Men are in crisis and need help for their mental health. But one of the obstacles they face is finding counseling and support that is suited to them—seven tips on how to counsel and support men.
Nine counselors. Six men and three women.
That is how many counselors I have seen in the last twenty years. Most of them I have seen for professional supervision with others being seen for personal support.
Some have been great, while others I have sacked.
One of them kept yawning during the sessions while another spent most of the time talking at me rather than listening to me.
Overall though, my counselors were professional, helpful, and have been a positive influence.
Where there is no guidance, a nation falls,
but in an abundance of counselors, there is safety.
But there are differences
I shouldn’t need to state the obvious, but sometimes you have to.
Men and women are different.
These differences are often part of the reason why men don’t go to counseling or seek out the help they need.
Read my previous post.
Ten Reasons Why Men Don’t Go To Counselling
Years ago, I wrote a blog post about these differences. It is summarised in the table below.
Because of all these subtle yet significant differences, we need to embrace a way of support that will connect with the heart of a man.
Be a coach
I believe that Men can understand the concept of a coach better than that of a counselor.
To be able to say ‘I’m going to get some coaching’ sounds better to a man than any sentence containing the words counseling or therapy.
A coach guides and directs. They advise, encourage, and teach skills.
A coach speaks from a place of learned experience – been there, done that. They are someone who will cheer you on from the sideline.
Help them to create a game plan for themselves.
Men don’t want waffle.
They need someone who will come alongside and help them create a plan.
If a man is to ‘remember’ all of God’s goodness and to ‘move’ into their world (relationships, work, family), then they need a plan.
If you want to depress someone, then confuse them.
Show respect – Value what they do
A man responds when there is a culture of respect.
When he knows that what he does matters, he will be empowered to continue to move.
If he keeps getting shot down or worse still, if there is ambivalence, then the heart of courage will shrink.
A wise counselor or friend taps into the core of a man’s purpose and shows deep respect.
Yes, a man will have failures, everyone does, but respect from a few others will cause him to rise and rise again out of ashes.
Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33
Connect into how THEY move into their world
Every man is different, yet all men are called to enter their world and bring something of God’s nature into it.
The question, therefore, is, ‘how has this man been designed by God to impact his world’?
Deep under all the struggle, there will be a purpose. What is the compelling vision that needs to be tapped into?
Keep it tangible. Provide notes, resources.
One of my counselors, at the end of each session, would photocopy the notes he had written during the session and give me a copy. On the sheet were little insights, ideas, book suggestions, the details of the next meeting, and any other little notes.
As we talked, I would often ask him to ‘write that down.’
Between sessions, I was able to refer back to these notes. Refresh my memory with the insights I needed to focus on.
Even now, years later, I can still go to them and glean gold from them.
Speak from stories, analogies, metaphors
I remember a story from a counselor when he was trying to explain the struggle of opposing the thinking habits we have.
He told of when he was a missionary, and he had to drive from one African country to another. In one country, the cars drove on the left-hand side of the road, but just across the border, cars drove on the right-hand side.
He spoke about having to consciously make a choice to oppose his natural thinking patterns until the new pattern had dug itself into his behavior.
It required consistent, conscious effort.
He told a story, I got the teaching.
Explain how the past ties into present actions.
Men want to keep moving forward. To get on with the ‘moving into their world.’
So when there is a need to review past hurts and how these have shaped beliefs and behaviors, they will dismiss it.
‘What is the point? That was then; this is now!’
A helpful illustration for me comes from the game of golf.
When you begin to play golf, you may pick up a golf club and hit the ball the best way that you can. If you do this often enough, you will create a habit of how you hit that ball.
This habit, this neural pathway that you have created and reinforced over many many games, serves you ok.
Then a coach comes and sees how you hold the golf club. They may well ask, ‘Who taught you how to hold the club that way’?
The man, possibly with some embarrassment, relates that he taught himself, and its always been this way.
The coach shows him a better way, but that he has to unlearn the old and create new thinking and behaving habits. The past is tied to the present.
‘If you always do what you’ve always done,
you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Unknown’
Men are amazing and have a special place and purpose. What they need are others who will show them respect, cheer them on, and support them even when they fail.
Quotes to consider
- Rise and Rise again and again
Like The Phoenix from the ashes
Until the Lambs have become Lions
and the Rule of Darkness is no more Maitreya
(A key theme in Robin Hood- 2010)
- Men long for weightiness, for the substance that impacts. Larry Crabb PAPA Prayer
- A man’s deepest terror is weightlessness, the absence of solid substance that others recognize and appreciate. Larry Crabb PAPA Prayer
Questions to consider
- Are their other tips you would suggest to help men?
- What are your experiences with counselors? What helped and what didn’t help?
- Any comments or questions on the differences between men and women?
email me your thoughts firstname.lastname@example.org
Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.
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