More men are now seeking counselling services than they were five years ago, a survey has found.
The survey, completed by a focus group of 250 British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) members in February, found that compared to five years ago, 62% had a higher percentage of male clients. In addition, 72% agreed with the statement that ‘men are more likely to see a counsellor or psychotherapist now than they were five years ago’.
These statistics back up anecdotal evidence from BACP members that more men are seeking counselling than ever before.
This shift from men could be down to a gradual change in attitudes towards gender roles, as well as a growing recognition of the benefits of counselling itself. “Traditionally, more women than men have sought counselling, and this is in itself not a surprise. The concept of talking about feelings and exploring emotional and psychological difficulties has, for many years, been seen as a ‘female’ rather than ‘male’ trait, said Andrew Reeves, a BACP Governor and counsellor who specialises in working with men. “This has been embedded in gender socialisation and how women and men consider and evaluate themselves. However, things are beginning to change with more men seeking counselling and seeing it as both a positive and relevant source of help.”
This is a welcome trend, Reeves adds. “Men have emotional needs in exactly the same way as women: they feel things such as anger, grief, shame, sadness and anxiety in the same way. The difference is that women have traditionally been ‘allowed’ to name these feelings and to seek support for them, while men have been silenced through male gender roles and have felt the need to keep their emotions secret, adding feelings of shame and isolation to the emotional mix.”
But despite this, men are still much less likely than women to seek counselling. In addition, men are considerably more likely than women to strongly oppose the idea of counselling for anything other than serious mental health problems. Indeed, a recent public attitudes survey commissioned by BACP found that men were twice as likely as women to strongly agree with the statement ‘It is self-indulgent to seek counselling or psychotherapy if you do not have a serious problem’.
Nevertheless, in response to the upturn in interest from men, as well as setting up new services specifically for men, increasing number of existing counselling and psychotherapy providers are exploring ways to make their services more male-friendly, Reeves added.