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Unmasking Strength: Embracing Workplace Counseling for Men’s Mental Health

By Naomi James PhD

The general expectation in society and perception in many cultures is that men are strong, tough, and resilient even during complex challenges in life. Socialization in many cultures will place the boy child on a pedestal and train him to embrace the macho lifestyle. He will not be allowed to talk about his challenges or show his emotions openly because that will be a sign of weakness. Since a man is defined by his power and masculinity, showing ‘weakness’ is avoided due to the shame and stigma associated with it. This view has caused men to shun seeking support from all circles, including the workplace. In this brief article, we deviate from that perspective and emphatically delineate the significance and value of workplace therapy for men.

Lenny is a 34-year-old male, married for four years with two children. He has worked as an accountant with a private company for the last nine years. Lenny has to financially support his parents, who are peasant farmers, pay college tuition for his younger sister, and take care of his family. These demands have strained his relationship with his wife, who thinks that Lenny’s obligations are contributing to the financial constraints they are experiencing.  For Lenny to earn that extra coin, he needs to meet his vast responsibilities; he has had to start a small side hustle with his friends, which takes up most of his weekends. Lenny is working extra hard to perform well at his workplace but has been moved to a new department to work under a supervisor he describes as hostile and unsupportive.

As the pressure builds at the workplace, Lenny learns that the contact person in their small business has swindled their money and gone missing. Lenny is overwhelmed since he took a loan and has yet to divulge information about the company to his wife. He feels tired most of the time, has frequent arguments with his wife, is irritable and not sleeping well, and his supervisor has observed critical errors in his reports. Although Lenny’s company has a robust employee assistance program, he (Lenny) has not sought counseling services. Lenny fears the stigma and shame associated with workplace counseling for men. How would Lenny benefit if he purposed to seek help?

Advantages of Workplace Counseling for Men

Counseling provides a safe space for men to share their experiences in a neutral environment without judgment freely. Workplace counseling allows men to be authentic and in touch with the self. It is where a man can comfortably acknowledge: ‘I am overwhelmed’ or ‘I am afraid’ while retaining their dignity.

Studies show that prolonged exposure to stressful situations leads to maladaptive coping, such as recklessness, substance use, anxiety, and depression, in addition to physiological problems such as high blood pressure and inflammatory diseases, to mention a few (Chu et al., 2022; James et al., 2023; Russell & Lightman, 2019). However, men do not have to wait until they begin to experience all these symptoms to seek help. Counseling can mediate the early signs of excessive or chronic stress and change the trajectory for the ultimate benefit of the individual.

Counseling equips persons with skills that can be applied during challenging situations. Men tend to ignore their feelings because, as mentioned earlier, they are not expected to show their emotions openly. Does this mean that men are superhuman? Does it mean men do not feel? Men experience positive and negative emotions like women (Montes, 2013; Pease, 2012). A counseling session will help a man pause momentarily and connect his thoughts and emotions. The next step will be to learn how to address the feelings positively to gain emotional regulation, especially in critical instances.

For men concerned about confidentiality, counseling offers a platform where they can be vulnerable within the confines of a counseling room. Clients’ details are private and confidential, and men can trust the process to support them through their issues without letting other parties know about it. Counseling does not make a man weak; instead, it brings out a man's inner strength, the ability to self-reflect and enhance self-awareness.

During stressful periods or critical incidents, sometimes cognitive functioning can be compromised to the extent that a person cannot evaluate or analyze issues. Men occasionally find themselves in such circumstances as they try to meet family and social obligations. During such moments, counseling can offer the required support by helping the individual assess the situation from a different perspective. Evaluating strengths and opportunities can help a man realize their resilience and gain the impetus to move to the next level.


Not all problems in life can be resolved. Psychological flexibility, which can also be attained through counseling, helps men realize that challenges are inevitable in life. Out of every five set goals, chances are that some may not be achieved in the desired manner or may not be achieved at all. Does this translate to a failure? Psychological flexibility dictates that if individuals can be present at the moment, revise their goals, and reroute them, that will likely lead to better adaptation.  Studies show that employees with psychological flexibility are open to embracing challenges and working effectively (Pennato et al., 2013; Pyszkowska & Rönnlund, 2021; Ramaci et al., 2019). Men can tremendously benefit from this skill if they embrace counseling services.

Increasing acceptance of counseling can reduce the number of men living with untreated trauma. Men are exposed to physical assault, combat, accidents, and natural disasters, and their effects may cause severe distress or lead to posttraumatic stress disorder. Counseling can mitigate the impact of trauma on individuals and help them bounce back to their normal functioning.

In conclusion, we underline the importance of counseling for men in the workplace. Receiving counseling services from a competent therapist can offer a confidential space for men to address issues that might hinder their overall functioning. Counseling will enhance healthy habits, equip men with skills for navigating life’s challenges, and lead to overall transformation, which will ultimately translate to better mental health.



Chu, B., Marwaha, K., Sanvictores, T., & Ayers, D. (2022). Physiology, Stress Reaction. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.

James, K. A., Stromin, J. I., Steenkamp N,  & Combrinck M. I. (2023). Understanding the relationships between physiological and psychosocial stress, cortisol, and cognition. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 14 DOI=10.3389/fendo.2023.1085950

Montes, V. (2013). The role of emotions in the construction of masculinity: Guatemalan migrant men, transnational migration, and family relations. Gender & Society27(4), 469-490.

Pease, B. (2012). The politics of gendered emotions: disrupting men's emotional investment in privilege. Australian journal of social issues47(1), 125-142.

Pennato, T., Berrocal, C., Bernini, O., & Rivas, T. (2013). The Italian version of the acceptance and action questionnaire-II (AAQ-II): Dimensionality, reliability, convergent, and criterion validity. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment35, 552-563.

Pyszkowska, A. & Rönnlund M. (2021). Psychological Flexibility and Self-Compassion as Predictors of Well-Being: Mediating Role of a Balanced Time Perspective. Frontiers in Psychology, 12.   DOI=10.3389/fpsyg.2021.671746

Ramaci, T., Bellini, D., Presti, G., & Santisi, G. (2019). Psychological flexibility and mindfulness as predictors of individual outcomes in hospital health workers. Frontiers in Psychology. 10

Russell, G., & Lightman, S. (2019). The human stress response. Nat Rev Endocrinol 15, 525–534 (2019).


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