There is already a stigma about men entering counseling. Society typically wants the heteronormative man to be stoic and not overtly express sadness. Here is a stereotype of what it means to be a man, and it needs debunking. Men are capable of showing a wide range of emotions. They are not (as our society would have us believe) limited to expressing anger or happiness. Men feel sadness; men cry, and we should not deter men from exploring any and all emotions they have.
When a man enters therapy, like any other person, it is because he wants to address some mental health issues that are troubling him. For anyone of any gender entering treatment is a brave move. For a man who is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, starting counseling can be particularly intimidating because society doesn’t want men to be sad. When a man is trying to cope with any mental health issues; he might be fearful of entering counseling or therapy.
Talking to a Male Therapist
Some men feel more comfortable opening up to a male counselor because he might better understand the struggles of being a man and hiding feelings of depression due to societal pressure. A woman can empathize with a man’s mental health challenges and him being fearful of showing signs of sadness or depression openly; however, she hasn’t experienced it on a personal level. Another man (a male therapist) will likely be able to relate to society’s unreasonable expectations that men face concerning emotional candor. A man might enter a therapy session with a male counselor and say something like “I’m feeling depressed, but I can’t talk about it to anyone.” The act of admitting that he is having trouble being honest about depression can be freeing.
A male counselor can empathize and may have even experienced those feelings himself. There is no right way to “be a man.” What society defines as a man isn’t the objective truth. A male client can discuss what his definition of masculinity is as opposed to what the heteronormative culture imposes on him. The therapist and male client can commiserate and talk about how difficult it can be to be a man and struggle with depression and not be able to express those feelings openly.
Speaking With a Female Therapist
On the other hand, some men might feel more comfortable speaking to a female counselor because they don’t want to admit that they are depressed to another man. Maybe opening up to a male counselor feels like a sign of weakness because men are supposed to be devoid of sadness according to an unspoken societal rule. Talking to a female counselor could feel less intimidating. She will not judge her male client as lacking masculinity or not measuring up to societal standards.
The Gender of Your Counselor Might Not Matter
Some people don’t care about the gender of their counselor whatsoever. They see a therapist as a therapist. It depends on the person and what their needs are and their perception of who a counselor is to them. The most important thing when choosing a counselor is finding someone a man feels comfortable talking to. It can be hard for some men even to take the first step in admitting they need counseling.
Working with a mental health professional that they feel comfortable speaking to is essential. What is the point of going to counseling if you cannot be open to the person you see for therapy? It’s hard enough to admit that you have a problem that needs addressing. Make it easier on yourself and choose a counselor who makes you feel at ease so you can be yourself and start working on your problems.
There is no wrong answer when it comes to choosing the gender of your counselor if you are a man. Pick a person you feel comfortable opening up to you and start a therapeutic process. You deserve to be well.
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