Therapy For Men
Shaun McMahon offers therapy for men in Melbourne that accommodates the needs of men in therapy and promotes positive masculinity.
Understanding The Challenges That Men Face
While both men and women face a range of challenges in life, there are some unique challenges that men are facing in our modern world. As a psychotherapist who offers therapy for men, I've noticed particular themes that are affecting men today, including:
The Pressure To Perform
Even though society has come a long way since we were running about the savannah chasing lions, one thing has remained consistent across time. Men are expected to perform. Whether it’s at work, in sports, or in the bedroom, the burden of performance weighs heavily upon the shoulders of nearly every man. Men arrange themselves into hierarchies of competence, which means we value men who are older, wealthier, wiser and more experienced than their younger counterparts. While it's nice to be at the top, it means that being lower in the hierarchy in one or several of these realms can make life very difficult. What we’re not telling our young men is that their teens and twenties can be one of the toughest, if not the toughest period of their lives, because they're simply not performing as well as men 10 or 20 years older than them. Settling down and having kids doesn’t make it much easier, because men are still expected to perform, while bearing the responsibility of providing for their family in a job they probably hate. Men are expected to perform, by both men and women, and when they don’t, it can drive men to depression, shame, self-loathing, and in the worst cases, suicide.
Highlighting these issues is not to take away from the challenges that women, or other demographics, are facing. We do, however, face challenges in encouraging men to talk about and seek help with these problems. I think a big part of this has to do with some misconceptions that men have about therapy. If you’re a guy reading this, or a woman hoping to get some help for a guy you know, I want you to know that not all therapy has to involve sitting around talking about your feelings.
Therapy That’s Tailor Made For Men
It turns out that researchers have been studying therapy for men, and have come up with some fundamental differences that need to be factored in when it comes to delivering therapy for men. I pay close attention to these factors when I work with men, because I’m motivated to deliver the best therapy possible. This means considering things like:
Therapy inherently involves a power dynamic. As a client, you’re being asked to share some of the most intimate details of your life with me, while at the same time knowing next to nothing about me. Meanwhile, my training suggests that I have some expertise or knowledge that you lack, and so I have the answer to your problems. Research shows that this power dynamic can really get in the way of therapy working for men, especially if your therapist is a man. Most men don’t want to be told what to do, or how to fix their problems. They'd much rather be empowered and encouraged to solve these problems themselves. So rather than me being some kind of armchair expert that's going to tell you how to fix your problems, I take a different approach. I like to collaborate with my clients. This means, we’re going to work together to come up with a clear understanding of what the problems are, and where they came from. We’re then going to put our heads together to come up with a game plan, and navigate the inevitable obstacles that will arise as you go about putting that plan into place. Which brings us to another important consideration in therapy.
The Importance Of Goals and Taking Action
Part of what men can find so unappealing about the idea of therapy is that sitting around and talking about your feelings has no direction. It’s just an endless wandering in the wilderness with no agenda or goals. Most men aren’t interested in this. They’d much rather set goals and put in the work to make those goals manifest themselves. In designing my therapy for men, I make sure that goals and action are at the forefront of our work together. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t room left to explore the past or brainstorm about an issue. It just means that we won’t be wandering aimlessly, spending 50 minutes chatting about something and you leaving feeling like you didn’t accomplish anything. Part of this approach also includes homework - I recognise that you’re seeing me for less than 1% of your week, which means there’s a lot more you could be doing in the spaces in-between to get you closer towards achieving your goals.
Understanding What Masculinity Means To You
Those men who do engage in therapy often have an unspoken concern about what it means about them as a man. They might wonder what their Father, brothers, or mates might think if they knew they were seeking help. Having grown up in Australia, I’ve experienced the full brunt of our hypermasculine culture. We view tradies and footy players as the pinnacle of manhood. The degree to which you are, or are not a man, means factoring in what kind of car you drive, how many beers you can handle, and how much pull you have with the ladies. The challenge with this culture is that it’s so cutthroat; we’re so eager to cut each other down as men for not meeting up to these ridiculous standards. This leads to many men walking into my therapy room being concerned about how I’m going to judge them for the troubles they’re having in the bedroom, or the fact that they’re not a mountain of muscle. The truth is that I’ve been exposed to the same culture you have, and know what these pressures feel like. I’m not here to judge you or place expectations or burdens on you as a man. Instead, we’re going to explore what masculinity means to you, and how that might have been impacted by your life experiences. We’re going to reshape what it means to be a man in your eyes, and reset the bar so you can live up to your own standards, rather than trying to meet the ones society places on you.
Acknowledging men’s unique needs is important in delivering therapy for men. But you might be wondering, why does therapy have to be different for men and women? Afterall, modern society tends to suggest that there really isn’t any difference between the sexes. I’m afraid this is something I disagree with, and I’ll tell you why it’s important.
Men typically avoid therapy. When most guys think of therapy, they imagine sitting in a chair across from a stranger, being asked to talk about their feelings.
Men find this off-putting for several reasons. For the most part, men much prefer to do something about their problems, rather than sit around talking about them. Most guys also find talking about their feelings to be uncomfortable. And even for guys who are comfortable talking about their feelings, they believe that doing so isn’t necessarily going to help them solve the problem, and so they can view it as a waste of their time, and money.
Unfortunately, the facts on the ground tell us that many men are struggling with mental health issues. Men are more lonely, anxious and depressed than they have ever been, and are 3-4 times more likely to commit suicide than women. To make matters worse, they are much less likely to seek help than women.
A Positive Approach to Masculinity
We’re living in an odd moment in time where much of society seems to have turned on men, and the notion of masculinity. Men are being told that being a male means they have some kind of “male privilege” which sets them above women. That they’re benefactors of the “patriarchy”, and are responsible for many of society’s ills thanks to their “toxic masculinity”. As such, many therapists are oriented towards reducing male power, privilege and sexism, even if this isn’t explicitly stated.
I acknowledge that there are some terrible things that men have done, and continue to do, to both men and women throughout history. I also acknowledge that the men who steal, murder and rape are seldom healthy individuals who were loved as children and by those around them. However, the vast majority of men have zero interest in hurting or harming anyone else, and when they do do this, they’re often deeply sorry and feel terrible. The few outliers that have no remorse or do these activities willingly should not implicate the rest of men.
I believe that the best way forward is for us to encourage and empower men to be the best that they can be, rather than to guilt trip them into submission. This is why I promote positive masculinity in therapy for men. This means that I’m not going to suggest you have male privilege, that you’re part of the patriarchy, or that you have toxic masculinity.
Instead, I acknowledge from the get-go that men play an important role in society, and we’d be ruined without them. That you, as a man, are important, and that you have something unique to offer the world. And that many of the traits that are attributed to men, such as aggression, can be used in positive ways, such as protecting someone from a threat or rescuing someone from a dangerous situation, as well as in negative ways, such as harming others. Drawing from the positive psychology/positive masculinity (PPPM) model developed by Mark Kiselica and Matt Englar-Carlson, I promote:
Perseverance and resilience
Courage and risk taking
Male ways of caring (such as protecting, providing and problem solving)
Male ways of relating to others (such as humour and shared interests)
Non-violent problem solving
While many of these traits aren’t obviously exclusive to men, boys and men are socialized and encouraged to embody them. Some find such expectations to be limiting, but others wish to desperately embrace them, yet find it difficult to do so. Our work together involves identifying and understanding what masculinity means to you, and how we can best cultivate those qualities in your life.
How Shaun McMahon Can Help You In Men's Therapy
It might come as a shock to you that, as a therapist, I’m not the manliest man out there. I know, it’s a troubling notion to accept. If it’s any comfort, I’ve found myself in a unique position of being able to really get through to men in my work with them.
I came from a broken home with an absent father and a parade of step-dads. As I stumbled my way through my teens and twenties, I found myself working alongside men in a variety of roles, from white collar executives in sales gigs to blue collar laborer's in factories. The role that had the biggest impact on me was working for a team of men’s coaches for four years. I was on the front lines as the first port of call for men looking to better themselves through coaching, and this role really opened my eyes to the struggles and difficulties that ordinary men are facing. It made me feel less alone, knowing I wasn’t the only one going through a hard time. But it also lit a fire in me to help men with their challenges.
If there’s one thing I want you to know, it’s that there is almost nothing you could admit to me in therapy that I’ve not heard before. Whether you’re having issues in the bedroom, carry a deep shame about your masculinity, or have a shady past of drugs, crime or sexual exploitations, I’ve heard it all before. I’m not here to judge you for these things. I get it. Life can be tough, and downright confusing at times.
Instead, I’m here to work alongside you. I’m much more interested in building you up than trying to tear you down, so let’s get to work on doing that.
Interested In Therapy For Men?
I get that you might be hesitant about seeking help. Having been there before myself, I know it's tempting to find your own solutions, or to think you can go it on your own. But I also know that getting help doesn't mean that you're weak, or not good enough. Even the mightiest of kings and emperors sought guidance and counsel from others in times of difficulty. If you’re interested in seeking men's therapy with Shaun McMahon in Melbourne, you can click the button below to arrange a confidential, obligation free phone consultation. Even if you’ve never been to therapy before, it’s worth just having a phone call to see if it’s right for you. Shaun will be transparent with you about what to expect, and will never pressure you into booking a session.