Men often feel that counselling or psychotherapy is only for women. And feel there is no benefit for them.

There are many aspects of therapy that can be beneficial to both men and women. These can include self-awareness and personal growth. Counselling can assist you with your communication skills. Other areas of benefit include; tackling difficult conversations with a partner. Or tackling difficult conversations with a work colleague.

Both men and women experience social conditioning from early childhood through to adolescence. The social conditioning that men experience primes them for a successful career, but often fails to develop them emotionally. As a counsellor psychotherapist I have experienced men who enter therapy because they struggle with their interpersonal relationships. The struggle often relates to their social conditioning and their beliefs in the myths of masculinity. Many men experience pressure to conform within rigid social conditioning. This pressure can come from childhood and from family, education, employment, media, and sport. The pressure to conform may lead men to develop self-censoring or aggressive behaviour. This often leads to aggression, conflict and unsatisfying interpersonal relationships.

An example of male stereotyping is a belief that if a man expresses emotion it is a sign of weakness. Other examples of male stereotyping include “I should” be self-sufficient, career focused, self-contained and a good financial provider.  If you accept rigid beliefs about masculinity, then they may hinder your personal development and interpersonal relationships.

Karen Horney suggests that we all experience the tyranny of “I should,” in our life. Horney suggests that if we overemphasise the “I should” then we create an incongruence between our idealized self and our real self. An overemphasis on the “I should” may lead to increased levels of anxiety, neurotic feelings and personality maladjustment. Horney believes that the closer our idealised and real self matches, then the greater degree of personal satisfaction and security. This eventually leads to increased ability to cope with, and master problems and events in the real world.

There are also many male sexual myths which may create performance anxiety for some men. These myths may include; a real man is always interested and ready for sex, sex is centered on a hard penis, all sex equals intercourse, real men do not have sexual problems, and they should be able to satisfy their partner all the time. These myths may create rigid beliefs in the sexual prowess of the average man. And they do not take into account the huge variety in male sexuality. If you believe in sexual myths, they may undermine your self-confidence, sexual pleasure, and personal happiness.

As men start to enter their middle age, they may experience depression and anxietyThey may find that their lives have become meaningless. Their children have become adults. And they have grown distant from their partners. Social isolation due to divorce, loss of a partner or friendships may be also a contributing factor to how men experience the world and loneliness.

Their work that had once defined them,  and gave them status. However, it may now appear hollow and meaningless. They may wish to make a grand gesture to be remembered. Karen Horney calls this state “womb envy.” This is when a man cannot see the continuation of their life through the process of giving birth. A man may feel that their life has no meaning and all they have worked for; family, children, relationship and career, has been lost.

Erik Erikson in his eight stages of development called this stage seven, “generativity v stagnation.”

It is a time when adults must unconditionally give back to society, through the passing on of knowledge to the younger generation. With the right counselling you can find direction and purpose again.

Christopher Swane provides counselling and psychotherapy for men in Wellington. I am located in a comfortable and private clinic environment. I can assist you to achieve a happier and more fulfilled relationship and life.

Christopher Swane - Men's Support Services - Wellington New Zealand