Using the moniker the Angry Therapist, Kim eschews the traditional model of office-based client sessions in favor of speaking to men seeking self-betterment someplace they feel more comfortable—online. He also discloses personal information with a candor atypical for his profession, a practice he continues in his new book, I Used to Be a Miserable F*ck (HarperOne, Jan. 2019).
Do you think men have traditionally shied away from books marketed as self-help?
I’m 45 years old and, for my parents, self-betterment was for a crazy person. Now, men are curious but they’re more interested in the person who’s writing the book or speaking than the letters after their name. People connect with self-betterment books that come with you, not at you, and the new generation doesn’t want to be told what to do. They want to hear your story, and need you to be down on street level with them.
As a licensed therapist sharing your own story, you straddle the line between traditional and nontraditional expert. What’s the appeal of this hybrid approach?
Brené Brown talks about showing vulnerability, which you’re not supposed to do in my professional world. I believe the potency is in you humanizing yourself; I don’t care if you’re a meditation coach, a doctor, a nutritionist. When HarperOne suggested the title, my first instinct was, “No, I’m not going admit to the world that I used to be miserable.” Then I thought about it and realized it was important to tell people you’re not perfect—you’re human.
Technology is a key component of your practice. Why does your client base respond so well to it?
I remember doing my first group online as a therapist, closing the laptop, and thinking, “This will change world.” Then I started my blog, writing about love and all my defects. I think these outlets created a bridge for millennials who grew up confused about what a man should look like. A lot of men aren’t driving to a therapist but are willing to Skype or text. So, if you love tech, let’s use it to have sessions. If you want to hide behind your computer, I’ll meet you there.
Your clients primarily are millennial men. Is it also possible to reach the generations before them?
It’s 1,000% possible for the older generation to understand self-betterment, so it’s important that my book’s being translated in places where the definition of a man is more traditional. [The book is being translated into Spanish and Polish.] But millennials are also firefighters, police officers—all the spaces where men don’t usually sit reading self-betterment books. Maybe my readers will feel safe, where they cannot be judged, because the author is a guy’s guy.
Is your book only for men, as implied by the subtitle, An Everyman’s Guide to a Meaningful Life?
My book is a man’s guide but it’s also a standard for women; women will read it and think, “I should raise my bar.” It’s not really about gender, though, it’s about being human and relatable and how we engage with and treat each other. But I do think men talking about stuff like love and vulnerability among each other is a huge step; it’s almost like training wheels for talking to wives, girlfriends, mothers. Then, that energy makes women feel safe and like they can show themselves. We as authors and therapists have an obligation to bring them together, showing by example.
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