Fellow Men, Why Aren’t We in (Challenging) Therapy?

  • We all have blind spots. Think back to all the relationships, family struggles, work encounters, and friendships that didn’t work out the way you would have liked; we can all improve, and there can be tremendous personal benefit in your life, relationships, and even your career from doing this work. Nobody is perfect in all their interactions, and no matter how wise or introspective we are, we won’t be able to figure this out on our own.
  • Therapy is not about being “crazy” or having “problems,” it is, as a dear friend put it, about “cleaning up our side of the street.” It’s about understanding our origin stories and how we react to things, seeing our patterns in all kinds of contexts, in ways both good and bad. Just because we got to where we are and feel satisfied with our position in life doesn’t mean that our work is done, or that all of our behaviors are good or helpful; we can all be better.
  • Women go to therapy disproportionately more than men, which is sadly ironic given that as men we are socialized to avoid expressing emotions (other than anger), and as such have an even greater need to process, as we have fewer opportunities to do so. When we men do go, it tends to be for an urgent issue, i.e., “I’m trying to fix this problem” vs. working on becoming better in our interactions. A good therapist is much more like a personal trainer than a specialist doctor — they work to continuously challenge and improve us, not just diagnose and repair acute trauma.
  • We need to take on the burden of our emotional work. In many relationships, and even when dating or with friends, we expect women to do the emotional work of the relationship, and also be the de facto therapists for us. This is exceedingly unfair — that is not their job. We need to take care of our own shit, as well as partner with them in working on the relationship.
  • If cost is an issue there are many resources that make therapy available at low or no cost. I know of a few obvious ones myself, but there are many resources that are a quick web search away; I’d also encourage anyone with knowledge about particularly good options to add them as comments to this article.
  • Last but not least, and I cannot emphasize this enough, therapy MUST be challenging to be useful. If our therapists are just listening and validating our behavior, we need to find someone better. Again, this is just like with a physical trainer — if a trainer just watched us work out and said “that’s fine” with whatever we did, we’d fire them instantly. We need to hold our therapists to the same standard. It should feel like work, not just a venting session, and we should expect to do substantial homework between sessions.

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Research scientist and writer based out of Seattle, WA. See http://thatsgreat.org for more information.

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Sumit Basu

Sumit Basu

Research scientist and writer based out of Seattle, WA. See http://thatsgreat.org for more information.

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