For men, counselling can seem like a foreign concept because the ideas of discussing and expressing emotions, making themselves vulnerable, and depending on others for help do not fit with their view of masculinity. As counsellors, it is important to recognize this and reshape what we do to make counselling more accessible to potential male clients.
Statistics show that many men in society are in crisis and that they tend to underutilize mental health services for a variety of reasons. So, what are some of the fears that men may have that lead to them not accessing services? Many men still fear stigmatism and, particularly when entering individual counselling, may hold the belief that relying on someone else to help them somehow makes them a failure. Another fear held by numerous men when it comes to counselling is the belief that they will be changed against their will and that they will be stripped of the parts of their identity that are important to them. Men may also fear not being understood and being shoved into some diagnostic category because the therapist cannot relate to their unique circumstances. Finally, men are often anxious and confused about counselling due to misconceptions about what counselling actually involves.
Men tend to value self-reliance and are resistant to asking for help as they see this as admitting defeat. They do not want to be viewed as weak and unable to solve their own problems. Men tend to enjoy having specific information and instructions about what is required of them and do not do well with ambiguity.
Counsellors need to recognize these fears and preferences and adapt their practices to meet these needs. Men need to recognize the courage that it takes to reach out for help and that this in fact makes them more masculine, not less. Men need to know that everyone has strengths as well as weaknesses and vulnerabilities that can be improved upon. Particularly in couples counselling, men are more likely to be invested if they feel heard and understood and can clearly see that there is work to be done on both sides, not just by them. It is important to be clear about the services that are being offered and to outline for male clients what to expect and what a typical session will look like.
To the men out there. If you are struggling, please have the courage to reach out and ask for help. Recognize that it is okay to have struggles and counselling can assist you in developing the skills needed to become more competent as a partner, parent, employee, employer, and in a wide variety of other roles. Nobody has everything figured out in life, but counselling can assist in getting you closer to that goal. You do not need to suffer alone.