have close friends, they may play sports with them for a whole season and know very little about their personal life: relationships, worries and pain points. But they will be able to tell you the sports results in detail.

Thus, therapy is a rare chance for them to safely release their thoughts and feelings. This is important, given the disturbing statistics on male suicide around the world.

For men who enroll in therapy, the gains are manifold. Here are the best of them.

A sense of security

Especially emotional security. The chance to speak without being criticized, ridiculed or judged. This is an opportunity to put aside the “rules of male behavior” that society imposes on men, and to be vulnerable. In therapy, men are taught that it is okay and normal to feel worried or panicked, upset, frustrated, angry, bored, hurt, or miserable. They learn that they can experience these feelings without doing anything unhealthy to deal with them.

A precise guide to navigating relationships

Men are often confused about what makes a healthy relationship. They can understand the lines relating to anger/abuse, but often struggle with knowing and being able to say what they need from a partner, how they would like to be treated, and how best to support their partners.

I’ve heard a number of men dismiss their partner’s emotionally abusive behavior towards them with “all relationships go through rough times”. Maybe, but men, women – everyone – need to know when the boundaries of acceptable behavior have been crossed. They need to learn what’s healthy and what’s definitely not, and how to tell.

Knowing and accepting your own story

Being able to understand your past and how it shaped who you are is important to everyone.

Therapy can help you unpack the thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors you’ve pulled from the past, which are still relevant (and helpful), and which need to be let go.

Perspective on this story, which is your life

We all get stuck in our own stories and we behave according to the narrative we have told ourselves is the right/true one. And it can hold us back in work, relationships and life.

A therapist can help you honestly look at the story or beliefs you’ve been holding onto, adjust them, and possibly rewrite the next chapter. This can open up a world of possibilities.

Tools to do things differently

Call me biased, but many men I’ve worked with respond best to a hands-on style of therapy. They value emotional and behavioral “tools,” simple instructions on how to do things differently, especially when it comes to communication or conflict, or how to improve their relationships.

They are often willing to make the mahi because they like to see the results. They like the idea of ​​creating an emotional toolbox that they can reach out to on a tough day.

emotional strength

It’s not about being the loud and quiet type. Rather the opposite. It is being able to be appropriately open and able to control extreme emotional reactions. It allows you to feel grounded and solid in the face of the blows of life, and it helps you overcome fear and pursue what is important to you, to become the person you hope to be.

Maybe therapy isn’t for everyone, and the cost puts it out of reach for some, but getting to know who you are – particularly how and why you react the way you do – can dramatically improve the quality of not just your relationships, but your life.

Why wouldn’t you want a piece?

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