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  • Matt McCoy

Men in Counselling

“Be a man,” “boys don’t cry,” “man up.” The messages men receive from family, friends, and society tell us that the “ideal man” is in control of his emotions. He is a self-reliant breadwinner who is good at problem-solving. He does not ask for help. It is no wonder, then, that men are far less likely than women to access mental health services even though men experience mental health issues at the same rate (or greater) than women. These myths of masculinity not only make it difficult to reach out, but they are often a source of mental health disturbances in men.

Why Men Go To Counselling

Men go to counselling for many of the same reasons that women do, for example, they may be struggling with anxiety, depression, relationship issues, anger, or substance abuse. Counselling can also be a place for men to increase awareness of how masculine ideals may be affecting their mental health. For example, the expectation of being a “breadwinner” might be challenging for the stay-at-home-dad or the idea that men should not show emotions may be stifling for the man who feels his emotions deeply. Research suggests that a man’s concept of masculinity is often closely related to his emotional wellbeing and that simply increasing awareness of society’s expectations can lead to improvement in mental health.

When To Go To Counselling

There may come a point in life when it seems obvious that professional help is necessary: you may be on the edge of divorce, you’re having thoughts of self-harm, or your anger has gotten you into legal trouble. But for others it can be more difficult to know when to reach out. Some men become so good at suppressing their emotions that they have difficulty identifying what they are feeling. If this is the case, a good starting point is to look around you. How are you functioning in your relationships? At work? In school? Do you still enjoy activities you used to enjoy? Has anyone close to you expressed concern? If you notice a difference in how you are functioning, this may be a clue that it is time to ask for help.

Getting The Most Out Of Counselling

The most important aspect of counselling is your relationship with your counsellor. Often times finding the right fit takes some trial and error. You can start by looking up counsellors online (Psychology Today is a good place to start) and begin contacting counsellors that appeal to you. Ask if they do free consultations and meet with several people. You will know during a consultation whether or not you feel comfortable with this person. Feel free to ask them questions. If you are the more logical type and it is important to you to have a plan and a time frame, tell your counsellor that this is important to you.

Think of going to counselling as being as important as any necessary health appointment. If you found out you were having issues with your heart you would go to a cardiologist. If you have identified that you are struggling with your mental health, you owe it yourself to seek professional guidance.

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