Mental health is a topic that has taken center stage in recent years. However, therapy is still widely stigmatized, and men, in particular, are less likely to seek help. Mental health problems are pervasive and can affect anyone regardless of their age, gender, or background. Men, however, are more likely to suffer in silence and hesitate to seek therapy due to various fears and misconceptions. There is a dangerous myth that men should not express their emotions or seek help; which has been heavily reinforced through our socialization and portrayal in media. This is far from the truth. Therapy can offer men a safe and confidential space to address issues, explore their thoughts and feelings, and develop new coping mechanisms. Why do men avoid getting therapeutic help when they need it the most? Let’s delve deeper into this issue and discuss why it is essential for men to prioritize their mental health by seeking therapy.
1. Societal Expectations
Men are often socialized to be strong, stoic, and self-reliant (often to our detriment), which can make admitting to emotional vulnerability or seeking help a challenging task. Whether it’s the expectation to be the breadwinner, provide emotional support to their partners, or always be in control; the pressure can mount up, causing feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, or depression. However, seeking therapy is not a sign of weakness, but rather a courageous step towards self-awareness and personal growth that can help men break free from the limitations of societal norms and expectations. By identifying and addressing their emotions, men can gain greater clarity and insight into themselves and their relationships.
Therapy provides a safe space to explore emotions. Some men have been taught from a young age that expressing emotions is a sign of weakness, unless of course we’re sharing anger or happiness. As a result, they end up suppressing their emotions, which leads to repressed anger, resentment, or anxiety. Therapy offers a non-judgmental space to discuss emotions and work through them. The therapist provides guidance in helping men identify and verbalize their feelings. It can be a liberating process, leading to improved mental health outcomes. In therapy you have a chance to seek support, untangle your inner life, and learn how damaging some of our culture norms have been to your own development.
2. Fear of Judgment
Another reason men are less likely to seek therapy is that they worry about being judged or stigmatized for their mental health struggles or need for support. This fear of judgment can stem from the belief that mental health issues are a sign of weakness or that seeking help is a sign of failure. This thought process is further complicated by the association of therapy as reserved for the mentally ill, a broad generalization that does not accurately capture why most people are in therapy. However, seeking therapy can provide a safe space for men to express themselves without fear of judgment and work towards improving their emotional wellbeing. A trained therapist provides a non-judgmental, supportive, and empathetic environment that can benefit men coping with various mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, addiction, or trauma.
Therapy can offer a new perspective too. Men might feel stuck in their ways, with a narrow outlook on life, often pushed by a friend, family member, or partner to get help. Therapy can provide a fresh perspective and help men see things from a different angle. It encourages growth, empathy, and open-mindedness. Men can reflect on themselves, their thought processes, and learn to approach challenges with a positive mindset. When you find the right therapist, you’ve created an opportunity to evolve and grow, benefiting multiple arenas of your life.
3. Lack of Role Models
Men may also be hesitant to seek therapy as they may not see male role models or peers seeking therapy or discussing their mental health struggles. Luckily this is changing as mental health is being talked about in schools, the work place, and by celebrities and athletes. This lack of representation can create a sense of isolation or shame, preventing men from realizing that seeking therapy is a common and positive action. Therefore, it is vital for men to understand that seeking help is a brave act and that it can significantly improve their quality of life. By breaking this stigma, we encourage more men to seek professional support, reduce negative self-talk about mental health, and act as compassionate allies to those who need help. Many men find it helpful to work with a male therapist for these reasons, an option definitely worth considering.
4. Poor Communication Skills
Men may also avoid seeking therapy due to struggles with communication skills, especially when it comes to discussing emotions and feelings. The reluctance to express their emotions or lack of understanding of how to convey them can make it challenging to open up during therapy sessions. Some of this finds it’s root in how men are raised, where we confuse authentic vulnerability with being exposed. However, therapy can help men develop better coping skills and communication strategies that can benefit their mental health and overall wellbeing. A skilled therapist can facilitate a dialogue that promotes emotional intelligence, assertiveness, and conflict resolution.
Therapy can help break negative behavior patterns. Many men struggle with addiction, anger management, or other negative behavior patterns. Being to ask for help is a skill/learned behavior, if it was never taught to you, it feels impossible to do. The inability to ask for help can turn into the above mentioned maladaptive coping strategies. These habits can be difficult to break, and many men are hesitant to seek help for them. Therapy is a space where men can explore the root cause of these behaviors and develop new coping mechanisms. It provides practical tools for developing healthier ways of dealing with stressors and emotions. In turn, this leads to better outcomes in relationships, work, and other areas of life.
5. Impact on Relationships
Lastly, men may not seek therapy because they are not aware of how their mental health issues can affect their relationships. Mental health problems can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to function in their personal and professional life. It can affect how men communicate, engage in intimacy, and express their feelings, leading to distance, isolation, and resentment in relationships. By working through mental health problems in therapy, men can mitigate these issues and enhance the quality of their relationships.
Therapy can improve relationships. Men often struggle with communication, especially when it comes to relationships. They may not know how to express their feelings or connect with their partner on an emotional level. Through therapy, men can develop healthy communication skills, which can translate to all areas of their lives. They can also gain insight into their behavior patterns and explore new ways of interacting in relationships.
Therapy Might be the Missing Ingredient
Seeking therapy is not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of strength. Men should feel proud to prioritize their mental health and well-being. It's time to break the stigma around therapy and encourage more men to access the resources they need to thrive. Therapy provides a safe and confidential space that can help men explore their emotions, improve their relationships, develop new coping mechanisms, and gain a fresh perspective.
Therapy is an important tool available for men to prioritize their emotional wellbeing, break free from societal expectations, and realize the positive impact it can have on their lives and relationships. With the right support and guidance, men can tackle their mental health problems, develop better coping mechanisms, build happier and healthier relationships, and lead fulfilling lives. Remember, seeking therapy is a sign of strength, courage, and a crucial step towards a better and healthier version of yourself.
I hope that this list helps you feel more confident to understand yourself through therapy in San Francisco. If after reading all of that, you’re still swirling with questions feel free to call me at 415-990-1452 for a free 15-minute phone consultation and to get some questions answered. I would be happy to hear what is happening for you, what you’re looking for and provide some direction to finding the right therapist for you.
If you are seeking help with couples therapy, drugs and alcohol, life transitions, discovering yourself, or therapy for men’s issues, you can read more about how Caleb Birkhoff might be able to help by clicking here!