Let’s start with what therapy is not. It’s not something to feel weird about. Millions of people do it for reasons as serious as having suicidal thoughts and as non-serious as wanting to be a little less grumpy. The era when therapy carried any kind of major stigma started to end when Tony sat down with Dr. Melfi. So let’s move on to what it is: It’s a space to talk to a professional listener about whatever you want. It’s confidential. It takes place behind closed doors with a licensed expert. Which makes it seem sort of mysterious. Until you get started. Unless these thoughts are keeping you from it. This is how to move past that.
1. “There’s nothing wrong with me.”
Of course there isn’t. While they can be distressing and debilitating, there’s nothing wrong with having bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, or anger issues, or just generally not having your shit together. It’s all okay. Whether you’re in the middle of a mental-health crisis or a member of the “worried well,” therapy is a step toward a bigger life. “It’s about embracing life instead of trying to get through it,” says psychologist Edward Adams, Psy.D., president of the American Psychological Association’s Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinities.
2. “I’m too busy.”
“When you say you don’t have time, you’re really saying that other things are more important than your mental health,” says Columbia University psychiatry professor and New York City–based therapist Alexander Harris, M.D., Ph.D. If you’re too busy for therapy, it’s worth thinking about what you’re currently putting ahead of your wellness. “Is being the best you in work, love, and play a priority?” Dr. Harris asks. “And if not, why not?”
3. “Going to therapy means I’m weak.”
It’s not 1952 here! Is it “weak” to go to an accountant for help with your taxes? Or a mechanic for help with your car? “Strong is the person who is effective and gets the job done,” Dr. Harris says. “And hiring an expert in relationship issues or working for career success is ‘taking care of it yourself.’ ” Plus, holding in your feelings can be deadly. A lot of men who are suicidal are the silent type, says Adams. “They haven’t told anyone they’re suffering. And that doesn’t typically have a happy ending to it.”
4. “I need to spend time on my family, not on myself.”
Therapy can often be an act of care not just for yourself but for the people around you, so you can be a healthy and productive partner, father, brother, uncle, grandfather, manager…you get it. “This is one way to ‘man up’ in your life, and for your family and for your community,” says Wizdom Powell, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut.
5. “I can’t be seen coming out of that office.”
While the stigma is eroding, small, nosy towns can still be small, nosy towns. But the Internet can connect you to counseling services like Talkspace, where you exchange text, audio, or video messages with a therapist in a private, confidential chatroom, and your smartphone can get you to free hotlines staffed by volunteers, like the Crisis Text Line (text 741741), where, yes, you communicate only by text messages.
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