What Gets Guys to Get Therapy
I think it’s Goofy phobia that’s holding back many men. Ayup!
Women are about twice as likely to get therapy as men.
I was wrapped in a towel, standing in front of a mirror at the gym shaving, and I asked the guy standing next to me how he was doing.
“Not so good.”
We hadn’t talked much before. “Really? What’s going on?”
“I came home last night and found my wife in bed with another woman.”
We talked for a few more minutes. He was shocked, grieving more than anything, confused. So I asked him, “Have you got a therapist you can talk to?”
“Oh,” he replied, “Things aren’t THAT bad.”
Wow. How bad do things have to get?
Individual therapy often pulls in men who are out of options: to save or get out of a marriage, to stop blowing up before they lose their jobs, to stop being anxious so much they are miserable, or to combat a downward spiral of depression. It’s kind of like an addict hitting bottom. It usually has to get really bad.
Guys will often come into men’s groups because they want to find men they can “talk to about more than football.” But men who want to see their careers take off, or get better at loving their partners or kids, or figure out how to live with more meaning or happiness? Less likely to come to therapy. I think they’re missing an important opportunity, because I see those things happen all the time for the guys who do come in.
But why do guys avoid it? The research identifies a number of factors, but I’m pretty sure the most common factor is that they’re embarrassed that they want help. (We’re conducting a research study on this topic and I will update these pages as I learn more.) Men in our culture are placed under enormous pressure to appear strong, and the swift punishment for any sign of weakness is often a public humiliation. In many cases, it takes a brave man to get past the macho pressure and call a therapist. It’s like the old cliche of stopping to ask for directions.
The irony is that men often find that it’s their fear of being embarrassed that’s holding them back in many areas of their lives. And what’s maddening is that therapy is really good at helping with the fear of taking chances, the fear of being embarrassed. Psychoanalyst Tom Richardson, Ph.D., tells me he wants to erect a big statue of Goofy in his office, as a reminder that the most successful people make mistakes all the time.
“Think of what we typically ask a man to do in therapy settings: recognize that something is wrong with him, admit that he needs help, openly discuss and express his emotions, get vulnerable, and depend on someone else for guidance and support—all extremely challenging tasks in Guy World.” (David Wexler, Ph.D., in Psychotherapy Networker)