As this week is Men’s Health week, I thought that it would only be apt to talk about my area of knowledge, men’s mental health. This isn’t another article about ‘men suffer mental illness too’ which we all know, but rather it is a post about what therapy is like for men, to try to banish some of the myths and misconceptions (that the media may or may not be responsible for) about what therapy is and what it is not.
I will be ‘read’
Psychologists and therapists do rely on their training to read body language, tone of voice and speech content, however, this type of observation is nothing like the Sherlock Holmes-esque reading that we sometimes see on TV. I don’t know what you are thinking (most of the time) nor do I know what you have eaten for lunch or whether you have recently taken a stroll in a densely wooded area where the predominant foliage is a Norfolk pine. I can however use the way that you sit or talk about something to inform you about how you may be perceived by others.
You must cry in therapy
Absolutely not. Crying in therapy is common for people under psychological distress, however crying does not occur for everyone. Not crying does NOT mean that you aren’t ‘accessing your deep down emotions’ and other pop-psychology phrases. If it feels right, do it, if not, don’t.
It is all about your mother
Movies and pop-culture have a significant lean towards psycho-analytic type therapy and it’s tendency to lean towards the ‘mother’ figure as the cause of mental illness. This is not typical of the vast majority of therapy today. Psychologists who work for insurance companies, or who are Government reimbursed are required to use therapies that are evidence-based and also that are focussed, meaning that patients have an understanding of where the endpoint of therapy is, rather than a more open ended arrangement, as in psycho-analysis. There is no evidence to suggest that the majority of mental health concerns some from unresolved childhood conflict and most current psychotherapy reflects this in practice.
How does that make you feel?
Ah yes, that old chestnut…does the question get asked, sure it does, but is it the main question in the repertoire of the psychologist? No. Sure, you will probably be asked about your feelings, but this is to try to access what is going on for you in your life.
Therapy takes FOREVER
Again this may be a bit of a myth that is perpetuated by Hollywood, the belief that when you start therapy that it is for the long term, rather than the short term. The more likely scenario is that your therapy experience (depending on symptoms, presentation etc) will be based more on alleviating current symptoms and working on learning new strategies to deal with any stress that may arise after therapy ends. A lot of therapy works in a guided fashion, see above, and as a result works towards your treatment goals and not vague and non-descript issues that don’t cause issues for you at the present time. On another note, I have heard people (therapists included) say that ‘you need to take time for it to work.’ Again this is true, in part. Give your therapist and the process a chance say 3-4 sessions, but if it isn’t working and you see no change, say something! Psychologists are not (I repeat) mind readers, and do not know what is happening in your life if it is left unsaid.
My last piece of advice is if you feel that you aren’t being listened to by your therapist, or that you aren’t making process, don’t let that put you off therapy for good. Change therapists, talk to your doctor about other options, but just don’t give up on your own mental health, for your family’s sake, but most importantly, for your own sake.