Despite research showing that men experience mental health issues at equal, if not higher, rates than women, men are less likely than women to go to therapy. "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], nearly twice as many women as men (24.7 percent and 13.4 percent, respectively) received mental health treatment in the past year," notes Seth Gillihan, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of the forthcoming book Mindful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Simple Path to Healing, Hope, and Peace.
Dr. Gillihan adds that part of men's reluctance to go to therapy may be due to the stereotypes of what it means to "be a man" and the belief that the need for therapy is a sign of weakness. Furthermore, given that most therapists are female, it can be difficult to find a male therapist if that’s preferred. "In my field of psychology, for example, only about one-third of psychologists are men," Dr. Gillihan says. "The numbers are even more pronounced for licensed clinical social workers and marriage and family therapists, where only about 22 percent are men." This creates yet another barrier to getting needed mental health care.
So, to sum up: Dr. Gillihan says, in general, finding a good therapist can be challenging, let alone for men who face additional barriers. The good news? There are many mental health resources for men to learn more about therapy (without judgment) and get the support they need.
He suggests starting with these 5 mental health resources for men
1. Online educational sites
As a starting point, Dr. Gillihan suggests online resources that offer information and education about mental health issues that affect men, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In particular, he advises checking out the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. These online resources are chock-full of information, making them worthy of a deep dive to help better understand different mental health issues, including warning signs, symptoms, and available treatment options.
Dr. Gillihan recommends requesting a referral from your primary care doctor or a friend you trust. Your health insurance can also help you find a therapist in your network. He adds that seeing an out-of-network therapist will likely cost more out of pocket. When asking for referrals, note what qualifications you're looking for in a therapist, such as a preference for working with a male or female provider. You can also ask for suggestions of therapists who have experience working with men and understand the stigmas and challenges they face around mental health to help narrow down your search.
3. Provider databases
The good ol' internet can also be a helpful resource in finding a mental health provider. Specifically, Dr. Gillihan recommends searching your local area through a mental health search engine such as Psychology Today, which allows you to filter searches for female, male, or non-binary therapists. You can also search for local psychiatrists, treatment centers, and support groups. Good Therapy is another database Dr. Gillihan recommends. Other options include the American Psychological Association and TherapyforBlackMen.org. The perk of searching for a therapist online is that you can find ones that offer teletherapy sessions, which means you can cast a wider net and look for providers outside of your general vacinity.
4. Local colleges and universities
Another great mental health resource for men? Local colleges and universities. "If you live near a college or university with a mental health professional training program, they might offer low-fee counseling with their trainees," Dr. Gillihan says. "Your therapist-in-training would be closely supervised by a licensed provider." And side note: If budget is a concern, Dr. Gillihan adds that some therapists offer reduced fees for those with significant financial needs, so it's always worth asking if needed.
5. Self-guided cognitive behavioral therapy
Dr. Gillihan says taking a DIY approach can be beneficial for men who are not ready to sign up for therapy yet, but want to dip their toes in to get a feel for it. He recommends self-guided cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for common mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
To give it a go, he points to self-help books on CBT. The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies has a handy list of self-help book recommendations you can check out. Self-help books can be effective for those with mild to moderate symptoms. However, Dr. Gillihan advises men who experience more serious mental health symptoms to work with a professional.
Once you find a therapist
As you navigate accessing mental health support, finding a therapist you like and can connect with is important. "The quality of your relationship with your therapist can have a big impact on the treatment," Dr. Gillihan says. "Take the first few sessions to get a feel for your therapist, and don't hesitate to let them know when something isn't working for you. Good therapists want your feedback so they can be as helpful to you as possible."
If, for whatever reason, the therapist doesn't feel like the right fit, he suggests looking for a new one.
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