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Why Men Hesitate to Seek Therapy

July 18th, 2012

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Erin Anderssen’s article in last Friday’s (July 13th, 2012, Focus Section) edition of The Globe and Mailfocusing on men’s general aversion to psychotherapy immediately captured my attention. Entitled,Why guys won’t get off the couch – to get on the couch, the piece is well written and comprehensively researched. The writer highlights the fact that men are far less likely to seek out therapeutic support when they experience distress. She also points out that symptoms often manifest in a very different manner in men. For example, men tend to report feeling “stressed” rather than “sad” or depressed. Men are also more likely to be aggressive or irritable, turning to alcohol, drugs or over-working as a means of managing their problems.

Most importantly, the article notes that misconceptions about therapy often deter men from calling a therapist. Indeed, a man I recently spoke to inquiring about therapy expressed concern about whether therapy would in some way “change” him.

I try to work with the underlying belief that what people (men and women) really want is to become more and more faithful to who they truly are! For men, in particular, I have found that once they begin to incorporate this sense within themselves, it is easier to accept the evolution that is inherent in their personality as it develops. I think that once men begin to get more genuinely in touch with their own personal values, they become better able to acknowledge their own resources.

While men are more likely at first to keep their distress to themselves, I find that pretty soon they are able to convey these feelings to me and in this way they acquire a greater capacity to be more genuine and true to themselves.

Of course there are different approaches to therapy and the choice depends on a series of factors. Also, it is not easy for men to form a true picture of what therapy is like (…how can it not be caricatured?).

While I work in a psychoanalytically-oriented manner with my patients, it remains difficult if not impossible to summarize succinctly the sheer quality of the actual process. If I could briefly highlight one aspect that I facilitate in my own personal work with men, it is that I try and help them ‘unlock a door’ to their internal world. It is this unsuspecting world and in discovering it’s presence within them that they can find a level of comforting coherence in their lives.

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