By Robert D. Asaro, MA, LPC, Clinical Care Manager at Behavioral Health Professionals, Inc.
For many years, the stigma of therapy had deterred individuals, particularly men, from seeking out a therapist. The misconception that a therapist will judge, analyze, or tell you what to do, has often made many shy away from therapy. Additionally, the stigma that one must be crazy in order to need therapy in the first place has often discouraged many from seeking help. The idea of sharing feelings with a stranger contradicted the old-school mindset of man up. Men were taught not to cry and to take it like a man, which inadvertently, resulted to suppressed feelings. The learned behavior of keeping it all in can lead to inadequate communication styles, closed-mindedness, depression, anger, and substance abuse.
According to Psychology Today, “We teach men to be almost the opposite of what’s required for therapy,” says Gary Brooks, professor of psychology at Baylor University in Texas and author of A New Psychotherapy for Traditional Men. “By the time they’re in elementary school, boys have gotten the message that showing sadness or fear is a sign of weakness,” says Ronald F. Levant, dean of the Center for Psychological Studies at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Witnessing the Cultural Shift
On the contrary, the old-school way of thinking is slowly diminishing. Over the past 7 years of conducting talk therapy, I witnessed a significant rise in male clients. These men attended therapy and they opened up to discover their inner-feelings. For some, it was the first time in their lifetime. Although I sometimes heard men proclaim that it was a weakness to seek help, the truth is, of course, the complete opposite. It takes a lot of courage to open up, share thoughts and feelings, and to address issues that are sometimes uncomfortable. The benefits of talk therapy can lead to building awareness and working toward goals of changing of unwanted thoughts and behavior.
Frequently, mental health is neglected, in spite of the fact that it is a vital part of overall good health. Body, mind, and spirit are the trilogy of well-being. If one of these are ruptured or damaged, the remaining two will follow. Stress, depression, and anxiety can cause a multitude of physical health conditions when left untreated. Despite this, some men will cater to their automobiles more than their own well-being. I have known many men that will wash and wax their cars; take it in for regular oil changes and maintenance, yet, neglect the emotional disturbances in their day-to-day lives.
Breaking the Cycle
The biggest challenge remains: how to break the cycle? It begins with education. It is critical for men to educate themselves and to push away the stigma and misconceptions of therapy. Talk-therapy is one of the most powerful tools to assist in good mental health. In today’s world, finding a therapist is easy and readily available through a variety of resources on the internet or by simply asking your primary care doctor for a referral to a mental health professional.
It is imperative to remember that talk therapy is confidential, non-judgmental, and most of all, a productive way to establish, build, and strengthen coping skills. As I would remind clients, there is no problem too small and all problems have a solution. Sometimes we are too wound up to find the resolve, which is where a trained mental health professional can be beneficial. Upon recognizing the need for help, we simply need to make that call, just as we could call the auto mechanic when our car is acting up. After all, you would not drive a car low on oil because it will ruin the engine. Aren’t you worth the same consideration as your car?
About Robert Asaro
Mr. Asaro has worked with diverse populations including homeless, criminal justice, and schools. He is a graduate of Oakland University and is experienced in substance abuse and mental health therapy. In addition, he is a speaker on various behavioral health topics and engages in regular volunteer activities. Robert is family-orientated with many hobbies, he especially enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, and bicycling.