“Men’s Issues” in the world of therapy tends to be code words for “Men Behaving Badly.” Therapists that focus on mens issues tend to list things like:
– Anger management,
– Pornography use,
– Domestic violence,
– Correcting problem parenting behaviors,
– Abuse/Neglect, and
– Substance and Alcohol abuse.
No wonder men under utilize mental health services – they know they’re going to “be the problem” before they even walk in the door! In my experience these are not even close to what the real “Men’s Issues” are. As I look back over the years of counseling men I find that true men’s issues – the ones that men come to see me about include:
– Managing anxiety regarding stressful money issues related to investing and/or investment losses, small business, and job transitions
– A desire to have a stronger sexual/emotional relationship with their spouses/partners
– Clarifying values regarding major life decisions
– Interpersonal skills to manage difficult bosses or coworkers
– Depression symptoms when between jobs
– Managing discrimination on the job
– Defining home roles and job duties that may be different from their fathers
– Preparing for and adjusting to fatherhood and family life
– Caring for or renegotiating relationships with aging parents (who might have moved into their home!)
– Adjusting to civilian life after serving over seas.
– Adjusting to divorce.
Of course I’ve seen men for the previously mentioned “Mens Issues” as well; however, I’ve also found these are the cases where men have not sought help because they were afraid of being defined as THE problem that needs to be fixed. Typically through the course of therapy men find that prior to these problem behaviors were many opportunities when they could have gotten help but didn’t because they were ashamed, worried about being judged, or felt that they had to handle their problems on their own. Had they gotten help for the stress, isolation, discrimination, workplace frustrations, or relationship issues earlier they could have avoided those problem behaviors.
Therapy for men isn’t necessarily sitting on a couch pouring their heart out. Most often therapy with men includes just enough discussion of the problem to understand how it affects their life – then we move on. Therapy goals for men may include:
– Effective self advocacy skills (to use with bosses, coworkers, parents and partners).
– Values clarification and normalization about sexual behavior, relationships, and parenting.
– Stress management and healthy recreational skills
– Develop insight into personal motivation and how to harness that in work, relationships and investing.
– Relationship skills and breaking unhealthy or unproductive “scripts” that repeat over and over.
– Changing understanding of life problems with more resilient and adaptive approaches to problem solving.
– Letting go of unproductive and time consuming thinking that saps energy and motivation.