Helping men to help themselves
You can follow this blog at therapy place blog
My new therapy blog project superceded this blog in late 2018. You can read more at Three Men with a Blog
20 Jan 2018
It’s been a little while since I blogged about men and therapy. So, at the start of the year, when many people decide to put things in order and turn to psychotherapy and counselling for some clarity about their lives, I thought I’d write something that might help men take a therapeutic step.
It’s a sad fact that, according to the latest 2016 release from the UK Office for National Statistics, men still make up around three-quarters of deaths by suicide and yet are only reported to make up just over one-third of referrals to NHS talking therapies. So, if that sobering statistic makes you think, read on …
Access to therapy isn’t about men vs. women. It’s much more about why, as men, we might find barriers to getting help.
The continued high suicide figures for men by comparison to women suggest there is definitely something going wrong for us men – but taking your life by your own hand is just the start of the male distress story. It’s also true that around three-quarters of adults who choose to ‘go missing’ from home are men, and close to 90 percent of rough sleepers are men. It’s men who are three times more likely to become dependent on alcohol and three times more likely to report frequent drug use. Men also make up two-thirds of drug deaths, 95 per cent of the prison population, and commit more than 85 per cent of violent crimes. Additionally, they are twice as likely as women to be victims of violent crime. Sadly, men have lower access than women to social support networks, and are 50 per cent more likely than women to be detained and compulsorily treated as psychiatric inpatients.
If we look at boys, then we see they perform less well than girls at all levels of education and that close to 80 per cent of children who are excluded permanently from schools are – you guessed it – boys.
While there might be a number of reasons that these gender differences exist, what’s really important to perceive is that, for a large number of men, life is difficult.
When it comes to depression we already know from practitioners’ reports and some academic research that the commonly recognised and described symptoms of depression – being tearful, withdrawn, lacking in motivation and energy – are a more typically female presentation of the issue. Men will actually often express symptoms in an externalized way that we call ‘acting out’. This might be through uncontrolled anger, addictive behaviours that are used as a cover up for the felt distress, or the use of physical aggression. And, of course, if you express your depression in these sorts of ways it tends to compound difficulties in the social world, and will often make family, friends and professional helpers less sympathetic in their response.
Data drawn from population level studies suggest that men who are in psychological distress are more likely than women to choose coping strategies that don’t help them adjust adequately or appropriately to the environment or situation. A popular strategy might be to self-medicate through alcohol, drugs, or porn and/or sexual addictions. Of course, generalised data about gender is just that: general! And so it doesn’t tell us about any one individual. But my experience since joining this profession at the beginning of the 21st century certainly adds up with the data.
This blog hasn’t sought to offer a quick fix or a set of tools to use. What it has done is outline to anyone who reads it that we might need to approach men and their problems in a different way. Men need a space that will reflect their male nature in a positive frame. Sometimes that means that a male therapist can be a good starting point – although it is suggested by some research that as long as the space takes a ‘male positive’ stance men make better progress. For other men it might be the environment in which they access their therapy that helps them to make progress – for example, men can thrive during online sessions or walk-and-talk sessions where the therapist is alongside them rather than sitting face-to-face.
In my own practice, I see more men than women (excluding couples work) and I offer face-to-face sessions as well as online video-based counselling, psychotherapy and coaching through FaceTime or What’sApp. I also provide single-session therapy and one-off walk-and-talk therapy sessions (on particular days throughout the year) in Cambridge, Bath and Bristol. And, of course, a one-off session can become a gateway to deeper ongoing work …
Statistics for this blog were drawn from sources reporting between 2014 and 2016, including those from the Office for National Statistics.
There’s something about anxiety right now
Both the West and the UK as a nation have had a difficult couple of years – from terror attacks in major European cities that many of us know well, to the Brexit vote and result, quickly followed by the political fall-out and Trump’s control of the USA... Read more at therapy place blog
The right to choose more than black and white
26 April 2016
Recently, I had a long and exhilarating conversation with a male colleague who had sought to challenge some black and white (binary thinking) by making a particular job application. Read more at therapy place blog
Everything has still to be learned
14 March 2017
On a wall in my consulting room is stenciled, in 2-inch high letters, a quote from C G Jung: 'Let no day pass without humbly remembering that everything has still to be learned.' Read more at therapy place blog
On beginning to change your life: the first session
14 February 2017
‘Signing up’ for counselling/psychotherapy can be a big move. It may even turn your life around in ways you hadn’t thought of. Read more at therapy place blog
Blue Monday, acceptance and the ‘good enough’ New Year’s Resolution
10 January 2017
For a moment, I’m not thinking about why, for so many people, things might get so rotten early in the year. Read more at therapy place blog
Where we live: family, home and not making assumptions
30 Nov 2016
The situation in which people live is a common subject that comes up in therapy. There are students new to... Read more at therapy place blog
The mood forecast for the autumn
26 October 2016
As the temperature and light levels drop at this time of year, so each day rapidly shortens. Falling leaves unequivocally announce autumn and the inescapable ‘decline’ towards winter... Read more at therapy place blog
Effective solutions for failing relationships
27 September 2016
It is never comfortable to feel that one is failing at something in life. When it comes to a relationship failing, we can all bring out pretty special defence systems that keep us away from this recognition... Read more at therapy place blog
Suffering from creative constipation …?
31 August 2016
I’m not quite certain if I first heard, read or spontaneously thought of the phrase ‘creative constipation’, but over the years I’ve made it my own... Read more at therapy place blog
Just call me …
30 July 2016
“Yes you’re right,” says Jessica, as we begin to talk for the first time about the process of therapy. “The only clues I’ve got,” she says, “are from TV sit coms and films.”... Read more at therapy place blog
The transient existence of meaning and belonging
29 June 2016
The midsummer light has finally faded around the edges of the blinds and I am sat within 3 metres of two of the most beautiful voices imaginable... Read more at therapy place blog
Living life by numbers … and the midlife crisis
7 May 2016
Conveniently, for lovers of statistics, the Canadian-born psychologist and social analyst Elliot Jaques – who coined the term “midlife crisis”* – died at the age of 86... Read more at therapy place blog
What are you living for now
5 April 2016
It is a gloriously sunny spring afternoon and all I can see, as I walk away from the city centre of Cambridge, is an unending line of traffic queuing to make its way to an impossibly small number of parking spaces... Read more at therapy place blog
A stitch in time …
29 March 2016
In total, with two different therapists I spent 8-and-a-half-years in therapy. For 5-and-a-half-years I even went twice a week... Read more at therapy place blog
When someone strays
29 February 2016
Most people – whether through experience or empathy – can understand the range of feelings that go through someone’s mind and body when they discover their partner has, or is currently having, an affair... Read more at therapy place blog
On breaking resolutions and getting things fixed
19 January 2016
Blue Monday – apparently the most depressing day of the year – has now passed and, according to many reports, three-quarters of those who made New Year’s resolutions... Read more at therapy place blog
On being ignored, forgotten or abandoned
1 December 2015
From my window seat, I was enjoying watching the early Saturday coffee addicts flock into the café for their various flat whites, cappuccinos and espressos... Read more at therapy place blog
Crying has an upside – for men and women alike
9 November 2015
It’s 8am on a cold early November morning and I’m not expecting to cry any time soon... Read more at therapy place blog
Men: porn, relationships and the respectful gaze?
31 October 2015
As part of my wide-ranging work as a therapist, I engage in conversations with men who have issues with pornography and sexual addictions... Read more at therapy place blog
When to dwell on things
20 August 2015
Rumination (the process of repetitive thoughts often but not always about a negative situation) is a common, if not universal human process... Read more at therapy place blog
When the sex goes bad, make the talking good
1 July 2015
Sadly, lots of people don’t feel very satisfied with what happens in their sex lives, and there are many reasons why it can go wrong... Read more at therapy place blog
Finding a good therapist
2 June 2015
I remember reading Canadian educationalist Allen Tough’s pioneering thoughts in the area of self-directed growth in adults and being inspired ... Read more at therapy place blog
Cheaper than a divorce
1 May 2015
Some of the ills of today’s multi-media, socially networked life are that expectations of things can be unrealistically high. From rom-coms to choosing... Read more at therapy place blog