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How men benefit from psychotherapy

American society socializes boys and men to conform to a definition of masculinity that emphasizes toughness, stoicism and self-reliance.  This can make it very difficult to ask for help and seek psychotherapy.  It can also lead to aggressive and emotionally stunted behavior that can harm not just men themselves but their children, partners and entire communities. 
Almost all traditional men want to do the right thing, even though it is getting harder for them to understand just what that is.  Our culture places rigid and extreme limits on the freedom of boys and men to express their full human potential.  In order to develop in a healthy manner, they need to maintain the positive elements of masculinity while changing the negative, destructive parts. 
For example, men can learn to be positively assertive while removing aggression and violence.  When men have limited coping tools, they can turn quickly to explosion and aggression.  Many men find themselves conflicted.  They do not want to harm other people, especially their loved ones, but they have learned to cope in a “manly” aggressive manner.  How to change this without losing one's masculinity is an issue with many of my male clients. 
Other male clients have no difficulty with aggression, but find they are emotionally unexpressive and unaware.  This can create distance in their relationships.  Many men who struggle, seek counseling only when pressured by others in their lives, such as their boss or spouse.  They feel shame about the need to seek help and their inability to handle their personal problems on their own.  In fact, it can take a lot of courage to ask for help and acknowledge your personal issues.

Most male clients have some issues related to masculinity.  Do any of the following fit you?
  • Males have been encouraged to be competitive with other males, so they may have become overly developed in this area and lost touch with the capacity for empathy, compassion, and cooperation.
  • Males have been taught to focus on their work, so they often become isolated from others and disconnected from their children.
  • Males have been trained to hold in their emotions, so they may become emotionally deadened or prone to emotional overreactions.
  • Males have been expected to deny vulnerabilities, so they may have neglected self-care and jeopardized their health.
  • Males have been encouraged to sexualize their intimacy needs, so they may have become engrossed in pornography or questionable relationships. 
Change is not about making men more “feminine”.  It is about providing a broader scope of coping skills and learning a more effective approach.  Men discover that they truly feel stronger when they are not stuck in a rigid sense of what it means to be masculine and can sometimes ask for help and express what they feel.

Reference
Brooks, Gary R. (2010). Beyond the Crisis of Masculinity: A Transtheoretical Model for Male-Friendly Therapy. Washington, DC: APA
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