Men and Therapy
A recent blog on the Psychotherapy Networker website makes two claims about men and therapy: that men avoid it because they are ashamed to seek help, and that therapists have alienated men by focusing predominantly on women’s issues. The take-away is that men and women want different things out of therapy and therapists should change their approach to accommodate men’s needs.
I treat many men in individual and in couples therapy and I see the issue differently.
When Freud developed the technique of psychoanalysis, his first and only requirement of his patients was this: say whatever comes to your mind.
What he found: people couldn’t do it. Women found it as difficult as men to speak freely about their thoughts and feelings. Shame, guilt and self-censorship cross gender lines. The inner critic is a doozy for both sexes.
But, more women than men enter therapy because they are less ashamed to acknowledge these emotional conflicts. In the past, masculinity was linked to self-certainty and individualism (remember the man who never asks for directions?). But, this is changing.
In a recent New York Times op-ed, David Brooks focused on a study that showed men were more successful in life if they grew up in warm and supportive home environments. As men got older, they grew to understand the connection between secure relationships and emotional well-being.
Nowadays, men are coming into therapy in increasing numbers to understand and improve their relationships and to gain better understanding of themselves as complex individuals with conflicts that can be resolved. They seek more intimacy and trust in their relationships and to become better fathers, sons, brothers and friends. They seek better ways of balancing work and family life.
The concept of masculinity is expanding and therapy provides a valuable tool in this evolution.