Negativity about counseling, held by many men, is rooted in bogus stereotypes of masculinity. Outdated ideas tell men that they should never struggle - or at least never admit it. The bogus notions that men must be strong, stoic, and silent have led to increased rates of substance abuse, uncontrolled rage, homicide, suicide, and shorter life expectancy than women. Studies have clearly shown that avoidance of psycho-emotional issues is destructive.
Think about the impact false ideas about counseling have had on men, wives, children, careers, and culture.
This blog seeks to challenge some common reasons men use to avoid counseling. Our hope is that after considering these excuses, more men will be persuaded to get a counselor to coach them through difficult seasons of life.
1. “Real guys don’t mess with emotions.”
False. Throughout history men have been poets, artists, and musicians. Men of passion have been the creative forces behind many of our greatest inventions and world-shaping developments. “Real” men have passion and the skills to channel it in positive ways. For generations guys have been wrongly taught that expressing feelings and emotions is reserved for females. But what are the results of this idea? (Answer: nothing good.)
2. “Dudes are supposed to have their s*%t together.”
This is partly true. Spouses, kids, colleagues, and churches are all counting on guys to have their acts together. This is exactly the reason why seeing a counselor/coach is so important. These professionals are trained to help men identify problem areas and equip them to improve so they can be a better influence on others.
3. “Going to counseling means I'm weak.”
This is another BS thought fed to men. Every successful man in history, regardless of the sport or industry, knows that acknowledging limitations and asking for help is a sign of strength. Pro athletes rely upon coaches. Professional musicians still take lessons. Why? When you deny shortcomings, you lose the possibility of growth and change. Try to reword the idea. Instead of calling it “weakness,” consider counseling as bravely seeking to grow and improve. Try to look at counseling the same way you look at other acts of self-improvement. Counseling is like going to the gym but instead of your physical health you are improving your mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
4. “Just shake it off”
How many guys received this advice from their dads growing up? While this is great advice for the ballfield, getting a bad grade, or a middle-school break-up, it is terrible advice regarding grief, anger, anxiety, or depression. Mental or emotional struggles don’t “just go away.” Ignoring them only makes them worse.
5. “I’m not lyin’ on a couch in a dark office with some random stranger dumping my guts out about my childhood.”
No-one is asking you to do this. This picture is another misconception about modern counseling. Most counseling offices resemble a comfortable living room. (Here are photos of NSC’s office space.) Rather than talking about the past, the topics addressed in much of modern counseling are more focused on goals for personal growth and practical strategies for getting there.
6. “OK. Fine. I’ll admit it. I’m messed up. But a counselor can’t fix me.”
Listen, we are all messed up. No one has it all together. But we all have the capacity for change and growth. Counselors coach - not fix. Like an accountant, attorney, or fitness instructor, a counselor helps you understand your situation better and offers you insights and tools that you haven’t thought of yet. Countless studies have shown that good counseling really helps.
7. “I don’t like being told what to do.”
No one does. We all hate that. But a counselor’s primary objective is to identify your values and offer you tools and encouragement to reach your goals. You are always free to accept or reject the counselor's ideas.
8. “I don’t need a counselor - I have a spouse who always tells me what to do.”
Not exactly. While spouses are generally helpful and supportive, they are not objective. Your spouse or partner has hitched her wagon to you. Therefore, she often cannot give unbiased advice. Plus, your spouse does not have the training or experience needed to help you deal with your underlying issues so you can thrive as a man. Guys need an objective third party to offer perspectives and strategies that their partners often cannot provide.
9. “I don’t need a counselor - I have CBD, beer, sports, video games, etc.”
CBD, alcohol, TV, and video games may temporarily alleviate anger, anxiety, and depression, but they do not improve the root issues. Mental health studies show that distractions and avoidance actually make our underlying problems worse.
10. I went to a counselor once - it did not help.
If you had a bad experience with a dentist, would you stop getting dental work? No. You’d just find a better dentist. Don’t give up on counseling just because you encountered a “quack.”
11. “I don’t want to complain or bad-mouth anyone.”
A good counselor will not allow you to complain, vent, or criticize. This is not helpful for you. Instead, he’ll steer the conversation to areas that are important for your growth.
12. “Counseling is an endless maze. Once you start, you’re never done.”
Counseling does not have to be long-term. As few as eight sessions can be very effective. At Next Step Counseling, we help clients set goals that can be reached in 8-10 sessions.
13. “Counseling is too dang pricey. I just can’t afford it.”
Sadly, the world has gotten very expensive. Insurance, office rental, ongoing education, software, etc. have made counseling fees daunting. Try to think of the expense as an investment in you, your marriage, your family, and your career. Seeing a counselor twice a month for four months (8 sessions total) will cost about $800.00. (Less expensive than what you currently spend on eating out or gas.) In the end you will gain trajectory-changing insights and practical tools that will improve the rest of your life. A good counselor will encourage and equip you to be a more confident, grounded, healthy, and wealthy man. In many cases, not getting counseling is much more costly.
14. “What will my friends think?”
Despite the growing acceptance and value of counseling, some men fear the judgmental comments of others. Guys falsely think that getting help may be viewed as a “weakness.” Though most wouldn’t hesitate to seek medical care for a broken ankle or take medication for high blood pressure, some men may worry they’ll be perceived by others as weak or broken if they use counseling as a method for personal growth. What if your friends find out? If they’re good friends, they’ll be supportive. If they’re jerks about it… well… get better friends.
Summary: Guys are human. We all get depressed, suffer from anxiety, and battle suicidal thoughts sometimes. Yet statistics show that guys are far less likely than women to get counseling. With heads filled with wrong ideas, men often downplay their mental distress and go to extreme lengths to avoid their psychological needs. And this reality has grave consequences for everyone.
Do you feel like you're stuck in a silent struggle?
Are you losing the battle with anxiety, anger, or depression?
Are you finding it difficult to love your family well?
If so, Next Step Counseling can help. We are a biblical counseling practice based in Gallatin, Tennessee, and specialize in helping guys overcome personal challenges, regain control of their lives, and become the men they aspire to be. Find out why over half of our clients are men. With a bold, blunt, and often humorous style, the Next Step counselor will help you identify root issues holding you back and provide practical strategies for overcoming them. In a handful of sessions, you'll gather new insights and tool for becoming a better man, partner, father, employee, and friend.
Whether you are dealing with personal issues, relationship problems, or work-related stress, we want to help you thrive. Don't continue to struggle alone - reach out to Next Step Counseling today and take the first step towards a better tomorrow. Schedule a free exploratory call with Dave Crandall. Learn about how a handful of counseling sessions can change your life, your family, and your legacy. Or schedule your initial session.
What have you got to lose?
What can you gain?