Psychotherapy Perspectives

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Men Following Traditional Gender Roles Often Won't Accept Help or Counseling

by Garth Mintun, LCSW, ACSW

You are not alone among men who feel they cannot receive help. You cannot help it; you have been socialized to not receive help and are a part of learned gender roles that have existed in our North American society for over 300 years. Here are some facts regarding men.

1. Men, like the western lone hero solve all their problems and other peoples problems by themselves.
2. Showing emotions is a weakness to avoid at all cost.
3. Being close or emotionally vulnerable to another man could be perceived as “gay” and that makes me withdraw emotionally and want to appear invincible.
4. Suicide is the leading cause of death for white males between the ages of 15 to 24 and the rates increase dramatically as men age.
5. Men commit suicide up to 8 times more then women and twice the amount of women are diagnosed for depression. 50% fewer men are in counseling then women.
6. Men die in this country 7 years on average before women die.
7. 90% of the homicide/suicide offenders are men
8. Men bond through drinking together or sports activities, fact or Myth? ( myth-relationship is at a superficial level)
9. Men often rely on one woman usually to meet all emotional needs.
10. Boys are nine times more likely to suffer from hyperactivity then girls

Along with these facts are certain “ codes of masculinity ( Pollack and Levant) which requires men to be aggressive, dominant, achievement oriented, competitive, rigidly self –sufficient, adventure seeking , willing to take risks, emotionally restricted and constituted to avoid all things feminine” Quotes from “New Psychotherapy for Men, by William S Pollack and Ronald F. Levant

How Men can take Action

Your personal crisis is your opportunity to change. Take advantage of this experience, i.e., failed relationship (s), career burnout, events that lead to depression, anxiety, and isolation and reach out for help. Please don’t try to be a super hero from Hollywood and ask for help from your support system or receive professional help.

First educate yourself on how the myths of gender are unrealistic in real life and often consists the opposite for us. Never being vulnerable means emotionally “breaking “sooner or later and becoming more vulnerable. Paradoxically, becoming more vulnerable and giving your restricted feelings a voice may make you stronger.

Secondly, go into a consulting or counseling relationship to work on emotional crisis, depression, situational crisis to “stop the emotional bleeding”, help repair some of the relationship (s) and learn how you catch yourself personally in the Male Myth or gender role bias. A therapist/consultant who is aware of male issues and has done his own work on himself is a must with this kind of work.

Thirdly, after one to one counseling, go to a men’s therapy or support group and learn how to interact with other men who want to become more authentic and break out of the gender role box. The combination of education, one on one counseling and therapy/support group is the best combination promoting authenticity with inner peace in the world.


  • What a great article about men's emotional lives. I would like to add a bit about how women can help. Women tend to choose "bad boys" over "nice guys" which only solidifies this gender code that men need to be aggressive and without emotions in order to be attractive with women. We are told the story of "Beauty and the Beast" and convinced that if we love a "beast" enough he will become a "prince". Not true. If women stop picking "beasts" and start validating that being a "nice guy" is more attractive to them, relationships for both men and women would be healthier.

    Women have also been raised in previous generations to believe that a "good man" will take of them. This infantilizes women and leaves men standing alone to take care of the entire family. Women are not children who need to be taken care of. They are capable adults who should be expected to take care of themselves. Then relationships can be about a partnership where men and women work together as a team, instead of the man having to stand alone, taking care of everyone else.

    Just my two cents from the other side of the fence.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 10:28 AM  

  • Thanks for the comment. You are right, women need to take responsibility too with the men that they partner with.

    By Blogger Garth Mintun, At 12:38 PM  

  • Actually, I chose a nice guy because I thought he had more potential. He appeared to be more open and giving than a macho type. And he still wouldn't go to counselling. We broke up and I'm still trying to understand it. Across both genders some people are still terrified of vulnerability and surrendering themselves to emotion.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 9:26 PM  

  • Thanks for the comment. Yes, often men have difficulty with vulnerability and this makes them emotionally accessible even to themselves, much less to their significant other. In this culture men are often emotionally handicapped by not having words for feelings or accepting help from a neutral third party.

    By Blogger Garth Mintun, At 9:40 PM  

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