Questions Men Ask Their Counsellor
Men's emotional and mental health are in the news more and more. High profile campaigns aim to reduce suicide figures and break down barriers for men getting support. Over the past few years more men have turned to counselling.
I work with a lot of men in my private practice in Bradford and in a local male prison. I don't like to generalise, everyone's different, but men often raise similar questions at the start of therapy. Questions admittedly, often equally relevant to women too.
Am I normal?
Or often, am I crazy? This speaks to the isolation that can affect anyone who is struggling with mental health issues, but men can be particularly vulnerable. Men can be less likely to feel comfortable raising difficult emotional problems with male friends, banter and pisstaking can be a barrier to getting support. Cultural attitudes such 'boys don't cry' and ideas about what it means to be a 'real' man can put immense pressure on men to look like they're coping when they're not.
Can I change?
Yes. That's not a blanket yes, no one's journey is the same. Positive, sustainable change looks different for everyone. Sometimes when men start counselling there is an urgency to change as their relationships are on the line. Yet the issues they bring are underpinned by patterns of behaviour or beliefs, that they have lived with for years. Counselling may take time, it may only be the start of a man's journey or it may not be the right thing for them at that time.
Why am I so angry?
For one reason or another, a lot of men have found a lot of things to do with their feelings other than share them. They can hide difficult emotions and thoughts from themselves and others using drugs and alcohol, sex, food, gambling and working all hours. Anger can be the same. Anger is often more acceptable in men than other emotions especially fear or anxiety? And of course what you saw growing up matters too, we learn a lot from those that raise us including our approach to conflict and our emotional wellbeing.
Are there any techniques that can help me?
In my experience men tend to ask this more than women. Some might say this is because men want to approach problems practically. I might also suggest that it's a vulnerable feeling asking others for help, especially when you're not used to it, and techniques can seem a temptingly swift solution. I work with my clients to develop suitable strategies to help them cope, but the work will often focus on what they feel is the underlying cause.
These are just a few of the questions that some men ask when they start counselling, not all men and not only men. Whilst struggling with emotional health can leave us feeling broken or weak, it can be very difficult to ask for help even if you feel like you have very little choice. I will always celebrate the courage of every person, man or woman, who opens up in counselling. Often for the first time.