Society has stigmatized the male community as lacking the ability to express their feelings. It’s not uncommon for this to be a complaint but not having access to a judgment free environment may impact this. I have not seen many men seeking therapeutic services independently. This brought to mind a few questions: what makes men go into therapy? What makes men different from women? And, how can this difference impact the types of therapy are effective for men?
While researching men in therapy I found that there were many factors that can effect why they come in for therapy including stereotypes, socioeconomics, race/ethnicity, and personal perception. According to Levant and Freedheim (1990), the Branon’s model on traditional masculinity identifies several stereotypes placed on men:
Men should not be feminine
Men should strive to be respected for successful achievement
Men should never show weakness
Men should seek adventure and risk even accepting violence if necessary
These types of stereotypes can discourage men to show emotion and feelings when something is effecting their mental health. Men may choose to contain these feelings in order to maintain this image of strength despite the fact that this can be unhealthy and ineffective long term. According to Voelker, “Nearly 9% of men feel anxious or depressed on a daily basis, but fewer than half take medications or seek help from a mental health professional”(2015). When these individuals are not able to get the help they need they can develop more severe mental health symptoms, chronic pain and physical illness (Young, 2015). Suicidal ideation is another factor that can be life-threatening without therapeutic services yet, “help-seeking intentions have been found to be lower for suicidal ideation than for other personal-emotional problems” (Cusack et.al., 2004). There is definite need for support and those who are closest to men can be some of the best influencers. According to Cusack et.al, sixty percent of participants who had some psychological services said that they sought out services because they were influenced by someone else (2004). This means that partners, physicians, and family can advocate for these individuals who may be showing signs of psychological distress. One caveat to getting men to seek therapeutic services may be cultural. When young black and Hispanic men were the focus group in research “these men were most likely to perceive mental illness and treatment as a sign of weakness and cause of shame” (Voelker, 2015). I have witnessed this stereotype of mental illness myself with the Latino culture with the concept of Machismo. Machismo is associated with masculinity power and control over the household and therapeutic services force people to expose their vulnerabilities. The stigma of psychological distress amongst cultural minority groups is common so there may be a need for more psychoeducation and cultural sensitivity when getting these individuals to come in for services. There may also be a need for greater outreach because incidence of psychological distress in these community groups are underreported.
Cusack, J., Deane, F., Wilson, P., & Ciarrochi, C. (2004). Who Influence Men to Go to Therapy? Reports from Men Attending Psychological Services. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 26(3), 271-283.
Falicov, C. (2010). Changing constructions of machismo for Latino men in therapy: 'The devil never sleeps'. Family Process, 49(3), 309-329. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.2010.01325.x
Levant, R., & Freedheim, Donald K. (1990). PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES DESIGNED FOR MEN: A PSYCHOEDUCATIONAL APPROACH. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 27(3), 309-315.
Voelker, R. (2015). Men's Mental Health Disparities. Jama-Journal Of The American Medical Association,314(10), 984.