ARTICLES

Men and Therapy

Anna Mills
Psychologist
Perth, Western Australia

For many men, seeing a psychologist or a counsellor is often considered to be "what women do". There is a view that women talk with others about how they feel to get support. While men deal with "it" differently, and often very effectively, by getting on and fixing "it". After all, isn't going to a psychologist all about telling them your feelings rather than problem solving?

So if men and women do take a different approach to dealing with and solving problems, why go to a psychologist?

Sometimes men (and women) can't solve a problem the usual way. Or the problem seems too large to tackle without some support. It can help to have someone independent help you to work through problems from a different perspective, and to look at new possibilities for positive change.

What stops men from coming to counselling and therapy?

Sometimes, men are reluctant to enter counselling or therapy. They believe that talking to a psychologist is a sign that something is wrong with them or that they are weak for not being able to sort out their own problems. Letting someone else know that things are not all OK is often not easy and the stigma of seeking help can be significant.

The identity of men in our society is a complex one. Men are often expected to be sensitive, show feelings, take on nurturing roles, but at the same time, be strong, be "manly", support a family financially, and cope with significant challenges on their own. At times these multiple and often unclearly defined roles are in seeming conflict with each other, resulting in stress, confusion and misunderstandings in important relationships.

Men may also ask, "How could a psychologist possibly help me, or understand my situation?". These are fair questions, and the psychologist can address these early in the work so that choices can be made about what might be achieved.

What brings men to counselling and therapy?

Problems in important relationships are often the reason that men come to counselling. Often the situation can be at crisis point, and counselling or therapy is seen as a last resort. At other times counselling is seen in a preventative or maintenance light.

There are many reasons that men might decide to see a psychologist. Some of these reasons may include:

  • Arguments and conflict with a wife or partner
  • Feeling unable to support family financially while remaining available to them
  • Experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • A lack of intimacy with a wife or partner that is causing stress to one or both people
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Worry about aging parents
  • Job loss or change in employment situation
  • Grieving after the loss of an important person in their life
  • Family illness
  • A change in family circumstances including welcoming a new child or living in a blended family

In my experience of working with men in counselling and therapy for over ten years I have seen men who are highly motivated to resolve conflict, relationship difficulties and who are active in seeking solutions to problems. Men care deeply about partners, children, their wider family, and their close friends and want these relationships to work well. Men are respectful, insightful and often use humour to help process and manage stress. In counselling and therapy men benefit from honesty, being challenged and a strengths based approach to bring about positive change.

What can counselling and therapy achieve?
A psychologist or counsellor is there to hear a client's story and concerns without distraction. They will be non-judgemental and have training and skills to help the client understand their concerns more clearly with the goal of bringing about positive change. Each person's work in counselling or therapy will be unique to them. The work may be both enlightening as well as providing options to bring about positive change. Talking with a psychologist or counsellor about hopes and expectations of the work will help this process.

For a little humor on a serious matter, see the Man Therapy campaign advertisement from Beyond Blue: www.mantherapy.org.au

If you would like to make an appointment please contact Anna Mills by telephone or email.



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