Men need help for their Mental Health but have reasons why they avoid counseling and therapy. We need to understand men and the obstacles they face so they can get the help they need.
When I suggested he go to see a counselor to get some help with his anger, I could see the walls go up.
It wasn’t just his anger, that was simply a symptom of something more profound, a pot boiling over because he didn’t know how to turn the heat down. No, there were struggles that with all the will power he could muster, he still couldn’t change.
So he lived a false life.
A fine veneer on the outside but cheap rotting chipboard under the surface.
He’s lived this way for over fifty years now, and he probably will for the next.
When all he wants is respect, those who know him well treat him with caution.
What a waste of a good life. What sadness creeps into my soul when I think of him.
Do you know a man like this? Are you this, man?
It may not be ‘counseling’ they need, but every man needs someone who can go deep with them. That shows them unconditional positive respect (note, I didn’t write ‘love’).
Below are some thoughts as to why men avoid the counselor’s office. I’ve seen them in myself, or I have heard them from other men.
Ten reasons why men don’t go to counseling
Underneath that male bravado, there are many fears.
Fear of discovery that you haven’t got it all together, that you haven’t got what it takes, and that you need help.
Perhaps it’s a fear of change. A man might be ok with how things are, but this counseling stuff may mean they have to change. They don’t know what this will look like. They want to be in control, but this feels like a ‘letting go’ of some control in their life.
Maybe it’s a fear of exposure. They have kept some dark secrets pretty close to the chest, and perhaps these will be exposed.
Thoughts subconsciously haunt a man. ‘Will I be ok if the real me comes out? Will I be rejected, cast aside, thought ‘less of.’ Will I be seen as a fraud’?
Value for money
Going to see a counselor for therapy is expensive. Not just in dollars but also in time. Men weigh the value they get out of talking with someone to what else could be done with the time and money. Often just talking about issues doesn’t have an economic value to it.
D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) attitude
Give a man a project, and he will bury himself in tools, books, and plans. Often in a man, there is an attitude that they can figure it all out with a good book and a bit of hard work. Then they don’t need to risk coming out of their cave.
Don’t see the point in going backward
Men overall like to stay in the here and now. None of this ‘going back’ to talk about early childhood stuff. Sure they might acknowledge lousy stuff has happened, but doesn’t everyone have things like that happen, and what difference does that make now?
Men like to be focused on the problem right in front of them. Therapy seems always to want to go back to the past.
5. Faith Issues
If a man has been raised in a church or is currently in a church that doesn’t value the role of psychology and psychotherapy, then it’s going to be hard to get him to shift his view. The church and its ‘authority figures’ will be validating his thinking.
He will most likely think that God will sort his thinking out and that working harder at spiritual disciplines such as reading the Bible and prayer will fix the problem.
A man may often think there is nothing more to learn. Sometimes this is based on arrogance but more often in ignorance.
They don’t know what they don’t know, so how would they know that counseling might help them?
There is simply no conscious awareness that helpful advice and wisdom could genuinely make a difference.
Often when someone starts going down the track of getting help and learns some new wisdom, there is a ‘waking up’! The discovery of a new piece of knowledge leads to new understandings. The matrix below might be of help.
You don’t know what you don’t know. A brave man asks brave questions. Conscious Competence Learning Matrix
7. Not designed for men
“Psychotherapy was originally created by men to treat women” Ronald Levant
I think of all the counselors I have seen over the years either for personal counseling or professional supervision, and I think only one of them got close to a mode of practice that was suitable for men.
Most counseling I have found is a lot of talk with little substance to go away with.
What this particular counselor did was that at the end of the session, he gave me a set of notes he had taken. He highlighted key takeaways that he wanted me to focus on and explained concepts and ideas in stories that I could relate to. He showed me respect.
8. I don’t have a problem
I’ve heard this a few times, and it’s usually accompanied by ‘they’re the one with the problem.’ I call this the ‘Emperor in Undies’ syndrome. It’s pride, narcissism, and plain arrogance. Only the experience of eating pig food will shake this prodigal son’s delusion and maybe not even then.
He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any. Luke 15:16
9. I can’t change
This type of thinking comes from the belief that our brain is hardwired.
Reinforced by sayings such as ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ and ‘A leopard can’t change its spots,’ the idea of trying to change seems futile.
Perhaps they have tried to change in the past and failed. Willpower, D.I.Y. therapy, prayer, and persistence may well help to some degree, but these are all reliant on vast amounts of self-effort and not on deep wisdom.
This man needs to understand that neurologically we are continually changing. Brain science tells us that our brains are plastic, that they can improve and develop. We can learn new ways of thinking and behaving.
I also like to add that I’m neither an old dog or a spotty leopard. I’m made in the image of God, who hasn’t finished with me yet.
10. Female bias
I know this should not happen, but some men have mentioned that in couples counseling and personal counseling that they felt there is a female bias. That the woman was considered as being more plausible and that the man’s viewpoints were dismissed. It may have been a perception, but perceptions matter. Men matter.
So what are we going to do about this? ( Next weeks post, but let me know what you think we could do – email@example.com )
Questions to answer
Leave a comment below or send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org
- What reasons have you encountered for men not to get the help they need?
- What reason above deeply connected to your experience?
- What do we need to change?
- Do you think there is a female bias in counseling mode and practice?
Quotes to consider
- We tend not to recognise depression in men because the disorder itself is seen as unmanly. Depression carries, to many, a double stain – the stigma of a mental illness and also the stigma of “feminine” emotionality. Terrence Real
- A man’s deepest terror is weightlessness, the absence of solid substance that others recognize and appreciate. Larry Crabb
- If you do not transform your pain, you will almost certainly transmit your pain to others through anger, blame, projection, hatred, or scapegoating. Richard Rohr
- Western male feels. He is trapped inside, with almost no inner universe of deep meaning to heal him or guide him. Richard Rohr
- Much male anger is actually male sadness. Richard Rohr
- Men often have no way to know this themselves, and many probably even think of themselves as “angry men.” They are often very sad men, but they have no differentiated feeling world, no vocabulary, no safe male friends, no inner space or outer setting in which to open up such a chasm of feeling-not even in their churches or with their partners. Richard Rohr
- A man will not go on a quest until he begins searching for the right questions. I think the world is tired of religious men with loads of answers for everything. Richard Rohr