Thoughts about men and counselling
At its core, counselling is seen as a talking therapy, an activity that deals with feelings and emotions. Maybe this is why it can often be seen among some circles as a predominately ‘feminine’ act. Gender stereotypes see women relating to these aspects of our personalities more than men, and maybe why men often find it difficult to access counselling.
When we make the decision and initial steps to see a counsellor, we are acknowledging that there is something we need to deal with and that we might not be able to do it alone. This can feel like a difficult space for a man to occupy, as socially and culturally men are viewed as, and perceived to need to display strength, not only in a physical sense but mentally too.
Even in twenty-first century Britain, the idea of the male bread winner and family provider is still prevalent, remnants of a cultural ideal that has been passed down through generations. The oldest male of the family is the protector, who demonstrates to his sons, how to behave and act in order to maintain and progress the family line. The suggestion that young men should ‘man up’, suppress their feelings (big boys don’t cry) and just ‘get on with it’ can be ingrained within us from an early age.
Going to see a counsellor can be seen as a sign of failure, that we are unable to cope and that we need someone else to help us, that we don't have the moral fibre or courage to face up to our problems and find resolutions to those problems ourselves. That somehow we lack courage.
However, one can say that it takes real courage to acknowledge that there is something wrong and that we need help. That personal battle is not only internal but an external dilemma, one that we need to challenge and face up to so that the weighty prejudice of years of an emotionally uncommunicative male presence does not stop us from reaching out in the future.
About the author
Warren is a person-centred counsellor who works with adults and young people from a wide range of backgrounds. He enables people to explore their experiences and feelings, in order to understand and gain some clarity with regards to their mental health, and how they might manage and cope with it in the future. He is based in Norwich, Norfolk.
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