Challenging the idea that Men Don’t Ask for Help
Our practice began with the idea that men not asking for help may be a myth.
In 2013, sitting in a university lecture while completing my Master’s Degree in Psychotherapy, I noticed, from a gender perspective, that I was in the minority in a room dominated by women. Looking around, I often wondered if I was in the right place. I had recently left a successful corporate career and felt drawn to pursue the inner work connected with psychotherapy. Although I’d always been naturally introspective and intuitive, this was the first time in my life I expressed this part of me.
I was drawn to understanding issues related to men’s mental health and my research topics were focused on that subject. However, I was troubled by the lack of men studying to become psychotherapists and also by the perceived lack of men going to therapy seeking help.
I found myself asking,
‘What is wrong with men?’ and ‘Why are they not entering the helping profession or asking for help?’
Contemplating those questions led me to think and ask myself,
Is it possible that ‘Men Don’t Ask for Help’ is a Myth?
Expanding our perception of women
Everything around me suggested otherwise but then I started thinking about my childhood and recalling other things I heard as true. I recall being a young boy in school being told that the reason women did not enter engineering (or more broadly STEM) was that they did not like math and science. That idea of women not liking math or science is nonsensical and we have come a long way since then.
Women may biological tend to tilt towards helping related professions and men towards STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) however we expanded our perspective.
We realized how we saw women was the issue. We challenged our deeply held patriarchal views which had negatively affected our perceptions of women. After we changed our perception of women, we could then take action.
This change in perception led to the increased promotion of the STEM-related fields to women and in particular young girls, and society is reaping the benefits of this change.
Have we expanded our perceptions of men?
I started to think that possibly the situation is no different with men.
My paradigm in that lecture room shifted as I started to realize that just maybe my perception of men (myself included) is the problem. If I believed that men weren’t the problem what would I do differently?
Question of Accessibility?
Then it dawned on me that the issue might be a question of accessibility.
I started to investigate and I found that most counseling centers were staffed predominately by women. Of course, the gender of a therapist plays no part in the efficacy of therapy, however, the gender of a therapist may factor in a client’s decision to work with a specific therapist.
It became reasonable for me to think there is a subset of women who would be more comfortable working with a female therapist. However, where would these female clients go to seek help if most of the counseling centers were staffed predominately by men?
Also, would we then suggest that these women were resistant to seeking help?
Outdated patriarchal view of masculinity
Expanding my perception of men opened me to the idea that I have work to do in how I communicate with them. First, I needed to challenge my deeply rooted paradigm that men don’t ask for help and see it as an outdated patriarchal view of masculinity that no longer fits.
Once I expanded my perception of men then I began asking myself important questions.
Are we making help accessible to men in a way that would resonate with them? Are we communicating with men in a language and about the concerns they connect with?
Origins of Men Therapy Toronto
Thinking deeply about these questions became the genesis for Men Therapy Toronto. The whole aim of a clinical practice focused primarily on men is simply to make help accessible to men in a language that may resonate with them.
The choosing of the name, Men Therapy Toronto, was significant to me as I wanted to ensure that when men found us it was clear that they were not alone. If we exist it means by default that other men are seeking help.
My only hesitation throughout the process and still to this day is that our exclusive focus on men would be perceived externally as a men’s right or anti-feminism worldview. That could not be further from our truth. Our entire ethos as an organization is about celebrating gender equality. We believe and research shows that healthier men create safer communities, better partners, and better fathers, and foster a world where gender equality is celebrated. We are ultimately feminists as we believe fully in the equality of all people.
The late Stephen R. Covey states it simply, “The way we see the problem is the problem.”
Over 1000 plus male clients later I feel comfortable suggesting that “Men Don’t Ask for Help” is most likely a myth we may be best served extinguishing.
The real question is how can we do a better job promoting this honorable profession to men and making services to them much more accessible.
Ultimately, our committed work in this effort will benefit all.
We are doing our best.