So I’m back with part II of this list of ten benefits of counseling for men (the first three can be found here). To remind you, I’m pushing back on this notion of needing a “mental health diagnosis” or “mental health problem” in order to benefit from counseling. A lot of people are successfully using therapy to get an outside eye and ear regarding issues that they want some support on and haven’t been able to figure out on their own.
Often (especially, but not limited to) men have exhaustively tried to figure this out on their own.
I get it. There’s a certain amount of shame or embarrassment or just downright frustration that you can’t figure it out yourself. I mean, that’s what you’re “supposed” to do according to our self-reliant world view. I’d like to break down some of that stigma and take a look at three more ways that men’s counseling can be helpful.
4. Social Anxiety
You’ve heard a lot of about introverts vs. extroverts and you may have concluded that you’re an introvert and that’s that. Yet, you still want to make friends. You still want a relationship. You still want to feel less awkward at that work happy hour. This isn’t about making you into an extrovert or even making you love those gatherings, but counseling can counter some of the thoughts and feelings that make it unbearable.
Maybe you find small talk unbearable. Or maybe you’re certain that the more you say the more chances there are that you’ll be caught out for the imposter you feel you are. Maybe something else? But no matter what your current reasoning is for feeling anxious in social situations there is often a narrative that you have—and you may not even know it. There are feelings or thoughts that spring up during these times that inhibit you from saying what you might say in a smaller setting with people who know you better. In counseling, you get to look at this. Not just say what you want to say, but talk through what gets in your way. You don’t have to be impressive in therapy. The consequences for “making a mistake” are so much less and the relief you can feel when you really look at the worst-case scenario can help you give an opinion while at the next team building exercise or out with your partner’s friends (or family.)
Examining anxiety while in a trusting space can cut through it and give you more confidence in the “real world.”
This could probably be a few blog posts in itself and I have a whole page dedicated to Counseling for New Dads if you fall in that category. Here I’ll speak more generally and talk to all dads: those with newborns, toddlers, school age, tweens, teens—and young adults who have “launched” or that you’re still trying to get out of the home!
Fatherhood is different for you than it was for whoever parented/fathered you. It’s a different world. One where much more is expected from dads, but not much is given to dads to help them.
Many women grew up babysitting, helping change and monitor their siblings or cousins. Boys back in the day were just not expected to be a part of this in many households. I see a lot of guys that want to be there and want to be a part of it all, but are struggling with balancing societal expectations, the trope of the “dopey dad” on TV and movies, and living in the shadow of the particular father they had.
Counseling for dads is not meant to be instructional. Sure, there’s some talk about developmental stages, what to expect, etc, but your child is not in any book. You’re going to have to learn who he or she is and then learn how to provide for that child in the way that makes sense for your temperament—and partnership if you’re co-parenting.
People ask all the time for the manual. Well, go to any book store, do some online searches: there are millions of “manuals” but none know your particular child or know you. Read/watch as much or as little as you want—take what makes sense to you. Talk to your pediatrician, kid’s teacher, coach, or troop leader, but know yourself and know your child as well as you can. This is what we do in counseling (with or without your child or co-parent present) and what allows you to make the most informed unique decision for your family.
You may begin to see how many of these are interrelated, right? Anxiety, making friends, being a stronger parent, having or maintaining a relationship—assertiveness fits right into all of them. In counseling, this is about locating your confidence (maybe you lost it or maybe you feel you never had it) and expressing it in a way that others respond to. Confidence can come out as aggression and assertiveness, especially for men who like to take control, help others, and fix problems, can get called out (and get in trouble) for doing this in an aggressive way. Assertiveness with aggression loses you respect and can threaten your relationships and career goals. You might be very confident when you’re home alone or posting a comment on Facebook, but when you’re with others you seem to almost shrink behind what everyone else wants to do. You may be thought of as “easy going” but inside you are raging with resentment.
In counseling, we slowly unscrew this cap to let out the buildup of anger, fear, or whatever is preventing you from firmly and calmly saying what you need to say. This leads to more respect from others. It leads to you, if not getting what you want, at least knowing that you did all you can. You feel more in charge when you can be assertive. Aggression can make you seem out of control and inhibition makes you seem like you don’t really care. Learning to be assertive solves both problems.
Ready for the next 3 reasons?
If any of these issues seem to resonate for you and you’d like to talk further, please get in contact with me to schedule a 15-minute FREE consultation. If you’d like to read more about counseling for men, please check out this link.
Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert based in Brooklyn, NY (and online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been working in family and men’s counseling for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be.