Don't Blame Spare On Prince Harry Doing Therapy. More Men Should

Whether you’re a fan of the royals or not, it’s been hard to escape the sheer volume of revelations Prince Harry has shared in his memoir and the press he has done to promote it. Spare was always touted as a tell-all book, but many have been shocked at just how open he has been.

From writing about dealing with the death of his mother to the details he shared about losing his virginity, Harry really isn’t holding back. And some people think therapy is to blame.

In the book, we learn that Prince William believed his brother to have been “brainwashed” by his therapist. Meanwhile, only this week, the Princess of Wales told a crowd in Liverpool that “talking therapies don’t work for some people, they’re not for everybody.”

She’s right, of course. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but as Sam Wolfson writes in the Guardian, it’s strange seeing it weaponised against Harry, when a few years back, he, William and Kate were being applauded for taking the stigma out of mental health chat with their joint Heads Together campaign.

The stigma of therapy has decreased in recent years. In 2014, 23% of men had received counselling or psychotherapy, according to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy – this was 27% by 2022. And the percentage of men who consider it self-indulgent to seek counselling or therapy without having a ‘serious’ problem, dropped from 35% to 24% in the same period.

Ultimately, we should never condemn or discourage people, especially men, who want to seek professional help for their mental health.

Some like Paul*, 50, a carpenter from Lincoln, have chosen to go to therapy to deal with past traumas.

Paul grew up with a mum who worked in mental health services – and while he admits he was shy when he first started therapy sessions, he wasn’t afraid.

“I grew up listening to my mother talk about it, and that normalised it a bit for me. I was brought up quite open-minded and I’m an extremely practical person for it – therapy just feels like going to another doctor,” he tells HuffPost UK..

It’s like wearing a T-shirt inside out, you don’t notice it until you look or someone tells you. Men never look and they never tell.Paul, 50

Paul credits his therapy with helping him realise why he was attracted to emotionally abusive people.

“My history left me with a distorted sense of familiarity around them, after my second long-term relationship ended in a very painful way, I decided it was time to figure out what was going on,” he says.

“Therapy created a safe space for me to explore that part of my mind where people usually don’t peer into, the part in the dark, the part that scares us and makes us feel ashamed.”

But although it has worked for him, Paul sees other men struggling with the idea of seeing a therapist. One close family member refuses to go, despite having a partner who works in mental health and who has encouraged him.

“I think a lot of it has to do with pride and the rest is him not being able to understand that what’s going on in our heads is hurting us,” Paul says.

“Men don’t talk about emotions the way women do, so we don’t have a reference on how other men think. I’ve been talking to men about their mental health and only after a short talk, they come back to me saying that they have started their journey of creating a better life for themselves.

“It’s like wearing a T-shirt inside out, you don’t notice it until you look or someone tells you. Men never look and they never tell.”

Femi*, 27, a designer from south east London who lives with a personality disorder, used to struggle with his sense of self and reality to the point of feeling suicidal. Therapy has been crucial in getting him to a better place, he says.

“I’d had multiple suicidal attempts over the years, but then I had multiple in a short space of time and was faced with the reality I might be sectioned if I don’t get a grip,” he tells HuffPost UK.

“A lot of it was trauma-related and stuff from my childhood. Therapy offered a solution to understanding myself and why my past led to certain things.”

Femi says he needed to become better equipped to handle his suicidal ideations, as well as relationships with other people. “It also offered the opportunity to unlearn a lot of toxic habits and things related with patriarchy that I think were essential with my personal development as a man,” he says.

He is still in therapy now and says he appreciates having someone to be totally vulnerable with who is not a partner, family, or friend. “It saves feeling like you’re unloading on people,” he explains.

While men like Femi and Paul have benefitted from therapy, the stigma still sticks – why? Simon Coombs, a counsellor and member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy thinks much is inherited.

“Despite the changes we are seeing in social norms and behaviours, men are still having to deal with generational attitudes passed down from dominant characters in their lives,” he says.

Coombs stresses that therapy can be incredibly powerful in allowing men to feel heard, and helping them work on issues more healthily, without self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. “Not only does therapy enable men to enter a safe and progressive environment, it also broadens their attitude to self-help and taking responsibility for their own lives and outcomes,” he suggests.

Smriti Joshi, a lead psychologist with the wellbeing app Wysa agrees. “Right from childhood we’re told: boys don’t cry. There’s a myth that women are emotional and men are strong, and this impacts how they behave,” he says.

“Men often feel they should be in control and handle things themselves. They are more likely to develop unhealthy yet societally accepted coping mechanisms such as drinking too much or smoking.

“If men are not used to speaking about mental health and opening up, they may also find it difficult to identify an issue and get suitable help.”

Men are no different in their ability to be affected by negative life experiences than anyone else.Simon Coombs, counsellor

Joshi wants men to know that therapy is a safe, judgement-free space to discuss how they are feeling and develop healthy coping strategies.

“You don’t have to tell anyone you’re going,” he says. “There are so many different ways to access support, whether it’s via traditional GP route and therapy, apps such as Wysa that are convenient and discrete, or community projects like Men’s Sheds. There’s something for you.”

The key is “speaking up and speaking out”, he urges. “Not speaking up doesn’t help anyone. Suicide is the largest cause of death for men under 50. We all have mental health, and chances are your friends, family, and colleagues will understand, and appreciate your openness.”

As Coombs emphasises, emotional pain does not recognise gender, race or religion. “It is part of being human and men are no different in their ability to be affected by negative life experiences than anyone else,” he says.

“If you want to feel more self-aware, more empowered to deal with and overcome emotional pain, experience more fulfilling and happy relationships with loved ones, and feel more confident and better able to manage what life throws at you in life and work, come to therapy,” he adds. “You will find compassion, no judgement, and space to know yourself better.”

*Some surnames have been omitted to offer anonymity

Help and support

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.

  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).

  • CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.

  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email

  • Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on