Starting therapy can be intimidating for anyone, and social expectations for men to “man up” can make it even harder for fathers to get connected with a service that can help the whole family. Researchers in the United Kingdom found that more than half of men (57%) who suffer from mental health problems are parents. This means that most men who suffer from a mental health disorder are also being asked to be a father for the next generation of youngsters. These issues can start early in fatherhood and may be related to the stresses of birth and parenting: about 15% of dads experience anxiety right before or after the birth of their child and 10% suffer from depression during that time. While 1 in 6 men in the U.S. report having a mental disorder, fewer than half of them seek treatment for it. There can be a lot of social pressure for men to not show emotion, and when they are emotional, they feel they need to be angry or violent. This can have a big influence on the whole family: if a dad can’t express their emotions or feelings, it not only takes a toll on him, but on the entire family unit.

If a dad is struggling, there are many ways it can negatively impact the family. A research review by Dr. Sheehan Fisher, PhD, dived into the ways that a father’s struggles can seep into the family. The results found that, poor mental health of a dad can be a direct issue for children in the form of genetics, but also in many other ways like negative parent-child interactions or if a dad’s poor mental health creates toxic family dynamics. And dads seem to be well aware of this reality: one study from Verywell Mind found that 75% of fathers believe there should be more mental health support for dads, 55% wish their friends or family would check in on them more often, and 45% expressed that they feel judged when they talk about their mental health. These data points all support the idea that we need more mental health awareness and support for fathers.

Now that we’ve established that there is a need for more therapy for dads, let’s take a look at what dads going to therapy can be like. An article by Fatherly describes 10 stories from dads who went to therapy and how it helped (If you would like to read this heart-warming article, it is linked below). Of the stories told, they range from wanting to proactively prepare for fatherhood to handling childhood trauma of their own. In my own professional experience, I have seen these anecdotes echoed: lots of dads come to therapy with intentions to be a better father and they realize that working on themselves can sometimes be a first step toward a healthier family unit. Of course, it’s wonderful for dads to be invested in therapy for the sake of their families, but I would like to emphasize that dads (like everyone) deserve therapy for their own sake as well. One common thing I see fathers grapple with is the idea of whether they are a “good” or a “bad” dad: while I am sure we can all think of people or movie characters who might be characteristic of each category, the reality is that we all make good and poor choices in our lives, dads included, and it’s not about being ‘perfect’ but about putting the work in to strive to be better.

If you, or a dad you know, might be interested in therapy, EAP services are here to help. EAP sessions can be a great way to get the ball rolling with free therapy sessions (which can include referrals to longer term services that will work with your insurance). These counseling sessions are done with a clinician and can help you see where you are and how best to move forward. Sessions can be individual, couples, or family services and each member of the family (you, legal partner, children up to the age of 26, and legal dependents who reside in the home) gets their own number of free sessions. In other words, using your sessions doesn’t take away from another family member’s! The easiest way to schedule is to call our office at 518-465-3813. We hope to see you soon, and Happy belated Father’s Day!

Below, we have a few resources listed for men’s mental health, and after that a list of the information sources that were mentioned in the article for further reading.

Fathers Mental Health, a site with various resources for dads:

Therapy for Black Men, an online resource for black men’s mental health:

National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, a government resource on tips and best practices in fatherhood:


By Christopher Shepherd, MHC-LP