Many people are aware of the tired old stereotype about men that claim, “Real men are expected to ignore their emotions or pretend that they don’t exist.” Throughout my life, my professional life, in particular, I have noticed that it isn’t socially acceptable for some men to feel anything other than anger. Many are conditioned to simply feel nothing at all. This attitude does not produce a healthy, sustainable emotional life and can end up harming men and their loved ones as well. Identifying these ingrained cultural expectations enables me to break down barriers and expose the damage that they cause. In my journey to become a therapist, I had to face my own past emotional baggage and cultural label before I could become a fully available resource for my clients. I have discovered that maintaining a healthy mental perspective is life-long exercise and continue to deepen my own masculine identity along with my clients.
My cohort in graduate school consisted of 28 people only five of whom were men. This was not a ratio I had encountered at any other point in my life, and it continued as I moved into internships and professional settings. After graduation, my first part-time position as a therapist was at an agency where I was one of 4 men in a staff of over 40 people. These experiences have been eye-opening for me as they were my first taste of how it feels to be in the minority. I plan to continue using these experiences as an opportunity to support a diverse group of clients.
Being a male therapist can be a useful tool in daily sessions; if a client of any gender has had negative past experiences with men in their life the conflict can be addressed in real-time. The live unpacking of these emotions is a clinical tool that when used effectively, can be uniquely powerful. Individual sessions can provide an opportunity to experience what a boundaried, supportive, and respectful relationship with a man can be like. The opportunity to work with a male therapeutic perspective is also helpful when working with couples. Male partners are typically more reluctant to attend therapy sessions than their partners.
The reason for the reluctance can be because certain men often report feeling “ganged up on” by their therapist and partner if both are women. On the other hand, being a male therapist can have its drawbacks if certain preconceived notions aren’t addressed early- on. Data indicates that men prefer results-driven modalities and may be impatient when it comes to accomplishing their goals. I am aware of the potential for this bias and address my therapeutic process and procedure at the outset. This pattern is one of the tools that drew me to Gottman Method therapies, as it is a data-driven tool with a proven structure that has been well-received by men and women alike.
It has been a learning experience to examine how I interact with men and women of all ages and meet them at a place that is comfortable but still challenges the status quo. I love that my work affords me the opportunity to work with all kinds of people and that I get to help them identify their goals and provide them with support as they develop. The collaborative nature of the therapeutic process keeps me engaged and continues to fuel my desire to remain inquisitive and curious when meeting with clients old and new.
Jesse Macbeth is a marriage and family therapist he has worked with couples, families, and individuals dealing with a range of issues. He looks to help his clients identify patterns in their relationships and behaviors and explore opportunities to replace maladaptive sequences with more positive alternatives. He intends to give his clients the tools to strengthen their self-esteem and live confidently as the person they want to be. “Let’s work together to foster love and support in your relationships, strengthen your emotional awareness, and achieve happiness in whatever way you define it.”