Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Trouble with Men and Counseling

Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own • (U2 ...
Can't Make It On Your Own (PortalComic)

“The idea of paying some guy $300 an hour to massage your issues,” says Smith, a Los Angeles-area attorney in his early 60s, “is ridiculous.”

In fact, the psychiatrist Smith talked to found plenty of issues to massage. His 45-minute assessment suggested that Smith was toting a veritable luggage store full of psychological baggage that needed unpacking. He recommended twice-weekly counseling sessions.

Smith was having none of it. Like millions of other American men, he simply couldn’t see paying good money for spilling his guts.

Fast-forward a couple of decades. Last year, Smith was diagnosed with a particularly virulent strain of prostate cancer that required immediate surgery, then radiation treatment. Still, he was disinclined to consider confiding in a professional all that he was enduring emotionally.

“I’m pissing in my pants and I can’t ejaculate and I want to talk to somebody else about that?” the Harvard Law School grad explains. “It’s a misapprehension that talking with a psychiatrist or a psychologist is going to move the ball forward. Some things … are what they are. The sooner you deal with them objectively, the better off you are.”

Smith is convinced. But increasingly, studies show that men like him who equate seeking assistance with weakness, or the appearance of not being able to handle their own problems, experience more soured relationships with their significant others, higher rates of debilitating illnesses, and earlier death.

Men and Counseling Statistics

The cathartic benefits of reaching out for help are hardly a secret. As scientists have come to better understand the inner workings of the brain, they have documented the potentially catastrophic consequences for individuals, particularly men, who go it alone when confronted by profound emotional challenges.

Some men have started to take heed. Yet they remain a small minority. In 1998, about 1.47 of every 100 men in the United States sought outpatient help for depression; by 2007 it was 2.12 men per 100, according to a study sponsored by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Often, that help has come in the form of “magic bullet” pharmaceuticals instead of traditional “talk therapy.” In 1998, the study shows, 56.2 percent of men who chose treatment for depression did so by sitting down and discussing their issues with a therapist. By 2007, only 42.5 percent of men interested in treatment chose therapy.

Meanwhile, those who popped prescription pills in an attempt to tackle their emotional issues increased from 68.8 percent in 1998 to 73.3 percent in 2007.

While clinicians and academics may haggle over the pros and cons of treatment approaches - many advocate a combination of psychotherapy and pharmaceuticals - there is no denying the toxic consequences of untreated depression at its most feared extreme.

Distraught men are dying by their own hand in ever-greater numbers.
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