Men’s mental health is an incredibly important matter. Men suffer under patriarchy just like women do—in different yet profound ways. One of the ways men suffer is through the way we talk about masculinity. “Masculine” men are expected to be strong, both physically and emotionally. Our culture tells them the only emotion they are allowed to experience and express without shame is anger.
But men, just like women, are enormously complex creatures who are capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions. It is absurd to suggest that “manly” men do not experience sorrow, grief, joy, elation, hope, and insecurity the same way women do. Men deserve for us to take their mental and emotional health seriously because, if we don’t, we really will be headed for a men’s mental health crisis (if we’re not in one already).
So, in light of all that, it should be a really positive thing that there are “men’s mental health” coaches popping up all over the internet. What better for men than having access to other men who want to help them navigate the often choppy waters of exploring their mental health?
Sadly, this specific brand of online “men’s mental health” coach is far from that. That’s not to say that there aren’t some legitimate, men-led and men-focused coaching platforms out there that help men unlearn toxic teachings that harm them, and to embrace real healing and positive change instead. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some of those men. They just seem to be the exception, not the rule.
What are the typical “men’s mental health coaches” out there like?
First, these men are unqualified. They have to call themselves coaches because they have no certifications or credentials in the mental health space. The thing about “coaching” is that you don’t have to be qualified in any way to be a coach. And although you don’t necessarily need an education in mental health to have something useful to say about it, there are certain reasons why mental health professionals are required to have credentials. Perhaps the most critical of all these reasons is that professionals in the mental health space are governed by boards and state licensures. They must follow guidelines of ethics to maintain their standing in the community, and there is recourse for those who don’t. There is no such accountability or oversight for these “coaches.” And when it comes to men entrusting these coaches with something as delicate as their mental wellness, I’d say oversight is important.
Second, it doesn’t take long looking at these coaches’ social media pages to see that what they are mostly appealing to is male ego. Their photos are of them standing shirtless and flexing in a gym mirror, posing with a brand-new Ferrari, or walking into an expensive restaurant with a beautiful woman on their arm. How are any of these things related to men’s mental health?
The only world in which these things represent men’s mental health is in the terribly twisted world of toxic masculinity. A world in which a man’s value is derived purely by how tall he is, how defined his abs are, how much money he makes, and how many women he can attract.
These coaches appeal to super reductionist ideas of masculinity and promise their male audience that they can have all these things, too. Wealth, success, women! Just click the link in their bio to sign up for their “coaching” seminars. For a hefty fee, they’ll teach you how to do it.
I’ll admit that I’ve never paid to gain access to one of these seminars, so what goes on behind the curtain is a mystery to me. But I’ve found that, in general, you can surmise what’s going on behind the curtain by the performance that takes place on stage.
And what I’ve found is that these men’s mental health coaches are mass-producing “alpha-bros.” Men emerge from such coaching programs with a full indoctrination from the Manosphere, utterly convinced of their own superiority over both “beta men” and all women. Suddenly, they are talking about the men’s loneliness crisis, the ills of feminism, and how females have gotten just a bit too big for their britches and need to humble themselves. They lament over the loss of the American family, where women knew their place in the home and devoted their lives to raising their children and their husbands. Somehow, they are convinced that men should be the “head of their household” while also being treated like a useless infant by their wives.
And as they loudly espouse these ideas that utterly repel women, they complain about why women suddenly aren’t interested in dating men. The concept of these two things being related is completely foreign to them.
As the training they received from their costly “men’s mental health coaching seminar” further alienates them from women, making them feel even lonelier than they felt before this training, their hostility toward women grows. And why wouldn’t it? They shelled out all this money on what was essentially the promise to be more appealing to women (thinly veiled as “mental health coaching”), and now, women appear to like them even less.
That coach was right. They think. The problem is with women.
Angry and isolated, they do the only thing they know to do: sign up for a business Instagram account and market themselves as a “men’s mental health coach,” too. Using the same toxic messaging that drew them in, they begin appealing to men just like themselves. If they can’t get women through these tactics, at least they can make some money off other lonely men with the promise that they will get women …
… If they’ll just pay for this expensive little coaching package.
And as much as they’re going to hate this, I can’t help drawing parallels between these “coaches” and the MLM Huns of the 2010s.
MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) companies have long been criticized for their unfair business practices. They promote unrealistic promises of success to desperate and vulnerable people. They also tend to exploit interpersonal relationships to build a pyramid that benefits only those at the top. The term “MLM hun” is used to refer to individuals who actively recruit and promote in a persistent and overly enthusiastic manner. They are often perceived as pushy, demanding, and unwilling to take no for an answer. And through their activities on social media, they portray a lifestyle that is unrealistic and unattainable, often going into debt to continue their charade of success and happiness and to convince others to join their team.
Are these “men’s mental health coaches” the new MLM Huns—schilling a lifestyle on social media that is unrealistic, that does not in any way reflect the lives they actually live? They convince desperate and lonely men, men who really should see a therapist but who have been told that therapists are for “sissies,” that their depiction of wealth, sex, and acceptance is the answer to all their sorrows. And when those men do not achieve those things, something must be wrong with them.
These coaching programs do not succeed at improving men’s mental health because they aren’t designed to. They are designed purely with the intent to appeal to the male ego, to confuse men’s mental health with toxic masculinity, and to profit off the loneliness and frustration of vulnerable men. They are a cash grab, and a diabolical one at that.
As I said earlier, it’s not all “men’s mental health coaches.” There are men who really are doing great work to help men address their mental health. But those men are having humble, honest, and vulnerable conversations with men. They are being real. They are telling men that it’s okay to have emotions, to have deep male friendships, to feel insecure, and even to fail. They are not the men posting shirtless gym selfies.
Men: we are begging you—please stay away from the toxic men’s mental health coaches. Go to therapy. Lean in to your friends who love you. That is where you will heal your heart and mend your mental health. And then, when that work is done, you will be so much more likely to find the acceptance you seek from women. But by then, you won’t need it as much to feel like you have worth.
You’ll know your worth is inherent, permanent, and unchanging. Because you are human, and you are worthy.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.