Therapy for Men: What a Male Therapist Sees in Addressing Men’s Hidden Struggles
Updated: Oct 23
In my therapy sessions with men, I’ve noticed they confront a unique set of mental health challenges and societal pressures that are under-discussed in public compared to the issues of other groups. Only 1 out of every 4 therapists is male. The presence of a male therapist during therapy for men can sometimes serve as a catalyst to create a sense of safety, encouraging men to delve deeper into their struggles. These professionals play a crucial role in deconstructing societal norms, allowing men to explore vulnerabilities from emotional wellness to societal stereotypes.
The 7 struggles I see most frequently are:
Loneliness and social isolation
Stress and mental health challenges
Societal expectations and stereotypes
Substance abuse and other addictions
Loneliness and Social Isolation
Men’s social circles are shrinking. 15% of men report having no close friends, a 5x increase in a generation. Feelings of loneliness and social isolation are affecting men at increasing rates, particularly as they age. The societal expectation of self-reliance and stoicism can make it difficult for some men to seek social connections and support. Honest conversations, withholding embarrassment or shame, and working together to create inclusive communities and promote meaningful social interactions can help address this issue and enhance men's overall well-being, mood, and mental health.
Stress and Mental Health Challenges in Therapy for Men
One of the major issues faced by men is mental health. Many men find it challenging to talk openly about their emotions and seek help when they are struggling. This can lead to increased rates of:
Building trust, creating safe spaces, and encouraging open conversations about mental health can help address this issue and ensure that men receive the support they need.
Men may also encounter challenges in their romantic relationships, broader family dynamics, and friendships. Challenges include but are not limited to:
Conflicts with others
Finding balance between self-needs and the needs of others
Many people–not just men–need to develop and practice healthy communication skills. A male therapist can model alternative ways of communicating feelings and needs as well as help men navigate other relationship challenges.
Parenting comes with its own set of challenges. There has been a trend of positive progress in terms of men having a higher level of involvement with their children. This seems to be true even where parents may live separately. However, there are still many men whose unexamined emotional issues from their own childhoods create a blockage and get in the way of their being able to be fully available for their own children, causing undesired repeating patterns.
Societal Expectations and Stereotypes
Society often imposes rigid expectations and stereotypes on men, defining what it means to be "masculine." These expectations can put pressure on men to conform to certain ideals and behaviors, which may adversely affect their self-esteem and well-being. Challenging these stereotypes and promoting a broader understanding of masculinity can help create a more inclusive environment for men to express themselves authentically.
Balancing work and personal life is a challenge that many men face. There is a tendency for men to be action oriented, focusing on their accomplishments. Often this is expressed in their work–be it labor, professional, entrepreneurial or leadership. Finding ways to promote a healthy work-life balance for men, such as flexible work arrangements and opportunities for parental leave, can help alleviate this issue and allow men to prioritize their well-being and family responsibilities.
Substance Abuse and Other Addictions
Research shows, men are more likely than women to engage in substance abuse and develop addiction issues. Using substances can be a reaction to societal pressures, work-related stress, or a lack of alternative coping skills for dealing with uncomfortable feelings and situations. By addressing the underlying root-issues, causes, or triggers and providing accessible resources for support and treatment, men are able to overcome these challenges and lead healthier lives.
It is important to recognize that the challenges faced by men can vary depending on cultural, societal, and individual circumstances. The intersection of systemic and societal norms with individual circumstances make for complicated situations. By understanding men’s issues, we can promote gender equality, foster healthier relationships, and create a more supportive and inclusive society for all.