• More men than ever are in therapy, but there is still a huge stigma attached to men seeking help

  • Psychotherapist Gershon Portnoi examines why, offering common excuses that men use to avoid getting support

  • We have therapists specialising in working with men and issues that may be more specific to the male experience – find them here

1. I'm strong

For thousands of years, us men have been socially conditioned to think of ourselves as macho, so it's very hard to suddenly switch to being vulnerable. 

Many of us are the strong, silent, Gary Cooper types that Tony Soprano famously lamented he should have been in TV show The Sopranos – but don't forget that Tony was in therapy for years…

2. Don't have time

If it's not work, it's socialising, going to the gym, watching Netflix, or catching up on the DIY, but whatever it is, it's definitely not therapy because there's not enough space in the week to fit it in. While women traditionally tend to be more organised with their schedules, some men find it much harder to juggle.

3. It's not for me

Some men take the stance that they don't do therapy because it's for other people. It's just not something they would do, and that's that. 

It's often said that one of the hardest parts of therapy is making the decision to start, and for many men, understandably, pre-conceived ideas about who therapy is for, and who it isn't for, dominate thinking.

4. I don't need help

For many men (and women of course) the idea of accepting help can be very difficult. They may have been raised with a stiff upper lip mentality, where they don't complain, and just keep going. This is admirable in its own way, but also potentially dangerous, given that danger signs may be missed. 

Accepting the idea of getting help is a huge barrier to overcome for many men.

5. Not interested in that psychobabble

Freudian nonsense, psychobabble, call it what you like, it's not wanted by certain men. Due to a lack of understanding of the process of therapy, and perhaps some unhelpful popular culture portrayals of therapy, some men won't even consider the possibility of counselling.

6. Cold fear

Few men would ever admit to this one out loud, but embarking on a therapeutic journey is a prospect that can fill us with fear – fear of finding out things about ourselves that perhaps we didn't want to know. 

Often, however, the process of therapy instead may help us realise that perhaps we knew some of these 'scary' things anyway, but just didn't have the space to articulate them.

7. Don't want to peel away at that onion

Similar to fear, there is a conception among men (and others too) that once you start peeling away at that onion, and pull back a few layers, you may expose yourself to some uncomfortable stuff. 

While therapy is not a straightforward process and comes with many ups and downs, its long-term benefits make shedding a few onion layers worthwhile.

8. Can't afford it

Many men are happy to pay for their team's season ticket, a gym membership, a personal trainer, designer clothes, and a night out with mates, but committing to protecting their mental health might be perceived as unnecessary expenditure. 

Of course, there are situations where therapy remains unaffordable, but for many men, it can also be a question of priorities, and whether we're prepared to put ourselves and our mental wellbeing first.

9. Therapists are weird

A classic. Also possibly down to the portrayal of therapists on TV and film, there is often a misconception among men that therapists are just odd. And in the sense that all of us humans are very weird in our own little ways, it's probably fair to say that therapists are too. 

However, most of us therapists will be exactly like you, with partners, families, pets, hobbies and interests. In other words, we're as weird as you.

10. I'm fine!

It's extremely common for some men to not even be aware that they are struggling with their mental health due to some of the previously mentioned coping mechanisms they've built over the years, like staying strong and having a stiff upper lip. 

Even when some of these methods of coping stop working, it can still be hard to work out what the problem might be, given a lifetime spent getting on with it and not complaining, meaning when they're asked if they're ok, they will always respond they're fine, and genuinely believe it. Strong support networks can help us realise we may need help even when we don't recognise it ourselves.

If you recognise yourself in any of these 'excuses' you're certainly not alone; we've all been prone to using one or two in our lives.

If you feel that you, or someone close to you might benefit from therapy, why not consider reaching out to a therapist?

Gershon Portnoi is a verified welldoing psychotherapist in London and online

Further reading

Are more men seeing therapists?

How the therapy experience might differ for men

What I've learned about men's mental health and vulnerability

What I want others struggling with depression to know

You'll never walk alone: how seeing a therapist changed my life