How to Get a Man to go to Therapy

Your husband drinks more, laughs less, and has lost interest in hobbies and sports. He’s on edge and irritable; he yells at you and the kids. Or maybe your boyfriend constantly checks up on you and his jealousy frightens you. You think he needs professional help. What can you do?

The Marlboro Man in Therapy?
Your husband or boyfriend may not be the Marlboro man or come from Mars, but he may believe that therapy is for wusses. After all, men are taught to be tough, self-reliant, and never ask for help. This may explain why only one of three outpatient visits to therapists are made by men.

So what’s a loving woman to do? There are no easy answers or one liners you can use. But as a psychologist who has limited his practice to men for the last 10 years, I have learned how many women succeed and I think I can guess why others fail.

Ultimatums and Other Strategies
Some men call me in response to an ultimatum: “You get six sessions of therapy or I’m getting a divorce.” Other women have made appointments with marriage counselors that their husbands canceled in favor of a lesser evil. Maybe you’ve tried these approaches. Are you starting to feel that you can lead a horse to water, but you’d better be ready to drown him?

There are probably 50 ways to lead your lover into therapy. You know your man best. Think about what has worked most successfully in the past when you wanted him to do something he didn’t want to do. How do you influence him?

Watch Your Language
You may be comfortable with the terms “therapy,” “psychotherapy,” and “personal growth,” but most men aren’t. Going for “a consultation,” “counseling” or “coaching” to “get back on track,” “find a way to control anger” or “learn some new skills” often work well.

Plant the seed and nurture it. This is not a sprint; it’s more like a marathon. Even when physicians refer a man to me, it takes an average of about three months before I get a call.

You Are Not Alone
Many men have come to me on referral from their primary care physician. Internists, family doctors, and even urologists are now trained to assess emotional disorders and to make referrals to therapists.

So when other approaches fail and the problem is a serious one, I recommend that a woman encourage her man to see his doctor or make the medical appointment for him and then share her concerns with the physician before the visit. What about confidentiality? It’s not a problem because she is not asking for confidential information, only offering her observations.

Choosing a Therapist
Psychotherapy with men is becoming a recognizable field in terms of practice. Most therapists are becoming more sensitive to the needs of men, but you may want to find or help your man find a therapist who specializes in men.

Search GoodTherapy.org and/or ask if the therapist has a gender preference and what percentage of his or her clients are men. Also find out if the therapist has a private entrance and night or weekend hours. Many men anchor their self-esteem in their work and it is difficult for them to explain a weekly doctor’s appointment to their boss or co-workers.

Find a Bridge to Therapy
Sometimes anonymous self-help groups or materials for solo use are more acceptable to a man. In addition, these approaches can often serve as a bridge to therapy.

Books can be intimidating for some, require too much concentration for others, and are frustratingly slow for still others. In addition, the overwhelming majority of self-help materials are purchased by women, so the editing and marketing reflect the needs of women.

Over the past decade, working exclusively with men, I developed an audio self-help program called The FAST Technique for Stress Relief. To listen to a free six-minute sample, please visit my profile on GoodTherapy.org and click to go to my website. You can click the link at the top of this article to go to my GoodTherapy.org profile.

If your man is depressed but likes to read, the best book for depression I know is Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns, MD.

The Power of Prayer
Not everyone is religious, but for those who are, I would say this: whether the current goal is getting your man into therapy or self-help, prayer is often helpful. The biblical definition of love (1 Corinthians 13:4) starts with “Love is patient, love is kind. . .” To be loving on route to these kinds of goals, you need to take good care of yourself and you may need the strength that comes from prayer or spiritual practice.

Related articles:
How to Get My Husband to Go to Therapy?
Notes From A Men’s Group
Are Women Really More Emotional Than Men?

© Copyright 2008 by Ronald Nathan, Ph.D., therapist in Albany, New York. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 16 comments
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  • Kallie

    Kallie

    December 22nd, 2008 at 2:13 PM

    I have tried for several years to get my husband to consider therapy. I think that after reading this I am better equipped to go to him with some logical words that will finally get him to go. I will keep you updated.

  • Cindy

    Cindy

    December 23rd, 2008 at 2:26 AM

    I found this article very informative. My husband is the type that does not like to read at all unless it has to do with instructions on how to build or put something together. If the time ever comes where he or I need therapy, this article will give me insight on how to approach it.

  • Jeni

    Jeni

    December 23rd, 2008 at 2:28 AM

    I think men feel inadequate if they have to go to therapy or counseling and that is probably why it is hard to get men to go. If men really really want help, I believe they will try it (under conditions) to help their relationships. I know some men may be all for getting help if they know it will help.

  • Kate

    Kate

    December 23rd, 2008 at 2:49 AM

    I love this article. It’s been very encouraging to know that simply switching tactics does help get a man to therapy. I have been trying very hard to get my best friend to go for counselling post his break-up from my sister. I am so glad I read this one.

  • Allison

    Allison

    December 23rd, 2008 at 9:56 AM

    Men are so stinking stubborn! Why the reticence about going to therapy if you need it?

  • Carolyn

    Carolyn

    December 24th, 2008 at 5:22 AM

    Voice of dissent, or perhaps I just have had a different experience with this. My boyfriend readily went to therapy when presented with the facts that he was severely depressed. He knew that he had a problem and was big enough to allow that he needed some help to get it all fixed. He is in the best health now than he ever has been and I am so thankful everyday that he sought to use the therapy as a chance for personal growth and renewal rather than being sullen about it.

  • marsha

    marsha

    December 25th, 2008 at 1:21 PM

    some men will go and some will not. we can’t contrpol them or change them..at least i can’t

  • Jane

    Jane

    December 26th, 2008 at 5:07 AM

    I have a marlboro man who thinks therapy is for weak men and that he can do everything that he needs for himself. There is no hope there with changing that mindset.

  • Jeanette

    Jeanette

    December 27th, 2008 at 11:33 AM

    My boyfriend has been in therapy now for over a year for things that happened to him in the past and I think that it has taken him this long just to be OK with the fact that he actually attends therapy sessions. I do not know how much significant headway he and the therapist have really made because of that hesitation on his part but I guess it is better than it was in the past because he faithfully still continues to go.

  • Yvonne

    Yvonne

    December 28th, 2008 at 11:50 AM

    Hope that things continue to go well for him Jeanette, It also makes me feel good to hear that there are many primary care drs who now realize that this is an area beyond wht they are trained to do and are referring people put. It seems that for several years they were treating patients in this field and definitely should not have been.

  • Tony

    Tony

    December 29th, 2008 at 2:54 AM

    what do I do with a tomboy wife? I am not the one who needs therapy. She is. I even got her to see the movie “When a man loves a woman”. My marriage has been over long ago but I am holding on because I still have hope I can bring her around. Her drinking and partying has to go but I have not been able to get her to move away from her current social circle.

  • Debbie

    Debbie

    December 29th, 2008 at 3:11 AM

    I agree to the prayer part. My husband’s struggle with drugs was won with a lot of persistence and prayer.

  • Maggie

    Maggie

    December 30th, 2008 at 12:45 AM

    My father becomes someone else when he drinks. We think he uses his drinking as a facade. I am scared to live with my parents as he becomes sexually promiscuous when he drinks. How do we know if his behavioral differences are because of drinking or not?

  • Gwen

    Gwen

    December 30th, 2008 at 12:52 AM

    My son who is in his teens is having a hard time dealing with peer pressure. I’ve tried books but he is tremendously restless. We are dragging him along on a family break. I am hoping he will open up or I can convince him to see his student counselor.

  • Fiona

    Fiona

    December 30th, 2008 at 2:20 AM

    I loved this article. My father made very slow recovery from hip replacement surgery. On advice from his doctor we had a psychiatrist visiting him. My father was not open to therapy at all and on continued persuasion he relented. He made a speedy recovery ever since as he was able to work on his treatment better with an open mind and by putting his depression aside. It is difficult getting a horse to the water but once the horse is thirsty and there is no other water in sight it definitely drinks.

  • Jerris

    Jerris

    March 12th, 2009 at 2:21 AM

    Men going to therapy seems like a hard thing for them to do. I am glad to hear that some men here, readily go to therapy and realize they need it if they do.. I think it takes a lot for some men to won up and realize it’s time for outside help.

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