Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Help-Seeking and Counseling within a Traditional Male Gender Role: An Examination from a Multicultural Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Help-Seeking and Counseling within a Traditional Male Gender Role: An Examination from a Multicultural Perspective

Article excerpt

Criticizing the current practice of counseling and psychotherapy for the limitations based in its Eurocentric construction, Ivey (1993) maintained that the counseling system must be modified to better serve various clientele. His contention was that the "values and beliefs of such cultures as African-American, Asian-American, Latina/os, and Native American Indians, and those of women can change and enrich our practice in a reconstructed view of the helping process" (Ivey, 1993, p. 225). Without change, he maintained that counseling psychology will disappear.

The creation of the Multicultural Counseling Competencies (Arredondo et al., 1996) by the Professional Standards and Certification Committee of the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development of the American Counseling Association is one vital way that the counseling profession has responded to the need for cultural sensitivity, consideration, and ability on the part of professionals within it. The Competencies are geared toward work with racial and ethnic groups, and the introduction to the Competencies makes a clear differentiation between "multicultural" and "diversity." The latter includes the culture of "gender," and it is in this spirit that we apply points from the Competencies to counseling within a traditional male gender role. As discussed by Pleck (1976, 1981) and in David and Brannon (1976), this male gender role reflects an affirmation or validation of masculine identity around qualities such as success, self-reliance, and aggressiveness, among others.

This article summarizes the literature on counseling men in a manner that is meant to be both gender-consistent and gender-sensitive. One primary challenge in this discussion is that a segment of the literature speaks of men in broad terms; no other cultural descriptors are added. On the other hand, a portion of the literature is truly more specific and examines subcultures within masculinity and male identity (Levant, 1996, 1997; Philpot, Brooks, Lusterman, & Nutt, 1997; Wade, 1998) or other cultures, including racial background and ethnicity (Bell, 1996; Lazur & Majors, 1995; Thorn & Sarata, 1998), sexual orientation (Schwartzberg & Rosenberg, 1998), age (Simon, 1996), and socioeconomic status (Jolliff & Horne, 1996), all of which can have significant influence on men's multicultural identity as well as their positions of power in society.

No doubt these cultures, and others, offer varying influences on men's identity, thoughts, and actions. In this article, it is not our intention to imply that all men are traditional or that all men should be counseled in the same manner. Just as a book chapter on counseling Asian Americans, for instance, would not suggest that all individuals of Asian American descent be approached the same way in counseling, we would certainly not claim that all traditional men be seen identically by counselors. Such a statement would negate or minimize the influence of other cultures of a person. (Throughout this article, traditional men refers to men of a traditional male gender role.) Rather, our approach is to examine the culture of traditional masculinity alone and how this personal aspect may affect a client in his help-seeking process and counseling.

As a result, it is easy to assume that in speaking of men a segment of the literature is inherently addressing individuals of European American descent who are of middle- to upper-middle-class socioeconomic backgrounds and are heterosexual. This is also a group that has traditionally held substantial economic, political, and educational power in American society, a fact that the Competencies also acknowledge (Arredondo et al., 1996). The experiences, social statuses, and worldviews of men in these cultures are often vastly different from those of men of other corresponding cultures (e.g., men of lower socioeconomic status, men of African American descent, men whose sexual orientations are gay). …

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