Simon Cowell, the innovative star of a host of talent scout programs in England and America, recently opened up about seeking therapy for depression.

As a therapist, I appreciate not just what Cowell has done to bring forward new talent around the world, but also to encourage men to not be afraid to seek therapy. For over 20 years, I have worked with men, helping them access therapy, as a licensed professional counselor in Texas.

Early in my career, I decided not to charge for my services. As a pastor, I was supported by a church.

One appointment still lingers in my mind because the man was a rancher in a neighboring community but called and made an appointment with me. His first words were, “You fixed my sister’s marriage, so I figured you could help me with mine.” He was typically ill at ease. 

His demeanor indicated he would rather be in a field facing an angry bull than sitting in a counselor’s office. 

On one level, that is funny but on another, it is profoundly sad. The persona of men has evolved over the years but not long enough that most men feel they can embrace all aspects of themselves. Furthermore, today’s women often ask more of their men than in years previous. 

This is what I hear all too often: “I shouldn’t be here. Coming here is an admission I have failed.” “My wife doesn’t feel connected or close to me.” “I don’t have any close friends I can trust.” “My marriage is not working, and I don’t know what to do.”

My work with men has spanned my entire life. Men from all walks of life felt they could talk to me, and they did. Veterans, ministers and survivors of childhood trauma talked to me, and they found connection, resources and courage to live more fully. 

My training in EMDR has helped me provide better, more insightful services to a broad cross section of men who have survived abuse, lived beyond their war experiences, and still managed to become better connected with their spouse and children. 

One of the adages I continue to come across years after I first read it was: “If I had my life to live over, I would have called in help sooner.” Pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps was more difficult and lonelier than was necessary. 

There are issues that continually surface in men’s lives. The first is shame. 

“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging, and connection,” Brene Brown says after years of research on the subject. Men come to this realization when they grow up alone, feel unwanted, or are shamed for being a chronic disappointment. 

Another is sex. The longstanding facts are that adolescence is a minefield of opportunities to view sexually explicit materials while being given messages of shame in the church. In college, one of the heaviest experiences occurred when I participated in a conversation about sex and the shame that accompanied it. 

Third is trauma, either originating in the home or, for veterans, on the field of battle. In On Killing and On Combat, two books by David Grossman, he points out the changes that happen in a person (most often a man) when he is forced to kill. There can be an intrinsic sense of guilt and shame even when the person has been trained for such encounters. 

Fourth is a man’s role as husband and/or father. When one is sufficiently unprepared emotionally for marriage or children, the challenge to make sense of these new roles can be daunting. 

If you grew up in a home where no father was present or emotionally available, the model for this significant aspect of life can be largely missing. Stepping into a role for which they feel unprepared or uncertain is often disconcerting and disorienting. It can also create a sense of shame. 

Simon Cowell offers a positive word for men who are struggling with depression, shame and guilt, estrangement, loneliness and inner anguish. “Don’t be afraid of therapy. Don’t be afraid to ‘call in help’!”

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