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Men in therapy: A practical approach

Can you imagine your grandfather sitting down for some cathartic counseling? What about your dad talking about what’s troubling him? We are living in a world where men have been conditioned over generations to believe that a real man copes with his problems alone in a practical way; either that or he buries them deep within. In any case, he doesn’t talk about what’s troubling him or open up emotionally to himself, let alone a counselor.

However, therapy is not just about talking through your feelings. It is also about setting goals and working out effective strategies to reach them. Therapy is a lot more practical than many men give it credit. Therapy is about finding solutions and dealing with problems head-on.

The lowdown on why men need help

You only have to look at the statistics- eight out of ten suicide victims in the US are men, not to mention the startling data on dysfunctional behavior such as domestic violence, to know something is not quite right with how men are dealing with their emotions and psychological well-being. Add onto this the fact that men are three times more likely than women to be dependent on alcohol, and you have a lot of men in need of help who simply aren’t getting it. The facts speak for themselves: around twice as many women receive counseling as compared to men.

Real men don’t express themselves…and other reasons men don’t seek counseling

Men often block the idea of any type of therapy treatment or counseling program due to a myriad of obstacles:

  • Embarrassed to show feelings
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Feeling exposed to ridicule
  • Being seen as weak
  • Fear of what vulnerabilities might surface, such as emotional floodgates opening
  • Feeling incapable of freely expressing thoughts, feelings and emotions
  • Lack of emotional intelligence (EQ)
  • Societal/family/gender conditioning
  • Using emotional numbers such as alcohol and drugs
  • Consider sharing feelings to be a feminine trait and not “macho”
  • Ashamed to ask for help
  • Don’t believe counseling works

Therapy is about goals

While therapy paves the way for a psychological and emotional release, it is not simply a case of talking out problems in the hope that they will be solved along the way. Counseling can be goal-oriented, which many men may be surprised to hear and also find more appealing than the stereotype of therapy being about “feelings”. Cognitive behavioral therapy is solution-focused in a variety of ways:

  • You begin by identifying a problem which the therapy will focus on, and setting goals to create a change.
  • There is a collaborative relationship to achieve those goals.
    Generalized goals involve creating a more rational perspective, creating healthier behavioral patterns, and being free of relentless emotional pain that is affecting your life in a negative and disabling way.
  • Counseling is often brief or time-limited so you are engaging in therapy for a specific purpose within a set timeframe.
  • Identifies a positive strategy that helps lead the way to making beneficial changes to your life.
  • Helps you create a vision of the future which you would like to unfold, thus providing an end goal.
  • Informs you of the power of choices and how certain behavior affects your life, so that with the support of a therapist you can repeat positive approaches and get closer to your end goal.
  • Puts the spotlight on when problems are less intense or even absent, so that you can understand dynamics at play and create more of these trouble-free situations.
  • Emphasizes learning to measure and track your own experiences during therapy, so that you can mark milestones along the way and gain greater perspective.
  • Aids in discovering coping mechanisms and valuable resources to boost confidence and inspire a proactive drive towards achieving your therapy goals.
  • Promotes the development of EQ so that you can better connect with yourself and others on an emotional level and improve your understanding of the feelings you experience.

The pressures of the modern world, such as the recession and ever increasing demands on men’s resources, as well as the impact of childhood and relationship issues, means there is a real need for men to get help when they need it. With the right therapist, the appropriate therapy, and real goals in sight, men can benefit enormously. It takes courage to tackle problems, and given the possible negative fallout experienced by men who do not seek out solutions as well as the potential harm to those close to them, therapy is a responsible, adult choice that is worthy of any man.

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