/u/kitdog76 writes on /r/relationship_advice…
“I am a 41m been married for almost 18 years, 2 kids, wife 40.
It has been suggested that I should go to therapy because of lack of self esteem, low confidence, social anxiety,…. any number of things. My parents tried to get me to go in my youth and I refused at all. Now its come down to my wife is urging me to go, almost on an ultimatum.
I don’t know I am scared to go and lay on a couch and talk about my mom and dad, or what ever, take my skin off to some stranger, who is going to ask me all sorts of questions that I don’t have the answers to or don’t feel comfortable talking about. I don’t have some kind of checkered past, I was not abused, not molested, didn’t have mommy or daddy issues, was not dropped on my head, or have some major learning disability. Does it really help to go and talk to some stranger who does not know me from anyone and has no reason to care other than I am paying them to care. There are things I know they will ask that I don’t want to answer, not because I am hiding anything but because well I am a private person.
Then there is the cost, I don’t have insurance, and then there is the stigma of it, I don’t want anyone to know I am going to talk to someone about my feelings. I don’t like to talk to people about things like that , not even my family. I just don’t trust it I guess.
What if the person is really bad also? We don’t get along, or they think I am crazy!, and put some not in my medical file that haunts me for the rest of my life.”
Dear Kit Dog 76,
I grew up in a very traditional, conservative Korean culture. I had a relatively healthy childhood but I was raised in a culture where men were told they were only allowed to cry in three different instances over their lifetime. First is when you are born. Second is when you get married. And third is when your parents pass away. When I came to the US, the paternalistic culture that asks so much from men to be emotional stalwarts made… a lot of sense to me. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I started looking for a therapist.
I had the same initial reservations about my first days in therapy as you currently do. I was worried about the intense feelings of exposure and vulnerability from this other human being who would peel back layer after layer, leaving me high and dry to vultures to come diving in. But I knew I needed the help. The first session was a more of a get-to-know meeting where I asked a bit about his therapy style. And I walked away thinking I didn’t really need to come back because I didn’t accomplish anything significant in that first meeting. But I scheduled a second. Then a third. And it wasn’t long before I started really connecting with this complete individual who helped me unpack a lot of my past mistakes and provide me with the necessary tools to deal with my current and future mistakes.
I have since had several different therapists in different settings for different reasons. And I’ll tell you that not every therapist is going to mesh with you. There are as many different therapy styles as there are therapists. But a professional and experienced therapist should be able to work with the style you might be comfortable with. So even if you don’t feel like you hit it off right away after your first session, patience might benefit you there as well.
Another thing that I do want to comment on is that going to therapy can be a lot like going to a gym. You can test out various machines and run on treadmills for twenty minutes on a random weekday. But unless you make it a habit and a consistent pattern, you aren’t going to be able to pump some emotional iron and develop stronger muscles for your future endeavors. Think of it as self-improvement and not something you have to go to because your wife gave you (kind of) an ultimatum. Go because you want to go. Do it because you think you deserve it.
More expensive therapy sessions run $200ish even without insurance. But think of it as an investment you are making towards yourself, your future, and all the loved ones you are surrounded by. If you’re tight on cash, online services like Talkspace can help you look for a more reasonable option for therapy. There are also sliding scale options available at some local therapist offices where you can go in for consultations for a lower cost than how much a full session would cost.
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