The First Session: An Interview with a Male Client

I can speak to therapy as a professional (and I often do, as my friends, family, and partner will probably roll their eyes and tell you), but sometimes the most interesting perspective on the process can be offered by clients.

Therapy can indeed be an intimidating endeavor. Many clients have expressed that just the thought of opening up to someone unfamiliar prevented them from coming in sooner. I decided to dig deeper into this perspective, and I was especially curious about what male clients experience. After all, we do live in a gendered society where males are expected to be unemotional, so how does therapy challenge this concept? A close friend recently started seeing a therapist for the first time, so I interviewed him about his journey.

What brought you to individual therapy?
Self-esteem issues, and how they were affecting various aspects of my life.

What were your expectations of therapy, and what do you think influenced these expectations?
Honestly, I think I expected therapy to be too “soft”. I pictured therapists to be like Toby from the Office – ineffectual at best, and just a little sad!

What makes it difficult for most people, and males especially, to ask for help?
I think many other people, and perhaps men in particular, share that preconception. Therapy can probably seem emasculating and hoaxy. On top of that, I, like many other men, I imagine, felt like I had to be the rock for my family, be it children, a partner, and so on. People depend on me, and I worried going to a therapist would make me look less confident or reliable.

What was the first session like for you? Was it what you expected?
As you can tell, I didn’t have the highest expectations for my first session. I was still willing to go,
however, so it isn’t as if I thought it would be a complete waste of time. It turns out it wasn’t,
either. The first session was pleasant; I got to know my therapist. I was asked many questions to get a better sense of why I was there. I didn’t expect any big revelations, but I certainly left the office feeling a little lighter. It helped to just talk for once.

“It helped to just talk for once.”

What was going through your head during the process? What were you feeling?
I was very anxious, actually. I’m a private person, and here I was telling a stranger about my personal life. As that first visit went on, though, I began to feel more at ease when it was clear I wasn’t being judged.

How has therapy impacted you?
Therapy has helped me take time to identify and acknowledge my feelings in the moment – to be more self-aware. I now have useful tools to implement to help me through some tough thoughts and feelings.

“As that first visit went on, though, I began to feel more at ease when it was clear I wasn’t being judged.”

What would you tell someone who is apprehensive about going to therapy?
Give it a shot. Give it an honest effort. Therapy can be very helpful, and it often yields greater returns the more energy is invested in it. At the least, never underestimate the value of being able to talk about something and just get it off your chest.

Asking for help is hard, and far too many of us associate seeking help with weakness. Men especially find themselves restricted by our society’s outdated standards for masculinity. Really, how often do we encourage men to be emotionally vulnerable?

Men account for nearly 8 in 10 suicides in the U.S. today, even when women are diagnosed with depression far more often. We have to ask ourselves why this is the case, and I am convinced that it is environment and socialization rather than biology at the core of this issue. Men are less likely to seek help for serious issues such as anxiety and depression, and this social norm has deleterious consequences.

Let’s encourage our friends, partners, and sons to be emotionally vulnerable without punishing them for it. Let’s battle the stigma and challenge the perceptions of therapy. After all, we all benefit from connectedness, safety, and support.

About the Author
Megha Pulianda

Megha Pulianda

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I am a Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern (LPC-I) under the supervision of Cory Montfort, MS, LPC-S. I research trauma psychology while pursuing my Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at Texas Woman’s University. Additionally, I enjoy being a regular blog contributor for Psychology Today where I write about the different experiences of millennials in therapy. I received my B.A. in Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and my M.S. in Counseling at Southern Methodist University. I have worked in private practice, community mental health, and hospital settings. I have experience in individual, couples, group, and family therapy.

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