If Howard Stern Can Go To Therapy, So Can You
The former shock jock of radio breaks down the stigma of ‘psychotherapy’ and it couldn’t come at a better time.
For those of you that are a bit younger and don’t subscribe to satellite radio, Howard Stern is likely a bit of an unknown to you. You might have heard his name bounced around in the popular press or know him from his stint as a judge on America’s Got Talent a few years back. For our purposes you need to know he’s still a big deal, and he has his hands all over various pieces of the media and entertainment industries.
Gen Xers and anyone older may remember Stern’s The Howard Stern Show, for which he’s most widely recognized, was broadcast on radio and syndicated across the US from 1985 to 2005.
Starting in 2006, he signed a deal with Sirius Satellite XM Radio and his show is still going strong, with him interviewing some of America’s most fascinating personalities including Donald Trump on multiple occasions.
He was known for his brash, offensive and devil-may-care bravado on-air, earning him the apt descriptor of ‘shock jock’ from the media.
Stern got away with a lot scandalous behavior both on and off the radio, and part of his charm was to see just how far he was willing to push the envelope.
In the late 1990s there didn’t seem to be a week that would go by without Stern making headlines for his antics — be it a line of questioning during an interview, his ongoing battles with the FCC over content, and other behavior that garnered disgusted gasps from concerned parents across the country (mine included).
So it was much to my surprise as I watched a recent interview with Stern on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, that I learned he has been going to psychotherapy for years.
What’s more is that he didn’t accidentally let it slip that he’s been ‘seeing someone’ to talk about ‘issues’, but he candidly shared about his experience.
Stern opened up about his deep loneliness as a child and his struggles to connect with both parents. He talked about his mother’s depression and how the burden of trying to make her happy, to make her smile, was part of what fueled his interest in radio and entertainment.
As a young boy he would do impersonations of neighbors to get a laugh and he used this as his main tool to have a relationship with her. The sadness in Stern’s body during the interview conveyed more than his words ever could, as it was very clear that this continued to be a seat of pain for the now 65 year old entertainer.
He went on to talk about his ache to connect with his father, a radio engineer by trade, and how he was relentlessly driven by the idea that if he could make himself bigger, louder and more brazen he might get his dad’s attention. His reflection on his years spent as radio’s bad boy while trying to fill these empty voids left me wanting to hit up Amazon to buy his latest book.
To hear these admissions from a famous male entertainer with a reputation like Stern’s left me a little bit gobsmacked. For someone who has made a career out of not giving a f***, the juxtaposition of a thoughtful, articulate man letting late night audiences into his own personal pain was jarring.
Stern’s approach to talking about his psychiatrist and time spent in psychotherapy, as if they were just a part of normal life, was one of the most refreshing takes on mental health I’ve seen in a very long time. Despite social media campaigns and educational efforts aimed at destigmatizing things like depression and anxiety, there still remains a deeply held belief that mental illness is nothing but failed character and and a lack of fortitude.
For men especially, talking about pain, loss and heartache isn’t socially sanctioned and carries with it a deep sense of shame. This shame is what keeps millions of people from getting the help they desperately need.
We’re living in a place where anxiety is at an all time high and the angry mobs are quick to descend both online and in real life. What’s most needed is a shift in the conversation about mental health and the underlying trauma that’s driving so many of us to act out. Stern’s candor and honesty about psychotherapy and how important it’s been on his journey can easily serve as a catalyst for this evolution.
The bottom line is if Howard Stern can go therapy without embarrassment or hesitation, then you have absolutely no reason not to.