THE BLOG

Are Men Afraid of Therapy?

03/02/2014 15:37 GMT | Updated 04/04/2014 10:59 BST

Why men are afraid of therapy is an often asked question, particularly by women who seem to find the idea of going for counselling sessions more attractive.

As a couple's counsellor, I find that it is mostly the women who bring their husbands or male partners along with them, often pulling them by the scruff of their neck through the door. But once settled in, and a therapeutic alliance is formed between the therapist and the couple, work can begin in earnest.

And in the end, it sometimes turns out that the male in the relationship becomes more easily accustomed to the process and doesn't want to give it up.

It is of utmost importance that the clients feel comfortable in the room, and as a result, will be able to explore in an open and honest fashion, what has gone wrong in their relationship. If this alliance is not established, it becomes difficult to work together and explore problems in the relationship.

Admittedly, this is a profession that attracts more women than men. However, having set up two established private practices dealing mainly with relationships - one in London and the other in Marlborough, Wiltshire - I have become more aware how few male colleagues I have. And precisely because there are so few men who choose to become psychotherapists, it means that while men are often happy to talk openly to another man, their female partner doesn't want to have a female therapist as it might well give the impression that in the room two women are ganging up against one male.

According to the Samaritans, only about 20 per cent of therapists are male, which means that is pretty difficult to find a male therapist that either lives in your area and you don't have too far to travel, or doesn't have a waiting list. But more worrying, is that the Samaritans also point out that 67 per cent of suicidal young men say that have nowhere to turn for emotional help.

The other night I was at a fashionable dinner party when one of the urban guests - a successfully married man with three grown up children - said he had tried therapy once, "when my wife had a cancer scare and I wanted to know how to handle it in a better way, but it wasn't for me." Perhaps, I ventured, he wasn't in touch with his more feminine side and therefore he might have been unable to get in touch with his true feelings.

I was particularly intrigued by an article in the Weekend section of The Times, entitled Why men need therapy, highlighting the ramifications of stress, anxiety or work worries. Under the heading of Have you got manxiety? it states that men feel they should be able to solve any issue alone.

This is, in my view, such a one-sided argument. Suddenly men are all stressed out and unable to cope with life's everyday problems. Is this a new phenomenon, I would like to know.

No reference of course to mothers of new born babies who have had to give up sometimes lucrative careers, in the City or elsewhere, to bring up their children. Suddenly they find themselves at home, alone with their new born, with little or no help, let alone someone to talk to during the day. And this is when depression can set in.

Yet The Times article focuses on men - as if suddenly men have become aware of therapy and they need is badly. But let's not forget about their female counterparts in the process.