Why don't men ask for directions?
If I’m lost somewhere, the very last thing I think of doing is asking someone for help. As a man I have an inbuilt need to do things for myself.
The same goes for counselling. Women flock to therapy, but men avoid it like the plague.
As a play therapist I’m fascinated that 70 per cent of my child clients are boys. Yet when I work as a psychotherapist with adults those figures are reversed. Only about 30 per cent of my clients are men.
Maybe as boys grow into manhood they develop a thick skin – or are they just ignoring the problem, hoping it will go away? If a man has something physically wrong, he is much less likely than a woman to consult a doctor. Sometimes, if it is a serious illness, the visit to the doctor is just too late.
The same could be said for counselling and psychotherapy. Men tend to leave their difficulties until they become overwhelmed.
Yet men have just as many emotional difficulties as women. They may experience stress at work, mild depression, anxiety and panic attacks. They may struggle with relationships or suffer bereavement. They may have low confidence and self-esteem.
Many men also have specific issues where counselling could help. An example is men who show some of the characteristics of Asperger’s, whether diagnosed or not: high intelligence with little common sense; focusing on one specific object or group of objects to the exclusion of all others; obsessions; difficulties with relationships; poor eye contact. Counselling can help such gifted people develop even more effective strategies for coping in day-to-day life.
I often say that being a fulfilled man involves two things: having a job and being able to perform in bed. If there are difficulties in one or both of these areas, the man tends to feel less than adequate.
Having a satisfying job is vital to a man’s core sense of self. Even unemployed people can ‘find a job’ through voluntary work, projects at home or writing that book they planned years ago. Men without a satisfying job can often benefit from therapy.
Being able to perform in bed is also vital. First there is the commonest problem of all – size. Many men fear the communal changing room because the phrase others have said or implied keeps ringing in their ears: ‘Mine’s bigger than yours.’ Talking about this subject can be scary, but in the confidential counselling room the man can make new decisions about his adequacy, without the need for plastic surgery.
Then there are what I call the Up and Coming problems. (Humour is important in this kind of work.) While occasionally there are medical reasons (such as diabetes) for some of these difficulties, most have underlining emotional causes. Talking about the issues in therapy, and doing enjoyable homework between sessions, can often help men get back up in action without the need for internet pills.
Why don’t men ask for directions? I think the biggest stumbling block is pride: ‘I can do it myself!’
The next time I’m lost somewhere, I think I’ll ask someone for help.
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