Men have a very tough time admitting they need help, as demonstrated by their reluctance to even ask for directions. In the masculine approach to problems, there is a thrill of the hunt to figuring things out yourself. It makes men feel self-sufficient and more “macho.” This is among the obstacles that keep men struggling with mental health challenges from going to therapy, although it’s a great benefit to men when they do get help.
Men are taught from a young age that “boys don’t cry” and socialized to act “strong and silent,” even though they aren’t necessarily less sensitive than women by nature. As a result, men do not like to show weakness or sadness externally. The idea of going to therapy doesn’t feel very “manly” and it can feel shameful or embarrassing for some men. Often, the first topic a behavioral health provider will have to cover with a man who has started therapy sessions is that admitting he needs help is a sign of strength, not weakness. The next thing these providers will do is act like more of a mental health coach.
Many men become increasingly emotionally shut down over the courses of their lives, and facing therapy becomes increasingly more difficult. Negative, painful emotions like shame and guilt can start to come up during sessions and cause great discomfort. That is because the default mechanism men use for dealing with these underlying feelings is usually avoidance. Even hearing, “We have to talk,” makes men cringe, because that usually means talking about feelings.
The idea of paying good money to talk to someone about their feelings can feel absurd to guys. Since men are more action-oriented and literal, they have a hard time envisioning the benefits of talk therapy. However, the truth is that depression can be deadly. It can lead a person down a dark road of alcohol, drug use and even suicide, the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
The good news is, men are finding themselves attending therapy at increasing rates. A poll sponsored by Psychology Today and Pacific Behavioral Health Inc. found that 37% of the total number of patients receiving behavioral health treatment are men.
What makes men seek treatment, however, is usually the insistence of women in their lives, from wives, girlfriends, daughters or even employers. The issue that’s often on the table during these “wife-mandated” referrals is typically relationship problems. That’s below the surface may be depression, anxiety, or shame. Many times, these men adapt an attitude of superiority and refuse to see they have a part in the problem. It is the other person’s pain, not theirs. The men that come in of their own volition tend to have hit rock bottom. They may be recently divorced after years of avoiding dealing with the issues or they may be seriously struggling with alcohol use.
When comparing gender differences when it comes to seeking behavioral health help, one fifth of men said they don’t trust therapists, and one tenth of women said they don’t trust them (Sherman, 2004). Men can be slightly more narcissistic than women, which means they like to think they are “better than” others who need help. They also tend to be slightly more defiant and can dislike being told they are wrong about something.
However, men and women are equally satisfied with their treatment experience once they show up. Men are amazed that they’ve admitted something they are ashamed of and the world hasn’t ended.
If you are trying to get a man in your life to go to therapy, it is important not to imply that he is wrong or that you know better. Saying, “You need help,” elicits a defensive response; saying, “I would feel supported if you would go to therapy with me,” is much more effective, since it won’t feel like as much of an attack on his sensibilities. Ultimatums are also very ineffective and will usually make men run or resist.
For more information on men and behavioral health, visit Man Therapy, an online resource designed to address men’s mental health needs and combat the stigma of men’s mental health challenges.
You can also receive mental health services from the comfort of your own home using the Inpathy online behavioral health platform. To find a provider that’s right for you, check out the Inpathy provider directory.
Learn More About Men’s Health
Men’s Body Image and Self-Esteem
Men’s Health Month: Male Celebrities Bringing Their Mental Health to the Spotlight
Cordray, John. “10 Reasons Why Men Refuse To Seek Therapy.” N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2016.
Schrad, Paula. “Why Won’t Men Go To Therapy?” AFC Therapists. N.p., 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.
Sherman, Carl. “Therapy: Man’s Last Stand.” Psychology Today. N.p., 1 July 2004. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.