Men in Therapy

Individual Therapy Sterling VA

Today’s blog is a guest post from pro lacrosse player Paul Rabil, with whom I have the privilege of working in therapy. Whether you’re a lacrosse fan or not, I think you’ll enjoy his perspective. – Lindsey

I feel really lucky to have been a part of the Lindsey Hoskins & Associates family for over two years. I entered therapy somewhat hesitantly, to better understand my emotionality that stemmed from problems and stressors, with the hope of finding solutions. However, what I didn’t anticipate was that I would embark upon a personal journey of self-discovery, interpersonal analysis, and greater purpose.

I get it. That sounds a bit heavy. But in a way, therapy–like any relationship or business–can be what you make of it. I’m an athlete (which will prove to segue well into today’s blog), and often find myself using sports analogies. So, here’s one:

You need to work out to perform well. That requires daily fitness routines, proper nutrition, and sufficient recovery. Moreover, if you’re seeking high performance, you’d likely hire a strength and conditioning coach and nutritionist. They’re the experts that can help you reach optimal performance. Given this logic, matched with the complexities of non-sport–like family, relationships, and career–it dawned on me that as important as it is to have a great coach in support of success in sports, it can be just as impactful to have professional guidance in life.

Research shows that men benefit from therapy just as much, if not more, than women. Yet most men don’t go to therapy. According to a survey sponsored by Psychology Today, men represent only 37% of the total number of patients in therapy.

Here are a few more statistics, according to Men’s Health Forum:

  • Men make up 95% of the prison population.
  • 72% of male prisoners suffer from two or more mental disorders
  • Men are three times more likely than women to become dependent on alcohol and drugs
  • Four in five suicides are by men
  • For men under 35, suicide is the most common cause of death.

So why DON’T men seek therapy?

Traditionally, society demands that men emulate toughness, independence, and an unemotional construct that directly conflicts with therapy–or help. I think it’s part of our social upbringing, and what’s often represented in sports, music, film, and culture. The masculine man learns to seek less help. To deal with problems on his own. According to Boston College Psychology Professor James Mahalik, PhD, even when men do realize that they’re depressed, abusing substances, or have another problem, they are still less likely than women to seek mental health treatment.

By the time most boys are in elementary school, they’ve learned that being emotional or showing fear is a sign of weakness. By the time they develop into adults, their peers often taunt them to “tough it out” on their own. In many cases, even men who seek therapy won’t disclose it to their peer groups.

If you’re interested in peeling back the layers on male-dominant cultural pressures in sports, music, and film, I recommend documentary film The Mask You Live In, by the Representation Project (available on Netflix).

What are the benefits of therapy?

Speaking personally and based on conversations with some of my colleagues, once you get in the door, down to business, and share openly, there’s an almost instantaneous sense of relief in talking with a good therapist. The more you share, the more capable you are of getting to your truth. During my time in therapy, we’ve discussed acute pains in my mind, body, and career. I’ve learned to embrace the journey, be more present and self-aware, and love my imperfections. Above all else, I’ve developed empathy.

Here are my recommendations for men out there considering therapy:

  1. Leverage that logical skill set we often keep in overdrive, and set up several phone calls with different therapists. Try 10 minutes on the phone and see if there’s one who feels like a good fit.
  2. If you feel comfortable, set up a session, go in with an open mind, and be completely honest.
  3. Tip: I prep for each session with notes on what I’d like to discuss that day — including questions. This is helpful to keep my sessions efficient as I tend to digress (and talk a lot).

Finally, regardless of gender, all of us could use the support of others at some point in our lives. And for you men out there, I can attest that showing emotion, being vulnerable, and asking for help is actually a sign of strength–not weakness. With practice, you’ll begin to develop more deeply connected relationships.

Interested in giving therapy a try? Lindsey Hoskins & Associates offers complimentary telephone consultations to help you decide if one of our clinical staff is the right therapist for you. Call 240-752-7650, or email hello@lindseyhoskins.com to get started.