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MEN WOULD RATHER TAKE A PILL THAN SEE A THERAPIST

As a retired military pharmacist, I've worked with a lot of men who are under extreme pressure. I've seen first hand how the statistic that 1 in 10 men are on an antidepressant is true to life. Some of the top moving drugs dispensed in my military pharmacy were antidepressants.

Many men are opting for pills instead of therapy.

Therapy for men still carries a stigma. I've listened to their reasons, and this is what I've gathered...
- men are socialized to be self-reliant, so they don't ask for help
- men are socialized to hide or deny that they are in pain
- men are socialized to keep emotions hidden, as emotions are considered weak

In my opinion, another elephant in the relationship therapist's room is that we are actually subtly trying to train men to be more like women. Men pick up on this, and it turns them off. They try therapy for one session after being coerced. Then they quit.

To me this begs the question...Do we really want to make men more like women? Isn't the polarity between the masculine and feminine something that drives attraction?

Having a man understand a woman, speak her language, is one thing. Having him turn into a hairy woman? Not so much.

So back to therapy; how can we make therapy (and/or coaching) more accessible and useful for men? How can we encourage and work with men so that they aren't forced with the ultimatum : "go to therapy or I'll leave you"?

I have some ideas. And I'd love to hear yours.

1. Work with emotions logically

Men like to solve problems. elieve it or not, emotions have a certain logic to them that can be decoded. The issue isn't actually emotions themselves but handling extremes in emotions. This is why I think it's important to teach men (and women) how to increase their range in the ability of sensation they can handle. When you can do this, and there are specific ways to practice this, you start to feel competent and confident that you can handle the extreme emotions (anger, passion, etc) thrown in your direction.

2. Assume men are doing what they do for a good reason

Our society has tendency, especially lately, to demonize men. Sometimes this is absolutely warranted, but most often it is not. When a man doesn't do exactly what you want him to, often they are labelled as uncaring or inattentive. Imagine trying to please a woman who has already labelled you in this way. It's tough.

What I've heard is that men like to focus on one thing at a time. They also like to know they will get some kind of pay off for whatever they do. They are productive in this way. We love that about them!

So before a therapist, coach, or wife insists that a man change his behavior, I think he needs to be asked: What are his reasons? What payoffs is he looking for? How would he approach this problem if he had more information?

3. Acknowledge and take responsibility for the way men are socialized (often BY WOMEN)

We can't deny that men are taught to be stoic and unfeeling. And then we get upset when they are stoic and unfeeling. Re-introducing the concept that emotions are safe to feel and express is a process that can take time to unwind and re-condition. We have to be gentle and kind.

I believe men do want to feel. They want to be able to feel and experience a woman deeply. This is another way men like to penetrate, not just physically but also emotionally. It's feeling the depths, sensation and pleasure a woman brings into his life. Reclaiming access to feeling is beneficial for both men and women.

So what does this have to do with depression and therapy? I believe men get depressed because they feel powerless. Some of it is learned helplessness, brought on by society, including women. Some of it is stubborness and pride, some of it is fear. Some of it is the way therapy itself is structured.

I find, when coaching my male clients, that they appreciate structure and a logical approach. They want to get to the root cause of the problem, fix it, and move forward.

I couldn't agree more.

Becky Palmer, Health and Relationship Coach
February 2018

Becky Palmer