Deciding to pick up the phone and call a counselor is difficult for anyone. Counselors often stress the importance and significance of “the first phone call” because we understand that many times, that short call took weeks of deliberation and courage. For men, however, it is even harder. Even though men and women are just as likely to experience some form of mental distress such as anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties, or mood disorders. Research shows that men are seeking help for these issues at about one half of the rate of women. Men are suffering, but not getting the help they need.
I have worked with a lot of guys throughout my career, and one statement that is made, more than just about any other is, “This is not what I thought counseling was going to be like.” It seems that guys have this vision of walking into a counselors office, sitting on a pink couch, and talking about how sad they were when they watched Old Yeller as a kid. Now, I’m not hating on the color pink, and we’ll all be recovering from the end of Old Yeller for the rest of our lives, but this is not what counseling has to look like.
Here are some things I think you should know about counseling and mental health for men.
Men need counseling.
There is no way around this. If you don’t believe me. Just look at the numbers:
· 1 in 10 men will experience depression and anxiety in their lifetime.
· Men are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide.
· 60% of men reported at least one trauma throughout their lives.
· Men are twice as likely to binge drink than women.
· Nearly 50% of men say they feel more depressed than they admit to friends and family.
When you think of suicide, violent crime, drug addiction, homelessness, and incarceration, what's the common factor? These are predominantly men’s issues.
Counseling is not a life sentence.
The average person completes 5 counseling sessions. This isn’t always what is best, but it does show that positive results can be achieved fairly quickly. Some stay longer and some are out in one or two sessions. It is always best to talk this over with your therapist, but the chances that you will be going to counseling for the next year are slim.
Men often wait too long to start counseling.
Most of the time it isn’t until the marriage is in shambles, the job has been lost, a loved one has issued an ultimatum, or until desperation sets in that, a lot of men will call a counselor. Most issues can be worked through. However, the worse they are or the longer have gone on, the more time in counseling it usually takes to sort it out. My advice, get in sooner rather than later.
Masculine norms keep men out of counseling.
Asking for help. Talking about feelings. Admitting to feeling depressed or anxious. The one thing that these all have in common is that they don’t sound “manly” (whatever that means). Research has shown that one of the biggest factors to poor mental health and self-worth in men is not feeling that they appear “manly enough.” This negatively affects self-worth and coping and usually leads to anger, unhappiness, or substance abuse. I believe it takes more courage to reach out and make yourself well than it does to suffer in silence.
There are counseling models that work better with men.
“This isn’t going to work” is another phrase I hear a lot. Many think this because their perception of counseling comes from TV and movies. And, you’re probably right. Not all counseling approaches work for all people. However, there are a few models that tend to work better with men because they are shorter than most, solution-based, and designed to complement the way men think compared to women.
Men need counselors who work with men.
Mental health affects men differently than women. A woman will likely report feelings of sadness to indicate depression. Men are more likely to report irritability. Women will often speak of feelings of uncertainty or dread when describing anxiety. Men often report chest pains or difficulty breathing. You need someone who knows what to look for when dealing with mental health and men. Finding a counselor is not about looking for the best one, but rather the best one for you.
At Mind Works Counseling Services, we know how hard it can be for a man to call and schedule an appointment. We also know what it takes to identify and treat mental distress and mental illness in men. Our goal is to work with our clients to give them the skills to overcome and heal from whatever difficulties they are experiencing.
Click to learn more about our approach to Men's Counseling.
Schedule an appointment with one of our counselors.