+M Foundation 67 min VIDEO November 6th, 2023

Exploring Positive Masculinity: Finding Middle Ground

Health Professionals

A conversation between Travis Goodman and Matt Englar-Carlson

Travis Goodman is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and host of the Therapy4Dads Podcast. In this episode he interviews his former university professor, Matt Englar-Carlson Ph.D. who has been working with allied professionals (psychologists, therapists, social workers and counsellors), teachers and administrators and also parents on how to best help boys and men for up almost 25 years. 

In this insightful conversation, Travis and Matt cover a lot of ground including 3 main topics – inclusion, challenging stereotypes about masculinity and positive masculinity.  

 1. The importance of inclusion and how actively inviting men to participate in the parenting process, can reduce feelings of exclusion and promote stronger family bonds.  Engaging in story and narrative, men have a lot of stories that don’t get told, “they edit themselves a lot, they particularly edit the tender stories around that because society doesn’t encourage those stories to be told.”  Generational changes are heading in the right direction with men being encouraged to be more involved in the earliest stages of their child’s life. But as Travis notes, a new father’s health and wellbeing is still overlooked.  

2. Challenging stereotypes and common misunderstandings about masculinity. Matt refers to the research by the psychologist Ryan McDermott and explores the societal pressures and how unchecked biases shape how young boys and men express emotion.  

3. Positive masculinity – focusing on inclusivity, adaptability and being true to oneself. Matt explains that by dismantling unhealthy aspects of masculinity we can create a healthier environment for men to heal from trauma and to become positive role models for their children. For years there has not been a notion of healthy masculinity; males have been told what not to do (toxic masculinity, how patriarchy has impacted men) but little about what they should be doing. Matt contends that you need to engage men rather than alienate them so he doesn’t use the term toxic masculinity. “Society would struggle (to define) healthy masculinities. We don’t really have a definition”. He prefers ‘”toxin’’ as a term to reference the small things that men pick up and the small ways that they are socialised which impacts their behaviours. They discuss the concept of “empathic firmness” which is what a good coach can be for so many men who are looking for a surrogate father.  

Matt refers to Connected, Motivated and Authentic and his work with Brighton Grammar in Australia. The power of being an intentional parent as well as challenging society’s messages – providing a counter narrative to offer to your son about adaptability. “You either parent the way you were parented or else you do the opposite. In either case, most parents don’t get any actual training”. “How can you teach emotional regulation when you can’t do it yourself”.  

Matt also introduces his mental health app – MENTAL – which is the first mental health app dedicated to men.  

The episode appeared on the Travis Goodman Youtube channel on 2 November 2023. The podcast episode can also be accessed via the Therapy4Dads podcast.