There is a long-running stigma that stops men from seeking therapy. Traditionally women have been more likely than men to seek therapy. However, this is not because men suffer less from mental health issues or trauma than women. Many men have experienced violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and bullying growing up and the effects of these adverse experiences continue to affect them today.
The hardest step for men in coming to trauma therapy is getting started in counselling.
The primary challenge is not the logistics of finding a counsellor (although that can be very difficult impediment to trauma healing), but that it goes against the ingrained ways of what it means to be a man that have been passed on through generations, or even what has been modelled in their family or among their friends.
Men may experience a tendency to cope with difficult emotions by prioritizing self-preservation by bottling things up, and assuring themselves that everything is ok. This is reinforced by our societal views of men as needing to be strong, self-sufficient, hard-working and unaffected by the pain of life.
Men may consider it safer not to talk about the things that have wounded them in order to remain strong. Talking about the pain can evoke strong emotions, and trigger the negative beliefs about themselves that they are weak, bad, a failure or not good enough. It can feel safer to avoid acknowledging the extant of the wounding they have experienced.
Many men have grown up with the cultural messages that there is something wrong with them if they can’t handle what life gives them, whether that be verbal abuse, childhood neglect, sexual abuse, bullying, or assault. As a result, many men I work with minimize how tough these events were for them, deny that these events have impacted them, and normalize them (“everyone I knew went through this kind of childhood”, and “other people have gone through worse”).
If a man does not know any male family or friends who have sought therapy the hurdle to seek therapy can feel even bigger, and trigger negative beliefs about themselves that they are weak as most men they know don’t go to therapy. In, addition there is a skepticism that talking about things will not help at all, or will make things worse.
If you are a man, I want to assure you that although you may worry that seeking therapy will make things worse or not help at all- the men I have worked with start to climb out of their depression, stop having nightmares about their past, reduce their anger, lead healthier lives, and become more connected with the people around them.
Working with a good therapist to process emotions and explore the events of the past can allow you to learn to see yourself in a positive light with a deeper more compassionate understanding of the yourself.
If a man you care about is struggling as a result of trauma, you can help- in my experience men often come to access trauma counselling when a friend or loved one helps them find a counsellor to have an initial consultation.
If you are a man who has benefited from therapy, share your experiences with the other men in your life to help normalize seeking therapy.
If you are looking for a therapist with experience working with men, please feel free to reach out with me to connect.
If am not available to provide counselling I am happy to help you find someone to help you or your loved one find support.