Men face unique challenges in the modern age. Toxic male socialisation forces boys to dismiss their emotions and reject healthy vulnerability. Often men feel they have no one to turn to when things become difficult, under the misconception that they must cope alone or risk appearing ‘weak’. Many men have internalised the damaging idea that the male touch is always sexual; prohibiting intimacy and connection with other men as it is seen as ‘gay’, ‘feminine’ or ‘unmanly’, while public displays of affection towards children is seen as ‘creepy’ or predatory.
Romantic relationships with women are often confused by a need for a partner to meet a man’s entire sexual and emotional needs, which is both unrealistic and unfair. Of course every man’s experience is unique, but we have found these factors so often play a significant role in men failing to find support when they need it the most.
We can laugh off these caricatured versions of what it means to be male, pointing to other men, believing we have thrown off such constricting stereotypes, ignoring the limits we have deep-down placed on our own emotional needs, but at what cost? Addiction, isolation and suicide are so often the tragic consequences of internalising the ‘masculine ideal’ - it’s all ‘fine’ until it isn’t.
In his book ‘The Decent of Man’ artist Grayson Perry outlined 8 fundamental rights every man should grant himself, we believe these to be essential to a healthy life:
The right to be vulnerable
The right to be weak
The right to be wrong
The right to be intuitive
The right not to know
The right to be uncertain
The right to be flexible
The right not to be ashamed of any of these
We are under no illusion; after a lifetime of cultural messaging through family, friends, film and television - hero myths we have been expected to unquestioningly accept as our only model of masculinity, the liberated ideal that Perry advocates is not where many men find themselves today. But we are committed to the idea that change is not only possible; it is essential.
What We Can Offer
We have found that art therapy offers a unique medium for men to begin to explore the parts of themselves cast out of reach since childhood. All sessions are facilitated by a qualified HCPC registered art psychotherapist, utilising techniques honed through continual research and practice. We support men to capture their pain, vulnerability and isolation though the art-making process, working alongside them to make sense of confusing or distressing thoughts and feelings that may arise. We work to empower men from a place of authentic healthy vulnerability, developing their relationship with anger, grief and shame. We offer individual or group sessions to suit the needs of the individual, see our services page for our full range of therapies offered.
We welcome individuals who identify as men, or feel they have been personally affected by male socialisation, within our service; we support diversity and inclusion, and will consider all referrals on an individual basis.*
We also proud to work closely with local agencies to provide specialist individual & group art therapy sessions for men of limited financial means across Bristol. These limited subsidised places are currently available on a referral-only basis, so potential clients will need to contact us through a key professional involved in their care. Our 12-month Men's Crisis & Recovery pilot has seen us work with over 100 men within St Mungo's Services with the aim of supporting their ongoing engagement and recovery.
We look forward to hearing from you
- Bristol Men's Art Therapy Service
*Please note - throughout our literature we have chosen to use the terms 'man', 'men' and 'male' as we currently feel it best serves the needs of our clients; we are nonetheless committed to ongoing consultation in service of our communities - we welcome you to contact us with your perspective
What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of expression and communication. Within this context, art is not used as a diagnostic tool but as a medium to address emotional issues that may be confusing or distressing.
Art therapy is provided in groups or individually, depending on clients’ needs. It is not a recreational activity or an art lesson, although the sessions can be enjoyable. Clients do not need to have any previous experience or expertise in art.
For more information visit baat.org
Ben Gage, art psychotherapist at Bristol Men's Art Therapy Service
I am an HCPC registered Art Psychotherapist & Level 2 Internal Family Systems Therapist. I have worked in men’s specific mental health services for over a decade. I have experience delivering individual and group therapy to a range of client groups across psychiatric inpatient and community settings. I developed Bristol Men's Art Therapy Service in 2017, bringing weekly group and individual art therapy to men within St Mungo's Men's Crisis House and Recovery College.
In addition to my work with BMATS, I work as an art therapist for the NHS, and deliver experiential lectures and talks to universities and organisations across the south-west of England.
My masters thesis focused on the topic of men within the field of art therapy, and explored dominant narratives and current conceptions of the masculine and feminine from a male perspective.
I am happy to answer any questions you may have via email, or use the contact page to arrange a free phone consultation.