Once you start to look at the intersection of men, masculinity, and mental health, it’s hard to avoid the sense you’ve stumbled on the source of so many of our national nightmares. Mass shootings. Sexual assault and harassment. Domestic violence. The behavior of Donald Trump. People who don’t know much about this intersection don’t always grasp its profound implications on our most serious social problems, says Ronald Levant, a former head of the American Psychological Association and professor at the University of Akron, who has spent decades researching men and mental health.
But there’s another thing you notice when you look closely at men and mental health, which is that, while so much of the world is designed for the comfort and benefit of men, the world of psychotherapy is not. “Basically psychotherapy was originally created by men to treat women,” Levant says. And more than a century later, it still feels like it’s playing catch-up.
And, today, while the APA has issued guidelines for the treatment of a variety of specific populations—“ethnic,” linguistic, and culturally diverse populations; girls and women; lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients; older adults; and transgender and gender nonconforming people—there are still no guidelines for the treatment of men and boys. (These guidelines are in the works, and Levant expects their release in the next two years.) One 2006 study of APA-accredited counseling training programs found that only one in four included men’s gender issues as a part of its curriculum.
It’s at the juncture of these two things—the dire need for men’s mental health care, and the fact that male-focused psychology feels a bit like an underdog in the academic world—where you find things like the recent article in the journalAustralian Psychologist called “Men In and Out of Treatment for Depression: Strategies for Improved Engagement.” “We’re getting more and more men into therapy, but lots of them are not sticking with it,” says Zac Seidler, psychologist, PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, and lead author of the study.