Saturday, May 29, 2010

Do Real Men Do Therapy? Metallica Did, So Can You

The other day I posted some of Dr. David Wexler's article (and upcoming telecourse) on men in therapy - why they don't go, how to work with them once they do go, and how working with men is different than working with women.

I've recently found an article by Jerry Magaro - Real Men Do Therapy - from the July, 1996 issue of M.E.N. Magazine, now posted at MenWeb. Below this article is one from Psychology Today, Carl Sherman's Therapy: Man's Last Stand.

Interestingly, Sherman suggests that the documentary about Metallica - Metallica: Some Kind of Monster - may have made it more acceptable for men to do therapy. That's cool. The guys who listen to Metallica are the guys who would rather be dead than go to therapy. So seeing their heroes doing therapy on film, for millions to see, probably changed their perspective.

Real Men Do Therapy

Copyright © 1996 by Jerry Magaro, J.D., M.A.

After several years of working as a therapist, I ave noticed noticed some significant differences between women and men in why they choose to be in therapy or participate in a support group. One major difference is that women generally enter into therapy for the first time at an earlier age than men. It is not unusual for a woman in her twenties to have been in therapy at least for a brief period of time, whereas most men tend to be in their thirties or forties before seeing a therapist for the first time. With respect to couples counseling, women generally initiate the idea of seeing a counselor and make the first contact with the therapist. Moreover, her male partner is frequently reluctant or unwilling to participate in couples therapy. Finally, ! more women than men enter into individual therapy, and there are far more women who join support groups than men.

Traditional models of masculinity
What accounts for these differences? Do women have more emotional and psychological problems than men? Are men better adjusted and less likely to need the help of a therapist? While many men would like to think so, I doubt this is true. I believe the answer can be traced back to men’s genetic dispositions and to the roles and coping styles that men learn during childhood. From very early childhood, boys are conditioned to be strong, brave, independent, even fearless. Such traits are considered virtuous.

Boys grow up learning to identify with ideal images of men in the form of the masculine hero. The hero is strong and alone. In times of trouble, he can conquer all odds and rescue and save others from devastation. Clearly, living up to this image prevents a man from being real and authentic. He expends his time and energy trying to live up to an idealized self-image that requires him to sacrifice his own inner needs. In his efforts to save and rescue others, he forgets who he really is.

Any display of pain can quickly be interpreted as a sign of weakness. "Big boys don’t cry." A boy risks being shamed as a "sissy" by his male playmates if he shows he is afraid or in pain. To compound matters, most of us had fathers who were emotionally distant, incapable of showing affection or tender feelings toward us. Our model of how to be masculine was to be like Dad: suppress softer feelings, deny emotional needs and be invulnerable.

What is the price that men pay for such conditioning? Not surprisingly, most of us lose touch with our deeper feelings and needs. Having learned to deny much of our inner life, we look for fulfillment outside ourselves. We put our energy into developing a career, making a living, engaging in sports or other leisure activities. We also seek to find the right woman to marry and have a family with. Hopefully, she will be able to provide for our sexual and emotional needs and otherwise make us happy.

Competition and homophobia
Boys are predisposed to competition and learn to be highly competitive with each other. Losing in a sporting activity or game can easily result in being ridiculed or shamed. While competition may have the positive effect of bringing out the best in us, it also leads to hiding our vulnerability, thereby creating mistrust and emotional distance. A common myth is that men bond with their drinking buddies or with male friends while they engage in sporting activities. However, most of these relationships do not result in deep emotional attachment, and can be almost superficial or businesslike in nature.

Not only does our competitiveness prevent us from being close, but there is the additional factor of homophobia. Men generally are afraid that being physically close or emotionally vulnerable with another man will be construed as a message that they are gay. We do all we can to convince our male friends that we are strong and in control. There is shame in revealing vulnerability or in asking for emotional help from another man. In addition, there is the added fear that expressing deeper feelings and needs to another man will be interpreted as homosexual. Thus, to maintain our manhood, we withdraw emotionally, deny our emotional needs, and attempt to appear to be invincible.

Given our past conditioning, how do we men get our emotional needs met? Since we have not learned to satisfy such needs in relationships with other men, we turn to relationships with women. It is not unusual for men to rely exclusively on a primary relationship with a woman for this need, thereby placing an added strain on the couple’s relationship. Furthermore, men have a tendency to place a greater value on the sexual aspect of the relationship without realizing how important the emotional connection is to the woman in this dynamic. These differences in emotional styles and communication skills quite naturally result in conflict. In our relationships with other men, we tend to equate being close emotionally or physically with being sexual. Thus, men tend to sexualize their emotional con! nection with both men and women.

Crisis is opportunity for change
What finally causes a man to decide to enter into therapy or join a men’s group? In my experience it takes a crisis of some kind, usually a failed relationship or a series of failed relationships, career burnout, or some other traumatic event which leads to depression, anxiety, isolation or loneliness. For many men this happens in mid-life, when a man approaches the age of forty. It is a time when a man looks at his life and asks, " Is this all there is?" Until then, he has been able to hang on to the hope that he will find his dream somewhere out there in this big, wide, wonderful world. At mid-life, something mysterious causes him to look back and realize that life is half over and "it" still hasn’t happened. His dream has not yet been realized. Having spent half his life! trying to find fulfillment outside himself, he awakens to discover that it has not worked. For the first time in his life, a man may turn inward for answers. He may begin to realize that his unhappiness is not caused by his failure to find the right woman or the right career, but by who he is and the way he is living his life. Rather than blame others, he may ask, "How have I caused this to happen? Perhaps I need to change and develop greater self-awareness before I can have a healthy relationship or a satisfying career."

This is a very difficult and courageous step for a man to take. Having successfully mastered his life on the outside, he is now forced to acknowledge that he needs help to explore difficulties encountered in his inner life. As difficult as his crisis may be, it also presents an enormous opportunity for him to go to a therapist. A good therapist can provide guidance, support and a safe and trusting relationship to help a man heal from his past wounds. The therapeutic process provides a safe environment where a man can explore and open to deeper hidden aspects of himself. In discovering the full range of his emotional and spiritual nature, he is able to learn to express his own authentic masculinity.

Ultimately, a man is unable to save others if he cannot first save himself. In order to be fully human, a man must realize his deeper needs and limitations. He can learn to acknowledge his weaknesses as well as his strengths. As men we have tremendous emotional capacity, which is largely sacrificed in our quest to live up to the hero image. In truth, the strong, lonesome hero who denies his own inner needs is not fully authentic. Authentic masculinity is not only being strong and brave, it includes being warm, caring and loving. Men are more real when they are able to give as well as receive, to feel pain and experience fear, as well as act with courage and strength.

Joining a men’s group
While individual therapy is important, it alone may not be sufficient to help a man realize his true nature. Interpersonal interaction with other men is also a vital step in this process. In the company of like-minded men, perhaps in a men’s group, men are provided with a unique opportunity to break their isolation from other men. They are able to confront their fears, open their hearts, and express deeper feelings in the presence of other caring men. In the intimacy created by allowing ourselves to connect and be vulnerable in this way, we learn to nurture each other and experience all of our authentic masculinity. At last, a man has opened the doorway to his soul. He has come home to a safe place where he can discover his true nature. He is relieved that he need not expend so much energ! y hiding his disowned parts trying to look good on the outside, while feeling empty and alone inside. He finds that there is strength in his vulnerability. In learning to be fully real and authentic, he discovers his wholeness. Finally, he is liberated from old male stereotypes. He is free to be himself.

Jerry Magaro, J.D., M.A., is a licensed marriage, family, and child counselor in private practice in San Francisco and Marin County. After nearly 20 years as a practicing attorney, Jerry underwent a life transition to become a therapist. He focuses primarily on men’s issues, and has been leading men’s groups and workshops for over eight years. He also works with individuals and couples, and leads relationship groups for men and women.

This article is also from a couple of years ago at Psychology Today, but it's still useful. Men still avoid therapy until someone convinces them to go - and once there, may have a hard time talking about their feelings.

Therapy: Man's Last Stand

Never quick to ask others for help, men often don't seek out much-needed therapy.

By Carl Sherman, published on July 01, 2004

The woods are burning. The roof is falling in. The guy can't sleep, can't think and now he's having panic attacks.

Maybe it's time to consider therapy.

Then again, maybe not. The men of Metallica, it seems, broke new ground. "The average man is as likely to ask for help with a psychological problem as he is to ask for directions," says Terrence Real, executive director of the Relational Recovery Institute in Watertown, Massachusetts, and author of How Can I Get Through to You? Reconnecting Men and Women. The reluctance is always the same: Therapy is not "manly."

"We teach men to be almost the opposite of what's required for therapy," says Gary Brooks, professor of psychology at Baylor University in Texas and author of A New Psychotherapy for Traditional Men. "By the time they're in elementary school, boys have gotten the message that showing sadness or fear is a sign of weakness," says Ronald F. Levant, dean of the Center for Psychological Studies at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Decades after the much trumpeted rise of the "sensitive" guy, most men continue to keep their feelings hidden—even from themselves. For many men, negative emotions arouse such shame and discomfort that they cease to experience them altogether. "The four words men most dread hearing from women are 'We have to talk,' as that invariably means talking about emotions," says Levant.

Yet somehow men do find themselves in therapy in increasing numbers. Twenty-two percent of men sought mental health treatment from 2002 to 2004, according to Therapy in America, a poll sponsored by Psychology Today and PacifiCare Behavioral Health, Inc. The survey found that men constitute 37 percent of the total number of patients in treatment. "More people are going into treatment overall, but the proportion of men to women has not changed," says Jerome Vaccaro, president and CEO of PacifiCare.

Granted, both men and women often opt for medication over talk therapy, but seek therapy men do. What makes them ink the appointment? More often than not, the impetus is a woman. A typical male patient has been sent—usually by his wife, girlfriend or children, sometimes by his employer. Behind the command performance is a threat: "You change, or it's all over."

"I call them 'wife-mandated referrals,'" says Real.

Although depression, anxiety and shame may lurk beneath the surface, what's on the table is usually relationship problems. To defend against unwelcome feelings, many men adopt an attitude of superiority, entitlement and contempt for others. "They're not in pain," says Real. "The people around them are in pain."

The men who enter therapy of their own volition have often hit rock bottom, says Levant. The despair they've denied or stifled with alcohol or overwork has spiraled until they can't fake it anymore. Often, it's the collapse of a marriage—unexpected, because months or years of warning signs have been ignored. "These men are in a daze," Levant says. "They don't know what hit them."

Then there's the matter of stigma. More than one in five men in the Therapy in America survey said they didn't trust therapists and wouldn't want to be associated with the type of person who receives therapy. Only one in 10 women held these views. But such stigma appears to be in decline, thanks in part to Dr. Phil and Tony Soprano, who have eclipsed the uptight, cerebral Frasier and Woody Allen as exemplars of male therapist and client, respectively.

More good news: Once men get down to business, opening up often brings a rapid sense of relief. "They've admitted something they were ashamed of, gotten it off their chest, and the world hasn't collapsed," says Levant. Indeed, the survey found that men and women were equally satisfied with their treatment experience.

For men, the biggest hurdle, whether you're a world-class rocker or a certified public accountant, is getting in the door.

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

These are five minute previews of each section of the film - you can watch the whole thing for free at the Veoh site by downloading their media plate

Part one:

Watch Metallica-Some Kind Of A Monster-Parte 1 in Music | View More Free Videos Online at

Part two:

Watch Metallica-Some Kind Of A Monster-Parte 2 in Entertainment | View More Free Videos Online at

Part three:

Watch Metallica-Some Kind Of A Monster-Parte 3 in Entertainment | View More Free Videos Online at

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