After practicing counseling for over 15 years in various capacities, there is one population that is the most aversive to this thing called therapy. Men. I understand. I have a hard time telling other men that I am a counselor. Usually I get the look like, “What’s wrong with you” that quickly turns into “Is he seeing what’s wrong with me”. It is very similar to the reaction I received when I was a youth pastor. All of a sudden a person would “shape” up and go into a monologue about how they have been meaning to go to church. There is a lot to these interactions and there is more to men coming into counseling. Most of the articles I read with regard to this subject, once again tell us what is wrong with us as men. Pride, weakness, biology, you name it. To some degree, I do agree with some of the assessments but I believe there are some reasons not mentioned that are worth mentioning.
Isolation. My tendency as a man is to isolate. Even in a dove hunt this weekend I didn’t want the other guys to know what a bad shot I was, (goal: work on shotgun skills) so I camped out in a part of the field that was distant from the other guys. The funny thing about this idea, is the other men could still hear all the shots fired and the lack of dove being brought to the table. Isolation is a tricky concept because it creates the delusion that no one else will know what is really going on. Men if you’re married, your wife always knows what’s really going on! As men we don’t ask each other what is really going on, but we still know something is wrong with our buddy because shots are being fired and nothing is being produced. A man in isolation is a scary thing because there is no accountability and a limited desire to ask for help from anyone. I get it! A key to this is community and vulnerability with other men. Part of counseling is getting men to come out of isolation and tackle the skills they could use to help build community.
Personality. I have noticed over the years that certain personalities in men have an easier time accepting help, where as others do not. The Doer personalities are usually dragged into counseling with their wife and an ultimatum. The Thinker personalities have usually overanalyzed their own problems and come in because they’re stuck and depressed. The Feeler personalities have no trouble coming in and enjoy another person to talk to. Regardless, personality has a huge part in men coming in and “getting” something out of counseling. This also has a huge part in seeing counseling as something of value and worth their time and money. I think in understanding our personality as men helps us in the way we interact with our world and in relationships. If you haven’t, I recommend taking a personality test online to get a better understanding of yourself.
Therapists. I have to admit that my field is an interesting one, filled with “interesting" people. The joke in counseling is often, therapists usually go into counseling to fix themselves and find out they can make money fixing others. This isn’t too far from the truth. I have found that a lot of male therapists have a hard time relating to “manly” things and are for lack of better word, weird. For guys, talking about feelings is weird in itself but not being able to talk about sports, hunting, fishing and other “manly” things, often make therapists “not relatable” to other men. Men, there are some therapists who enjoy manly things and can talk about emotions too! Male therapists are one thing, but going in to talk to a woman can be even more difficult for guys. Some guys actually prefer talking to a female therapist because women are the “ones who talk about emotions”. Despite the hang up with therapists, men can find some valuable characteristics of empathy, listening and some one who is willing to walk through tough times with you.
If you’re a guy and you’re being drug into counseling or asked by some you love to go, don’t worry you’ll be ok. If you are in a spot where you’re stuck, sometimes asking for help no matter what the circumstance can be the best thing you can do. ( You would ask for help if you got your truck stuck in the mud... eventually) Understanding how you’ve isolated yourself, your personality and hang up with the idea of therapy can all be steps in a direction toward personal growth.