This month’s Counseling Today cover story focuses on men in counseling. When I first heard this topic, I just smiled. It reminded me of the many times I have wished that more men were enrolled in my counseling classes.
I walk into my classes at the beginning of each semester and scan for diverse students. Unfortunately, I seldom have a class that includes more than two or three men. I believe having more male counseling students would provide a broader perspective and more diversity of thought to these classes.
The cover story focuses on men in counseling from a therapeutic vantage point. I want to talk about the fact that we need more men being trained as counselors. I sometimes ponder on what we can do to recruit more men into the profession. How can we combat the stereotype that counseling is a profession primarily for women?
I have asked my students why they think more men aren’t sitting in their counseling classes. Their responses have ranged from counseling being a nurturing profession to the pay being too low, from men struggling to be empathic to men not liking to deal with their emotions. Each of these explanations might have some credence, but are we seeing a shift? Are we seeing it become more acceptable, more attractive, for men to enter the counseling profession? Honestly, I am not sure. All I can do is look around and see who is sitting in my class. And for me, the question remains: What can we do to recruit more men?
This is an important question, especially as we look at the challenges faced by men in general and young minority men in particular. We see evidence of more and more men struggling with what it means to be a man. We see men who find it a challenge to relate to the important people in their lives. We see more and more of our minority young men being incarcerated. When these men reach out for help, who is there to provide them with the guidance and support they need? Whom do they see that looks like them? Who can potentially serve as their role model?
Very few male counselors are available who are licensed and in private practice, let alone minority male counselors. This has been a concern for me since the time I worked with children who had been removed from negative home situations – situations that seemingly left them with little chance to survive. What can we do? How do we recruit men into our profession who can meet the challenges of becoming comfortable with their emotions and responsibilities? How do we recruit men willing and able to invest in becoming role models and mentors to a new generation? Are we ethically responsible for trying to recruit all types of diversity – including men – into our counseling programs and graduate education?
I asked a recent college graduate why she thought more men don’t enter the counseling profession. She smiled and replied teasingly, “I can give you one answer: They become psychiatrists.” I chuckled and reflected on her response. Could it be that other mental health fields carry more prestige in the public’s mind? Is the money factor significant enough that counseling is not a first choice for many men? Is the public lacking information about what counselors do and who we are? If so, I challenge us to consider what we can do to change our professional image. What steps can we take to make our profession more attractive to capable, invested men who choose mental health as a career path?
According to the most recent ACA membership statistics, 27 percent of our members self-report as male. I was asked whether this number was also representative of the percentage of males seeking counseling. Honestly, I don’t know, but it seems to me that we need to work on boosting this percentage. What are your thoughts? Share them with me at Marcheta.Evans@utsa.edu.