According to a study conducted by the Mental Health Foundation, men are less likely to seek professional help about their mental health issues than women are.
This inspired me to search for men's positive experiences with therapy, and I came across this old Reddit thread where user u/string0123 asked men to share their uplifting stories. Here's what they had to say.
Disclaimer: There isn't one "typical" therapy experience. Everyone's stories are different, and if something has worked for one person, it doesn't mean it'll work for others. Some submissions also include topics of depression, suicide, eating disorders, and PTSD.
1."Going to therapy was the best decision I've ever made in my life — I really didn't know myself before I went. I thought I was just an emotionless person, when it actually turned out I had some low-level depression and anxiety. The biggest thing I learned was that I was suffering from low self-esteem and it was affecting my choices of partners and friends. A lot of this was derived from some childhood experiences, which is where EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy really helped. The amount of emotional intelligence I've learned from my therapist is just mind-blowing."
"I hate that there's a stigma around asking for help or relying on someone else. Anyone who has been to therapy will tell you that the therapist is just there to help you help yourself. You still have to do all of the hard work."
2."It has helped me organize myself, which has reduced my anxiety and depression enormously. There's a lot of trouble caused by unresolved problems and unprocessed information in the mind. Often, talking about those things to someone is a way to process them in ways that you cannot do alone. There are some things you cannot talk about with people in your social circle — a decent therapist is like a place where you can finally let down your guard. If 'normal' life is like being awake for 10 days straight, then therapy is like a place to finally catch some sleep."
3."I decided to go to therapy for codependency issues in relationships and just feeling that general need to have somebody in my life. I'd say therapy is not going to solve all of your problems, as you might expect it to do, but it will help you get to the root of the problem: where it comes from, what events in your life trigger that feeling. The biggest thing therapy does is rationalize everything for you so you can stop being hard on yourself for feeling a certain way. I'd say therapy really changed my romantic life for the better, but therapy itself was just something that helped set a foundation for me to get better — the rest of the work was up to me."
4."I've been going to therapy for over five years now. I was going once a week, then once a month, then back to once a week. Now that I go every two weeks, I've found it really helps me focus on how I present myself. Struggling with anxiety and depression has been tough, but my therapists have helped me keep from regressing. A lot of people think that a therapist is someone you vent all of your issues to, which is definitely true, but it's only a small part of it. A therapist is there to take the issues that you face and help you find ways to move forward."
5."I was in a dark place mentally, and I felt that I absolutely couldn't ignore it anymore — so I sought out help. It was uncomfortable and humbling, but in the end it was very helpful. If you go in with a positive mindset, you'll get more out of it, but if you go in there super defensive and unwilling to put actual work into changing, you're probably going to hate it. Try to go into therapy with a mindset that you're there to get better. Try to be positive and focused as much as you can be, use the tools, and make incremental changes."
6."A few years ago, I finished college and moved out of state, only to realize that the degree I earned put me in a field I didn't want to be in. I moved back in with my parents a year later and had a sort of situational depression. I started seeing a therapist weekly for about three months, and he helped me sort out my problems and find the best approach to solving them; he also acted as an unbiased third party willing to tell me the truth. It was like having a backpack full of supplies and garbage, laying it all out on the table, and throwing away the bad stuff and organizing what was worth holding on to. I got off my antidepressants and found the woman I'd eventually marry. Therapy boosted my self-confidence tremendously — 10/10 would recommend."
Sony Pictures Releasing
7."Having someone whose job it is to listen to your worst thoughts, who's obligated to stay and listen, who won't be uncomfortable or judgmental about what you say, who's actually trained to handle all of this and help you, is ridiculously wonderful. I had someone I could healthily confide in about how much I wished I was dead, how much I hated myself, and how strongly I felt that my existence had no worth — and that, in and of itself, was a massive help."
8."Once my daughter was born, I started thinking about what it meant to be a father. I looked around at myself, my sister, my wife, and her brother and saw how each of us had scars from our parents. That's when I realized I needed to work on myself to give my daughter the best father I could be. So far I've learned that a lot of the judgments I place on other people really stem from judgments I have of myself, and I'm learning how to stop judging myself. I've also learned that when someone does something 'bad' to me, I extend a lot of grace to them. I look at the broader context of who they are and what they've gone through and forgive them quite quickly. My therapist pointed out that I don't do that to myself, and I should — so I'm also working on that!"
9."Therapy helped me realize I lived my life scared of the results of speaking my mind and expressing my feelings. I came to understand that my loyalty to people, things, and situations was entirely based on sunken cost fallacy, and it's okay to close those doors when you need to. It also got me to spend time doing hobbies that might've seemed 'nerdy' to others because they were excellent creative outlets. You have to find the right person for you, and that isn't easy. My first therapist sucked and did nothing for me, but I eventually found someone who specialized in men's mental health, and the first day I walked in, I saw a bald, red-bearded, tattoo-covered guy and knew immediately I would click with him. James, if you're out there and somehow reading this, you are an amazing person — thank you."
10."It took me going through several therapists before I found the right one, and I have to admit, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I think that most people can use some therapy, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Since I started going, my relationships have gotten better and my job performance has increased tremendously. There have been some tough times due to working out some issues, but man, what a world of a difference therapy makes."
11."I went to therapy when it felt like, in every way, that I was stuck — every day I woke up and I felt as if I was running and going nowhere. All of my achievements were meaningless to me because they weren't good enough and brought no satisfaction, and I couldn't enjoy any of the rewards my hard work had reaped. I lucked out, and my first therapist was a perfect fit for me. We had a similar sense of humor, she knew about a lot of my hobbies, and she was very good at articulating her message. Perhaps most important, though, she was good at understanding when she should and shouldn't push on my walls because I'd be done if I felt that my walls were coming down. I wanted to provide safety for my 'nest,' and I was unhealthy in how I went about it. She helped me find ways to enjoy what I have now and the rewards my hard work has produced."
12."Therapy helped me realize that a lot of the negative perceptions I thought about myself were just in my head. I always thought I was super 'weird' and awkward, when in reality, I’m extroverted and really happy-go-lucky. I also used to always beat myself up for not accomplishing things to the best of what I thought I should be capable of. I still have this in the back of my head, but I don’t let it make me feel like a shit bag anymore. It’s helped me relax a lot and just take life day by day."
13."Remember that therapists are like doctors; it may take trial and error to find a good one. Therapy also might not be fun at first, since you'll have to open up to a stranger and then become comfortable admitting your mistakes. But it was the most worthwhile and productive thing I ever did with my life. I went every week for about two years, but I no longer go because I worked out enough of my problems and learned enough tools to allow me to be happy and productive in life. Don't fall into the 'trap' of thinking that therapy is a forever thing. If you're not seeing any progress (and it's not your fault), don't be afraid to say so and move on."
14."Therapy increased my emotional intelligence, made me more patient, and made me more empathetic. The issues that initially caused me to go in the first place are more or less resolved now, but I'm still going because the increased self-awareness that comes with therapy is immeasurably improving my life. A large part of success in therapy is the relationship you forge with your therapist. My relationship, for example, is blunt and confrontational. While many people might find that unpleasant or uncomfortable, this dynamic stopped me from dissembling or bullshitting my way past their questions as I have in the past. Find a therapist who works for you, and don't expect to get it right the first time."
15."Therapy is for you to talk out what is buried inside your head. It's a method for organizing your thoughts and feelings so you can address them in a healthy way, or absorb them with proper context. You already do this when you talk to your spouse or friends, or even to people online — therapy is just a more formalized, private time structured for you specifically, without distractions. I went for half a year to try to sort out some unrequited feelings in a relationship that were making me sad. It didn't resolve the situation, but I got my head wrapped around my own emotions a whole lot better."
16."A tragic incident happened that didn't directly affect me, but it still ended up having a massive impact on my life (it gave me doubts and insecurities on a daily basis). After a few months of this, I decided to give therapy a try — after only three sessions, my life was turned upside down. The therapist was able to lift all of the scares and doubts out of me, which I couldn't even think about sharing with any friend or family member. I would highly recommend going to a session at least once or twice to see what it feels like. It may help in a way you'd never even imagined."
17."I never thought in my life that I was going to end up in therapy until I was anorexic and 20 pounds underweight and my clothes were falling off. It was then that I bit the bullet and decided to sign up for biweekly sessions at my school counseling center, and what a difference it made. It was so liberating to have a space where I couldn't help but be honest about what I was going through. Although she was not an eating disorder specialist, my therapist was amazing — she was kind and soft-spoken but also held me accountable and did tons of research on her own time to help me out. While therapy was not the only thing that helped me recover, it was a very important part of it."
18."I've been going to therapy off and on for years. Whatever stigma you think is associated with therapy is pretty nonexistent (and the folks who still perpetuate that stigma probably need therapy the most). Therapy is like going to the gym for your brain: You are training your mental fortitude and becoming more resilient. There is no shame in asking for help, and you don’t need any more justification for therapy than just wanting to go. It won’t hurt to hit it up for a couple of sessions and then reassess if you feel like it’s not for you!"
19."I was handling things on my own fairly well, but at one point I was so down for so long, and I didn’t have the tools to get out of it. So I finally opened up to a friend, who recommended a good counselor. I was determined to make a change, so I went through with it and attended sessions for about a month. The experience was very cathartic — I found myself talking about all kinds of stuff that I had no plans to discuss going in. I learned I had a LOT of old stuff that I buried and never dealt with, and over the years it built up. I also learned that traumatic experiences are entirely individual, and there aren’t necessarily qualifications for something to be traumatic — it's not limited to extremely terrible things. I had a handful of those experiences, and after a few sessions, I was already feeling much better. My counselor gave me things I could do outside of our sessions to help resolve my issues, and so far I’ve been implementing those recommendations."
20."I went to group therapy for three months (four hours a day for seven days a week), and honestly, the best part of it was the people I met there. As a 19-year-old with clinical depression, I found it helpful how welcoming everybody was and how willing they were to share their stories. I didn't like the therapists, but overall, it's worth a shot if you haven't tried it."
21."I knew that hormones and chemicals were responsible for how we act in theory, but I never fully understood that until I was medicated for a behavioral condition. Your body actually has a physiological response to trauma. Your therapist may never suggest that you go on medication, but they will help you recover and retrain your body to let go of the trauma. Basically, your body is in a constant state of fight or flight, and it's not how we're supposed to live — it causes a lot of health problems down the line. Leaning on others for support isn't weak; it's what makes us stronger. Others can't lean on you if you're hurt, and if you're anything like me, the idea of not being there when someone you love needs you is pretty scary. Look after yourself."
22."I ended up going for only a few months, but it was extremely helpful. People who shit on therapy probably have serious issues that require a long time to work out, have a bad therapist, or aren't being honest with their therapist. I initially tried to hide stuff from mine, but it didn't work that way — even just expressing things you've never actually said out loud can be very impactful. I went to a therapist who actually understood neuroscience and how your brain works rather than just applying a physiological framework."
23."I'm sure you'd have no problem saying to a medical doctor about a wrenched shoulder, 'I have no idea what I did or how it got that way.' Same goes with mental and emotional problems: It might take a while to figure out what it is, and you might find out some stuff about yourself you don't agree with or like, but it's worth it in the end to clean up your mess."
24."I'm a first responder, and therapy has helped quite a bit with dealing with difficult calls and other challenges that the profession has — it's also helped me sharpen my coping skills. However, the effectiveness of therapy is dependent on the rapport you have with your therapist and the effort you put in outside of your sessions. Even if there isn't a major issue going on in your life, it's good to go to therapy and get a professional's perspective on whatever topic is most important to you. In my opinion, it's a low-risk, high-reward treatment."
25."The stigma around looking after yourself is ridiculous, now that I think about it. I have gone to therapy and have done seven to eight sessions (one per week) on two separate occasions. It's the best thing you'll ever do for yourself — you get an outsider's perspective on your life without any judgment, and no preconceived ideas of who or what you are based on your friends' and family's opinions."
26."Therapy isn’t something you need to 'deserve' — a lot of different people go to therapy, including people who haven't been officially diagnosed with a mental illness. Being human is hard and life can be difficult, and therapy is so helpful for simply gaining self-awareness and strategies to improve the quality of your life!"
27."Therapy literally turned my life around and allowed me to find reasons to live again. Everyone deserves therapy and to be happy. Sometimes we guilt-trip ourselves out of it, but as I see it, that's just something else that can be worked out in therapy. Don't be afraid to try several different therapists or groups until you find the one you click with."
28."Once I found the right therapist, it really made me heal a lot of hurt I had that I didn't know how to label. It also helped me realize that my self-destructive behavior was a symptom of a much bigger issue. I am a much happier and healthier person for it."
29."Talking about your problems to a professional means you don't have to unload on friends and family — they aren't equipped to handle other people's issues, after all. Therapy helped me to unload and gain a new perspective on life. I started therapy via messaging and Zoom calls, which helped eliminate the stigma of going to a doctor's office."
30.And this: "I grew up in a dysfunctional family, and school was incredibly traumatic for me. I've done a lot of mental health work in the last 30 years — counseling, therapy, 12-step programs — and I've been part of a men's group for over 20 years. The result of all of this is that I, at 58 years old, am doing things now that would've been inconceivable to me a decade ago. Younger people are often stunned when I tell them my age (they think I am much younger) because I am having more fun than a grown man ought to be allowed to have. Do the therapy — when you feel that you have gotten all you can out of the therapy, join or form a men's group. Mental health is an ongoing process, and your future self will thank you a lot for it."
Capitol / Disturbing tha Peace
Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.