Let's Get To Therapy
By: J. Frederick Robinson
Would a man rather get a root canal or go to therapy?
Typically, a root canal bears the reputation as the most dreaded experience, but when you weigh the stats that show that men go to therapy at about half the rate as women even though they experience mental health difficulties in similar numbers (depending on what studies you read), it’s safe to say men would probably take a root canal without anesthesia over a visit to the therapist.
Unfortunately, this aversion to mental health support isn’t innocent; it doesn’t go without injury. Families, relationships, careers, and the very bodies and lives of men are all put in the crosshairs when mental health is disregarded. And for men to live up to their highest potential and be the fathers, husbands and partners, friends, and incredible people they can be, want to be, and aspire to be, they may need to take a trip to the therapist.
But, I promise it isn’t as scary as it seems.
“I’m not about to go to some stranger and tell them all of my business.”
There are so many misconceptions about therapy and mental health in general that keep men from addressing personal struggles and getting the help they may need. One of the main ones is the common cartoonish image people envision when they think of therapy is some stiff professional with glasses, sitting in a chair with a notebook while you lay on a leather tufted chaise sofa telling stories from your childhood. These images make therapy look ridiculous and make men not take it seriously.
Although therapy, of course, does involve talking, it is not “just talk” - as in aimless chit-chat. What therapy IS is discussing life, issues, struggles, emotions, experiences, and thoughts with a licensed professional. This professional knows what questions to ask, how to probe, when to allow talking, they know what certain thoughts, experiences, and feelings mean, and most importantly they know how to process this information through their vast expertise to create valuable effective solutions.
Over time, therapy has also developed into a dirty word. Mental health has just begun shedding its pejorative undertones but despite the great progress, there is still a negative taboo surrounding therapy and mental health. When something so potentially beneficial as therapy is equated to being “crazy” or weak or incapable, it will drive most people away, and for men, it will take this option completely off the table.
Seeking therapy is not admitting weakness. It’s actually more of a sign of strength, dedication, and commitment to self-improvement, relationship improvement, and self-fulfillment. Someone who decides to go to therapy is someone who is saying that they want to do whatever it takes to heal, repair, love, evolve, grow, improve distress tolerance, be mindful and present, have healthy relationships, and effective communication, and to unlock their hidden potential.
You can be the guy that buys the bookcase from Ikea and throws away the instructions and tries to “figure it out” on your own or you can study the YouTube videos and ask for professional help and finally create something beautiful. With therapy, you can create and become something beautiful.
In addition to speaking with an experienced professional about serious topics, there are many other benefits to seeking therapy.
With therapy you can learn:
Effective communication. How many conflicts and blow-ups and broken relationships could we avoid if only we knew how to communicate better. This skill will help you in your romantic relationships, friend and familial relationships, and in your careers as well.
Distress tolerance. Many times, small issues become bigger issues and rock bottoms because we didn’t know how to handle a high-stress time period. Emotions and impulses create a whirlwind of chaos that sweeps us away, but distress tolerance allows us to anchor ourselves to the ground - to reality - and allows us to process emotions and handle life’s difficulties better. It may not be perfect, but avoiding chaos to any degree is a win.
A game plan. Working through struggles and self-discovery is incredible, but taking that information and creating an effective game plan that you can follow, adjust, and track is life-changing. Most people have felt “stuck” at some point in life. Now imagine feeling stuck, but then understanding why, knowing what to do about it, and having a map in your hand of how to get back home.
When seeking out help, guidance, counsel, or whatever else you might go to therapy for, remember and recognize all the courage, acceptance, and strength it takes. Creating a healthier, better, and more in-tune version of yourself not only benefits you and your future but benefits everyone else around you.