We know men need to talk, Jonah Hill’s Stutz shows us how to do it

5 mins
01 Dec 2022
We know men need to talk, Jonah Hill’s Stutz shows us how to do it

The new documentary from Jonah Hill and his therapist shows us the benefits of therapy, while giving us some tools for how to express ourselves

image Stutz, 2022

words Rhys Thomas

“A guy’s depressed, he comes into my office. He says ‘I know my habits are shit, I know I’m undisciplined, I know I’m lazy. But if I only knew what I was supposed to be doing, what my mission was in life, I’d be like I was shot out of a gun. But I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing so I’m just going to be lazy and do nothing.’ And from that obviously, comes the depression.”

Therapist Phil Stutz is sitting in a cosy kit, talking straight into the camera. Gestating with his hands alot. The black and white is alluring, it feels personal, we are having to look at his face. Head on. Listening to that New Yorker accent say the above words with rapid pace, matter of fact. He then draws a triangle on a piece of card with a shaky black marker. The bottom layers are: Body, People. And at the top: Yourself.

“It’s okay to talk'' is a phrase we often hear when it comes to men’s mental health. It more recently turned into “Please let’s get rid of this stigma and let’s start talking” when UFC and Scouse legend Paddy Pimblett took the mic after winning at UFC London, with these words of breathless wisdom. They’re messages we see over and over. The importance of talking can’t be understated, especially for men, who are less likely to open up about their mental health issues, worries, and insecurities.

We know we should talk. But how do we talk? What do we even say? How do we articulate these thoughts? How do we open up without alcohol?! When do we even see men in therapy? Is Tony Soprano the example? With his tantrums arriving as soon as “good progress” is about to be achieved? Probably not. Sex Education shows teenagers clumsily trying to feel something, it’s pretty good but it isn’t really helping me to make moves? These are just some of the questions when it comes to the practicalities of men’s mental health. Now, Stutz (via Jonah Hill) has some concrete answers.

Stutz is the name of the documentary, and the surname of Jonah Hill’s therapist, Phill Stutz. The deeply funny and sweary 75-year-old developed his unique practice while working as a therapist on Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail complex. This is no fluffy way into dealing with men’s emotions, as Stutz will have treated some of the toughest people going – children and adults were imprisoned together here until 2017, and the prison is known for its corruption and violence. Not exactly light work for a therapist.

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Stutz didn’t always think he had the answers “I felt like I'd lead the horse to water but didn't have a way to make it drink” he explained, because he knew how to identify a patient’s issue but didn’t have the tools for a solution. He felt therapy should be practical and effective, like drinking water so developed an approach called, quite practically and effectively, ’The Tools’.

So how did Stutz get from seeing that his therapy needed to be more effective, to devising a practical method that worksy? It might be to do with who he was treating at the time. According to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 93% of inmates in America are men (the study is binary). So Stutz issues with being an effective therapist could be to do with being an effective therapist for men. Men tend to be solutions based, much preferring to do something to talking about something, or (god forbid) thinking.

Not many men go to therapy, either. According to The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, 79% of men feel it is more socially acceptable to discuss mental health than it was five years ago, yet only 27% of men have actually had therapy. It is better than 2010 though, when that number was 18%. This might mean effective therapeutic techniques skew toward people who aren’t men.

By contrast, 39% of women have received therapy or counselling. Though women have been subjected to sexism during therapy, given the field of psychotherapy was shaped by men and most psychotherapists have, historically, been men, they were still the focus of therapy. It’s long been understood that for this demographic, talking through their feelings could help process their feelings. Therefore, rates of successful treatment and uptake of treatment might have been skewed. Given that the treatment was proving to be successful in women, more may have chosen to go to therapy. Men, who were less affected, might have decided the stigma of talking through their feelings was not worth the bother.

Even if we do love a therapised king, that as an idea is newly emerging. As is the idea that the slim proportion of men who have been to therapy are talking about doing so publicly. Fortunately for all of us, Stutz provides us with a sense of what therapy can do, and it sure shows us how to open up.

Of course, practical or otherwise, not all therapy works for everyone. And Stutz, with his willingness to tell patients to “shut the fuck up and do as I say” or to probe that they need to stop “dumping all your shit” on him, is less than subtle. Still, seeing someone like Jonah Hill opening up about his issues, and more importantly, providing us with a realistic look at what therapy is, feels monumental, because it isn’t something that has been shown so candidly on screen before.

But read that last sentence once more. This shouldn’t be read as here’s a look at therapy. It should be here’s a look at Hill’s therapy and what it has done for him. Stutz tools are focussed on aiming to positively re-frame how we feel. To focus on happiness, and the idea of process being better, and more genuinely attainable, than perfection.

Stutz is available to watch on Netflix now.

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