Addressing Men’s Fears of Counseling May Increase Treatment Compliance

Less than one fifth of college students who struggle with mental health issues ever seek help. “Because reasons for the discrepancy between those who might benefit from mental health services and those who seek it can be numerous (e.g., effect of time, natural process of healing, and relief provided by a social network), scholars have sought to identify barriers to seeking treatment,” said Stefania Aigisdottir of Ball State University, and lead author of a new study examining the reasons why young adults avoid therapy. “The search for barriers is grounded in the notion that the decision to seek MHC (mental healthcare) is influenced by two opposing forces: approach factors (e.g., positive counseling attitudes, experience of distress) and avoidance factors (e.g., fear of and negative attitudes to treatment).” Another main reason people refuse to reach out for help is because of the stigma attached to mental health issues. “Public stigma refers to the negative social labels attached to persons who seek mental health services,” added Aigisdottir.

Aigisdottir and her colleagues interviewed 334 college students for their study. They asked them about their attitude toward counseling, the fears associated with therapy, and their willingness to get treatment. The students were enrolled in an educational intake session or a traditional intake session. The study revealed that the male students who were in the educational session showed more receptivity toward treatment, especially if they had never been in therapy before. Additionally, negative attitude was diminished in these men. Aigisdottir said, “It therefore appears that discussing fears and common negative attitudes about counseling in the first session may benefit men seeking counseling for the first time.” She added, “Our results suggest that it is important to discuss and normalize novice men’s concerns about how seeking counseling may affect their image and how the stigma attached to seeking counseling may affect them. This type of intervention in the first session may be particularly helpful for men who are not self-referred and do not appear very invested in the process.”

Aigisdóttir, Stefania, Michael P. O’Heron, Joel M. Hartong, Sarah A. Haynes, and Miranda K. Linville. “Enhancing Attitudes and Reducing Fears about Mental Health Counseling: An Analogue Study.” Journal of Mental Health Counseling 33.4 (2011): 327-46. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Julian


    November 1st, 2011 at 5:08 PM

    Men as a group have a hard time with opening up about their feelings to friends, much less to someone that they do not know. No surprise at all that they are not going to be willing to admit to any short comings or to face the fact that they could use some help from the outside.

  • n morrison

    n morrison

    November 2nd, 2011 at 7:43 AM

    so the plan is to tell them how therapy is useful and why they should seek help AFTER they have decided to go in for the first session??

    I suppose the plan should be to educate why going in for help is much better than trying to handle it yourself and also how it is stupid to try and label someone if they do seek help.



    November 2nd, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    Can we stop all this treat-men-differently-coz-they-don’t-benefit-as-well-from-therapy?

    I think it is this notion that is not letting us gain much from therapy. Just treat us like any other client,whether man or woman,and things will be a lot better.Phrases such as “I know you’re a man but please try to…” can be enough to unsettle a man who is seeing a counsellor for his problems.Its like you’re telling the person he is less qualified to comply but he should try.That will straight away put a mental block and the activity will seem intimidating even if it wouldn’t otherwise be so!

  • Allison Manning

    Allison Manning

    November 2nd, 2011 at 6:05 PM

    Commenters in an earlier thread about gay men were talking about gender roles having problems. I think that this is one that they missed which is experienced by both gay and straight men. Men have to understand that toughing it out is not the way to do things. It doesn’t make you a hardass not to get help you need. It makes you a complete fool!

  • katherine watt

    katherine watt

    November 2nd, 2011 at 11:46 PM

    @Allison Manning: I agree totally and I’m sure there’s a man out there who has been shot in the chest and said to himself no biggie, I’ll walk it off–before falling down dead as a doornail LOL.

    Men, listen up! Nobody cares if you have to see a counselor or go to a hospital! If someone gives you flack for it, then they’re obviously not your friends at all, or family you need to be around.

  • Colette Hope

    Colette Hope

    November 3rd, 2011 at 1:21 AM

    We need to take stigmas and turn the whole concept on its head. We should start calling out those who keep reinforcing stigmas or spread stereotypes, and maybe give them a taste of their own medicine. See how they like being grouped with every other bigot in the world. You choose to be a bigot, and you choose to judge people? Then we can do the same to you. Remember, all choices have consequences.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.