Why Every Man Should See a Therapist

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Men are evolving. The old bottle-it-up and drink-it-away approach to dealing with psychological or emotional distress has shifted to a new talk-it-through strategy: 42 percent of men ages 18 to 32 view the shrink’s couch as an essential part of wellness, according to a 2014 millennial health survey. Sadly, there’s no blood-pressure equivalent for mental health. But if you feel like you’re losing control of life, a therapist can help you seize the helm.

How to Know When You Need to See a Therapist

“The word I use is ‘stuck,’” says Joel Wong, Ph.D., a professor of counseling psychology at Indiana University. “Most of my male clients came to me when they were caught in a rut they couldn’t seem to get out of.”

Problems with anger or alcohol could be cause for the couch, but don’t feel you have to pinpoint the issue, says MH mental health advisor Thomas Joiner, Ph.D.

“Do you have a problem that’s affecting your ability to function? Is it costing you jobs? Relationships? It doesn’t matter where it came from. It’s important to get help.”

Therapy vs. Antidepressants

You should think of antidepressants as the remedy of last resort. Sure, they can be useful in some cases. But they also come with the potential for side effects, including insomnia, weight gain, and sexual problems.

And they’re already overprescribed in the United States: A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reported that nearly 70 percent of people taking antidepressants did not meet the criteria for clinical depression.

But more to the point, a therapist can help you develop strategies for overcoming any negative thought patterns and destructive behaviors you might have, and that’s something no pharmaceutical remedy can do.

Or, as Wong puts it, “Pills don’t teach skills.”

Picking the Right Kind of Therapist

A counselor or a licensed social worker will give you a solid intro to talk therapy, says Joiner.

And if it turns out you need more help, he or she may refer you to a psychologist (a Ph.D. or Psy.D. who can diagnose and treat mental illness) or a psychiatrist (a medical doctor who can prescribe medication).

If you’re worried you’ll choose the wrong therapeutic discipline—cognitive behavioral therapy, experiential therapy, and so on—don’t be.

“Rapport with the therapist is way more important than the specific technique,” says David Wexler, Ph.D., executive director of the Relationship Training Institute in San Diego.

To boost your odds of success, chat with a few prospective therapists on the phone before making an appointment.

What You’ll Talk About In a Therapy Session

Don’t worry. You’re not on trial. The agenda is looser than you might expect, says Wexler.

A good therapist just wants to make you feel comfortable so you can speak on your own terms.

But say you do freeze up. Ask about “triangle conversations,” where the client and therapist engage in a common task, such as playing cards.

“The ability to focus on the game instead of the counselor often allows men to talk more freely,” says Wexler.

Or consider email or video chat. A study in the Journal of Affective Disorders found Internet-based therapy to be as effective as face-to-face sessions in treating depression. Find an online therapist at breakthrough.com.

The Cost Of Therapy

It’s definitely less than the cost of a mental meltdown. Paying out of pocket, you may fork over as much as $300 for a single session, but many will charge you something in the range of $75 to $150 per visit.

Your health insurance is likely to foot a big chunk of the bill, but confirm that your plan covers your treatment before you’re on the hook.

Your company may even offer an employee assistance program that provides free access to short-term counseling.

Still worried? Consider how much you’ll save over medication: Researchers at the University of Washington found that people who went to therapy instead of taking meds spent about 40 percent less on treatment over 16 months—and the results lasted longer.

Does Your Therapist’s Gender Matter?

Try not to focus on gender. (If you can’t help it, then you have a lot to talk about on the couch.)

A study in the journal Psychotherapy suggests that the therapist’s gender doesn’t affect treatment success, so ask around among people you trust for recommendations.

Still, some men may be more comfortable with a woman, and there may be scenarios in which a woman may have the edge.

“If a man has gone through a difficult breakup or is having trouble understanding his wife, a female counselor might provide a better opportunity to work through those problems,” says Joiner.

If you prefer to work with someone who specializes in treating men, do a search at locator.apa.org.

 

 

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