The Why and How I Focused on Men's Issues

Dan Bolton

As I've been reflecting on my venture into specializing in men's issues and relationship advice for men I thought it may be helpful to write a blog post about why I felt compelled to dive into this topic. At the time I needed a shake up from what I'd been doing the last 15 years. In addition, I was responding directly to what was being asked of me by calls from both men and women alike.

It was this series of calls I began receiving a few years ago is what led me to decide to focus my marketing efforts towards men. This is how these calls went (and happened on a number of different occasions with different people):

Me: "Hello, this is Dan."

Man: "Hi, I'd like to set up an appointment to talk."

Me: "Ok, let me start with a few questions if you don't mind. What is it that you'd like to come to therapy to work on?"

Man: (Man Whispering a question in the background to somebody else) "What do I want to work on?"... (To me) "My girlfriend says I want to work on (insert whatever issue here)." 

This is when it really hit me that men need more encouragement from other men to give themselves permission to seek help when they are struggling and could use guidance. Also, these calls revealed a strength in men that I have always believed existed, despite it going against common stereotypes. Men's relationships DO mean a lot to them. They might not go get help for their own sake, but they'll do it for the good of their partner and their relationship. This taps into a deep sense of men's identity as providers, which can be of great value, but also be detrimental for men if they cling to this role inflexibly. Unfortunately, sometimes this happens at a point when it is too late (for the relationship, at least), when a problem has existed to the pinnacle of an ultimatum. Coming to therapy to provide for another or a relationship in and of itself does not always lead to a great outcome, but I do like to think from a strength based perspective and see this as a definite strength to build on in helping men consider therapy as an option when the going gets rough. 

The best outcomes in therapy require making not only a commitment to the work, but more importantly means making a commitment to yourself. I know that this is not easy for many men. Men have been conditioned to take on this role of provider. Men often show they care by doing. Feeling and being may not always make sense to many men, but doing something sure does.

Why is it so hard for men to admit they need help? Despite the evolving shift from the proverbial “macho man” to the sensitive guy who more openly show his feelings, men still seem to think it’s a sign of weakness to express emotions other than anger. On the other hand, men are often criticized, sometimes overtly, some times more subtly, for being emotionally expressive, being told to "man up." This dictum is not just from other men, but often from women as well. In addition the lack of internal consistency in what is expected of men can be very confusing, creating significant cognitive dissonance.

It’s not surprising that this attitude usually goes back to childhood. Even sensitive men, despite seeing the problems involved, still carry the conviction of earlier generations. This conviction is that men are the strong ones who are supposed to be physically and emotionally capable of handling whatever comes their way. 

One of the primary goals of my practice is to help create awareness about how men express their emotions and make it more acceptable for men to seek help whenever they need it.

~ Dan

For those of you who have ben long time followers you may notice some new areas on my site. In addition, I will be adding some new tyes of content, as well as taking my blog in somewhat new, but related directions. One new series I will be doing intermittently is called Tools of the Trade: Streamlining Your Workflow, which I will share the tech I use to keep up and be productive, as tech is one of my passions. I will also be evolving my Relationship Advice for Men to start focusing on some different aspects of relationships, including but not limited to abusive relationships.

Here is the first in the series Tools of the Trade, my review of Apple's 12-inch MacBook:

New Recommended Reading page (any requests or recommendations of books are welcome!):