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Men in Psychotherapy

Updated: Feb 16

People often ask me what it is like to have Males as clients in a psychotherapy setting. Usually, I respond that it is wonderful and that I learn and connect well to Men who are wanting to explore their inner worlds. Some of my most meaningful clinical lessons have been from my Male clients. I have learned that Men are capable of investing in their emotional intelligence while showing other honorable characteristics, which they might not be aware of.

Though Men are less likely to seek therapy, they can benefit the same way Women can. Psychotherapy can help facilitate new understandings about how Men react and balance life/work stress, along with the opportunity to process possible past traumas in a safe environment. In some cases, the lack of having the chance to process past traumas have enabled some Men to take on characteristics or personas that are not authentically them. These Men instead continue to live without emotional insight and awareness that could help them be more successful while also freeing them from their emotional pain.

In my world of non ending metaphors, I have termed a GREAT metaphor for how I view Men who are kind and have quality character.

The guy’s we know who are kind, generous, self-aware and loving, I refer to as SMOOTHIES. If you think about it, good guys and Smoothies have a lot in common. Both are good for you, (most of the time), support your health, and are conducive to a healthy and balanced lifestyle. A great smoothie makes life fun, refreshing, while also healing.

Guys who aren’t of good character, and who lack the self-awareness to treat all people with kindness and respect are what I call: MILKSHAKES.

You can call these type of Guys, Jerks, AHOLES, or DB’s. I simply see and refer to them as MILKSHAKES! It makes me laugh while not enabling or engaging in their icky behavior.

Milkshakes can seem to be delicious and attractive but often is not what is going to serve us best. (BTW the guys who are Milkshakes, typically don’t want to be, they just haven’t done the heavy lifting to be healthier, kinder people, AKA SMOOTHIES)

It comes back to what I always say, “Hurt People, Hurt People!”

Often the energy of a Milkshake can make us feel sick, used and abused, and are a letdown.

Yet, we have come to expect Milkshake energy as the status quo from Men... Why? And why are the Smoothies out there not seen as the GEMS they are?

Men, often themselves, can distinguish a Milkshake from a Smoothie within their own circles. In a MILKSHAKE world, most Men live and act the way they want without the regard of others. SMOOTHIES often get lost, feeling like the black sheep, while living in the mentality that “Nice Guys Finish Last.”

The truth, however, is that Smoothies are unique, and need to be celebrated!

Psychotherapy can help lead the way towards how Men can cultivate healthier relationships with themselves, which in return, trickles down to the other relationships in their life.

Men have tremendous benefits to gain when they take the step up to seek support. The support and insight that can be achieved through psychotherapy can help transition a MILKSHAKE into a SMOOTHIE. I HAVE SEEN IT!

Many studies have proven that Men throughout the world, and of all different cultures and socioeconomic status are less likely to attempt therapy. With the pressure that Men face, this alarms and concerns me. The ongoing pressure of Men having to provide, coupled with the many misconceptions about male stereotypes, structures, and social norms, allows me to empathize with Men.

I do feel strongly; that Men must become better advocates for themselves and start to recognize how their Mental Health translates to the outside world. By managing their Mental Health, Men are in a better position to succeed in life while being happier.

Why Men Don't Seek Out Therapy:

To begin therapy because you are unhappy about something happening in your life is allowing yourself to be vulnerable. In my opinion, it has been historically easier for Women to be actively vulnerable, while Men have had fewer opportunities to be in this sometimes scary space. The lack of vulnerability we see in Men seems to be apart of the answer to why Men are less likely to engage in psychotherapy.

What does it mean to be a Man who shows Vulnerability?

Luckily we are seeing more Men advocate for their Mental Health while allowing themselves to be vulnerable. Though there is more work to be done with Men coming to the table, I feel and see the shift happening.

Today we are seeing more consequences of Men who act badly and how they are being held accountable for their MILKSHAKE personalities.

The more Men allow themselves to be self-aware, kind, and vulnerable, we will ALL benefit.

Though it may seem challenging for Men to allow themselves to be vulnerable, it is more energy and work to be miserable while perpetuating those MILKSHAKE vibes.

Overcoming the stigma that seeking support is a weakness, is also a significant challenge in Men allowing themselves to be vulnerable and seek treatment. The dialogue about Mental Illness continues to have a negative connotation among Men. Even when their Mental Health is deteriorating, Men still find a way to avoid treatment due to the common notion that it is an admittance of weakness.

This couldn't be more untrue and irrational. To me, when I see a Man entering treatment, I feel inspired by his strength, and willingness to "lean in," as Brene Brown says. Anyone who decides to show up for themselves with the goal of healing in my mind is on the way to peace and happiness.

How To Encourage Men to Seek Therapy:

Another frequent question I get is, "How can I get my Husband, Son, or Brother in Therapy."

When people ask me this, I appreciate their efforts. However, my response usually is not what they want to hear.

I often remind them that these well-intended efforts can sometimes be a hindrance as they can be seen as forceful or pushy. After all, We can't lead a horse to water.

Instead, I explain that the only way we can encourage those to work on themselves is to come from a place of compassion and without judgment. Also, when we are doing the work to better our emotional health, we model to others that they too are capable and worthy of the same benefits of a balanced and happy life.

For those of us in treatment, you know the benefits it has had on your life. Sharing your therapy experiences, both the challenging and positive ones can also be a gentle way to encourage someone while helping break the stigma.

It is important to remember that it is up to each of us as individuals to be healthy, both emotionally and physically.

There will be MILKSHAKES out there, its how we respond to them which gives us our only course for some control. As Michelle Obama says: When they go low, We go High. This is challenging at times for us ALL, however, the more we model this, the more we will see and feel it within our communities.

So FELLAS, I encourage you to think about what possibly may be holding you back from understanding yourself better...

How could exploring yourself more help you achieve the things you desire?

How can you show up for yourself in a way that might be different, but might make all the difference?

How can you choose to be a SMOOTHIE, in a world of Men who decide to stay MILKSHAKES?

You have nothing to lose by trying therapy, and Possibly everything to GAIN.

Until Next Month, Let's all Take Care,

Hillary

#SmoothiesOverMilkshakes

#BeASmoothie

#Psychoeducation

#SelfCare

#Psychotherapy

#MenInTherapy

#Vulnerability


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© 2018 Hillary Schoninger LCSW. All Rights Reserved.

321 N Clark Street #500  Chicago, IL 60654