10 Reasons Why Dads Seek Therapy

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Navigating the stark contrast between the idealized vision of fatherhood and the complex, messy reality can be disheartening.

Dads need emotional and mental health support just as much as anyone else. The perinatal mental health space tends to focus more on mothers and, not just that, but the time period immediately following the birth. 

But let’s not forget that while those things do deserve space and focus, parental mental health support extends much farther beyond only mothers and the perinatal phase. 

Many fathers notice that they struggle quite a lot with parenthood. That’s both in the weeks right after the birth but also as the months and years unfold. There are so many valid reasons why men seek mental health support during this time as they unlearn certain societal expectations, family patterns, and begin to define their new role and lifestyle for themselves. 

If you’re a dad who is struggling (or a partner of a father who is showing signs that they need support) this post is for you. 

Below are the 10 most common reasons why dads go to therapy during this time in their life. Recognize yourself or a loved one in any of these? 

1. The expectation versus reality of fatherhood feels disappointing

Navigating the stark contrast between the idealized vision of fatherhood and the complex, messy reality can be disheartening to say the least. There are so many things that can happen in parenthood that the past version of yourself never would have even thought to consider. (Not knowing how to connect, feeling ill-equipped, feeling like you’re in over your head, dealing with kids’ emotions, etc.) Dads may seek therapy to process feelings of disappointment and redefine their expectations in a more realistic and fulfilling way.

2. Unlearning family patterns is proving to be difficult 

Breaking away from ingrained family dynamics and patterns can be a pretty big undertaking even if it’s a necessary one. We tend to repeat what we know which is why a big challenge for new parents is breaking cycles of generational trauma. It can be tough to look critically at family patterns, your past patterns, your own upbringing, and then decide to rewrite the script. Seeking therapy provides a safe space for fathers to explore these challenges, understand their roots, process, heal, and learn healthier approaches to parenting.

3. Anger is popping up all the time

What a lot of people don’t realize is that anger can actually be a symptom of anxiety and depression. Many new parents feel as though they are so overwhelmed, overburdened, chronically stressed and overstimulated that they are ready to blow up all the time. The constant presence of anger can strain relationships and hinder effective parenting. Therapy offers a platform for dads to explore the underlying causes of their anger, develop coping mechanisms, and cultivate a more balanced emotional response to the challenges of fatherhood.

4. There’s so much pressure to be the provider

Ugh. This is such a common burden that men can feel when it comes to family life and responsibilities. The societal expectation for dads to be the primary providers can be overwhelming. Even if you’re in a double-income family (as many of us are these days), you may feel like the family’s main needs—financial stability, housing, food, quality education, adequate clothing, and memorable vacations—are all on your shoulders. That’s a lot of pressure! 

Therapists help fathers navigate these pressures, define values and financial priorities, which fosters a deeper understanding of their roles while finding a balance that aligns with their needs. 

5. It’s hard to balance everyone’s expectations

Parenthood can be such a struggle when a parent or their partner has a tendency to set unrealistic expectations. Sky-high expectations can be a recipe for disaster as they usually set you up for failure. You might feel like you have to be a star dad right away even though you don’t have much experience with children or you’re a first-time dad. 

Juggling the diverse expectations from partners, children, and society at large can lead to stress, confusion, disappointment, or low self-esteem. The right counsellor will provide a supportive environment for dads to explore and communicate their own needs and define family values. With the right support, you can learn how to manage conflicting expectations.

6. You want to be an amazing father in all the ways

Aspiring to be an exceptional father in every aspect can create internal pressure. What many new parents don’t realize is that adjusting to any new role takes time! When have you ever started a new job and became an expert overnight? Why so do we expect that this will happen in parenthood? Therapy helps dads redefine what it means to be amazing (according to your standards) by focusing on realistic goals, self-compassion, and the development of a healthy parent-child relationship.

7. You need support with unhealthy coping mechanisms

Fatherhood can bring on so many added stressors, responsibilities, time commitments and burdens. You may feel like you have no time for you, your old life, friends, or partner. You may feel like you don’t even have brain space to allow yourself to unwind. This is why many dads notice that they turn to unhealthy coping methods like alcohol, self isolation, over-eating or over-working. Seeking therapy offers a constructive, non-judgemental space to address and replace these behaviors with healthier alternatives, ensuring a more sustainable and positive parenting experience. Nipping unhealthy coping mechanisms in the bud will not only give you peace of mind, but it’ll help lay a stronger foundation for your family and your shared future. 

8. Depression has been creeping in since becoming a dad

The emotional toll of fatherhood can sometimes lead to depression. Therapy becomes a crucial resource for dads to openly discuss and manage their mental health for this reason. Many dads (and society in general, really) just don’t have the awareness to realize the reality of paternal postpartum depression or other common mood disorders that men in this stage of life face. You need to become educated and aware of issues like these before you can heal, grow and move on. 

9. You feel unneeded or less important

Perceptions of diminished importance can erode a father’s self-worth. Sometimes it can feel as though you’re the secondary parent, that your children have a stronger bond with their mother, and that your partner’s attention has been taken by your new baby or other children in the family. This feeling of not being the top priority (or even close) can be isolating, lonely, or make dads unsure about their place in all of this. Therapy helps dads explore these feelings, challenge negative self-perceptions, and build a stronger sense of purpose within their family unit.

10. Your relationship has become a source of stress

Relationship satisfaction usually takes a major hit once a couple welcomes a new baby into the family. This is something that is so common and yet most couples feel knocked off their feet or surprised by the negative impact parenthood has on their relationship. 

The strain of parenthood takes away from relationship bliss and creates communication curveballs, tension, and oftentimes building resentment. This can feel like foreign territory and as though you’re negotiating a life with a partner who you no longer recognize. The good news is that this is temporary, solvable, and that therapy can provide a platform for couples to navigate these stressors collaboratively, as they learn the roots of their issues and get to a place where they can communicate in a healthy way and share responsibilities more equally. 

Fatherhood is a complex and multifaceted experience, often fraught with unmet expectations, emotional challenges, and societal pressures. Seeking therapy not only serves as a proactive measure to address these issues but also empowers dads to navigate the challenges of parenthood with resilience and self-awareness. The right counselling support will help dads to recognize the importance of prioritizing mental well-being, enabling them to thrive in their roles and contribute to a healthier, more fulfilling family dynamic.

Are you a father looking for mental health support as you navigate this new stage of your life? Reach out to our team to find the support that you need to get back on track and better manage symptoms of stress, depression, identity, and negative self-perception. 

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About The perinatal collective

Welcome! So glad you're here. 

We're a team of mental health therapists across Canada with advanced education and experience in perinatal mental health, meaning you don't have to cross your fingers and hope that we understand how hard this stage can be.

We understand the nuances of the early stages of parenthood: how typical counselling strategies may not be relevant to parents with young kids, and how mental health challenges look different during this time.  

From deciding to have children, to navigating your journey through fertility, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, relationship changes, parenting, career demands and beyond, parenthood can be full with challenges.

Our goal is to help you manage the peaks and valleys of the entire journey, while staying connected to yourself, and feeling whole, along the way.