In addition to helping people with depression and anxiety, I also specialize in therapy for men. I hope the information below helps to clarify how designing therapy specifically for men can be helpful. -Ben
A Psychology Today survey found that of all people who see a therapist only 37% are men. Counseling research frequently discusses that common traits of masculinity are not compatible with therapy. Instead, I choose to examine how therapy has not been built for men.
Let’s suppose for a second you are a man who is considering going to therapy. You imagine what your first session might be like and your life experience paints this picture: You walk into an office suite for your first appointment. You notice there is pan flute music playing in the lobby and the walls are decorated with motivational posters full of clichés about inspiration and being “true to yourself.” Your therapist greets you for the appointment. This person seems nice enough, yet their Teva sandals make you wonder if this person has ever picked up a hand tool, practiced for a team sport, or even owns a TV. You both have a seat and you begin to explain why you are trying therapy. The therapist listens closely, taking a periodic sip of their kombucha. They seem earnest in helping you. However, throughout the process you get the sense this person is serious, humorless, and hasn’t had many of the experiences that you have. As your appointment progresses, they begin to ask you vague and abstract questions. You have come to the appointment looking for practical answers yet the therapist responds with “What does your inner child want?” or “How does that make you feel?” time and again. An hour goes by and you leave having talked about personal matters but feeling very unclear how or why this could possibly help you. Going back for a second appointment doesn’t seem likely and you question why you went in the first place.
Have I exaggerated in the example? Certainly a little bit. However, many men have experienced elements of what I’m talking about. What about the experience above is similar to anything else that average men do? If you’re like me, it’s almost nothing. Commonly, men do not think, express themselves, or problem solve in ways typically used in therapy. The good news is therapy can absolutely be better suited for men!
Here’s what I do to make therapy right for men:
1. We will talk like regular people: Men often speak in ways that are down to earth and to the point. No need for vague, flowery statements. I always thought of what I do as just a sincere conversation between everyday people, no different than friends catching up during a lunch break. Humor is often a part of my time with people. Not everything needs to be serious and learning to laugh at something is often good for us.
2. Keep it practical: Men often think in practical, cause and effect terms. When our car breaks down we don’t “feel” like the head gasket is blown, we understand the mechanical relationships between all of the parts and this makes it clear what isn’t working. Problem solving for personal challenges is no different. It will be obvious how any tools used in therapy can make your situation better.
3. A hyper-focus on emotion is not essential: Two common stereotypes about therapy. 1.) Therapy works by being intensely in touch with your emotions. 2.) You have to talk about the hardest and most personal things that have happened in your life. Let’s address these. A high emotional focus or talking about hard times may work for some people, but there are so many more options to improve your life that don’t involve focusing on feelings or dwelling on the past.
4. Talk about what you want to: Your time in therapy is just that, yours! I’m here to help you with the projects that you want to tackle. There is no mandate to talk about things that are too personal. I’m not here to “fix” you for someone else. I’m in your corner as a confidential support. Period.
5. An understanding of men’s issues: It is statistically supported that men do face unique challenges. For example, men more commonly receive threats of physical violence, work dangerous jobs, and spend more time away from family for work. Being a man has its benefits and burdens, but the fact that men are facing such daunting challenges speaks volumes about our nature and implies we experience stress unique to us. Not only have I taken the time to understand what is unique to men, but I have lived much of it myself.
Men have legitimate concerns about how therapy may not be for them. I offer a tailor made experience designed for men from the ground up. If you’re ready to have a sincere conversation with a regular guy, please contact me today to get started.
Do you see people who are not men?
Absolutely! I work with people of every variety, commonly working with those who struggle with anxiety and depression. If my style of therapy resonates with you, please reach out to schedule an appointment.