Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Common Health-Related Concerns of Men: Implications for Counselors

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Common Health-Related Concerns of Men: Implications for Counselors

Article excerpt

Men are considerably less likely than women are to seek counseling or visit a physician's office (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2005; Psychology Today and PacifiCare Behavioral Health, 2004). Perhaps this is because counselors and medical professionals have shown a lack of knowledge about gender and sociocultural issues, thus making the helping environment unappealing to many men (Boman & Walker, 2010; Wester & Trepal, 2013).

Avoidance of these professionals is unfortunate because men tend to engage in numerous behaviors that raise their risk for mental disorders, physical illnesses, accidental trauma, and death (Levant, Wimer, & Williams, 2011); such behaviors probably explain why a man's life expectancy is about 5 years less than that of a woman (U. S. Census Bureau, 2011). Because early intervention and lower stress levels are linked to the prevention and amelioration of health concerns (Chopra, 2009; Gunnar & Quevedo, 2007), it seems imperative that the counseling and medical environments become more inviting places for men.

There has been a lack of focus on male issues in previous years (see Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs, 2009; Hoffman & Myers, 1996), and today's counselors continue to have limited training in men's issues, have relatively no training in health-related issues, and feel uncomfortable discussing some of the more prevalent male-related health concerns. These concerns include erectile dysfunction, sexually transmitted diseases, benign hypertrophy of the prostate and prostatitis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, lung cancer, and accidental trauma and injuries. Because these and other chronic and debilitating illnesses cause men to feel out of control, disempowered, emasculated, and fearful of the future (Rivera-Ramos & Buki, 2011), it is critical that counselors learn how to work with men who have health-related concerns (Smith, Tran, & Thompson, 2008). Furthermore, if health care professionals are to help men reduce their stress and allay men's fears regarding health-related concerns, they must feel comfortable referring men to counselors.

In this article, we present brief explanations of the more common health concerns that men face as well as how they can be prevented and treated. Then we offer suggestions for how counselors can work with men facing these health concerns. In addition, we suggest ways of attracting men with health concerns to the counseling office and offer ideas on how to prevent men with health concerns from terminating counseling early. We present ideas for attracting men to and keeping them in counseling and suggestions for counselors on how to effectively collaborate with health care providers.

Counseling Men With Health-Related Concerns

If counselors are to work effectively with men who have health-related concerns, they must have fundamental knowledge of such concerns. Table ! provides definitions and prevention and treatment issues for 10 of the most common health-related concerns facing men, and the following text offers specific ideas for counseling men who are struggling with these concerns. The reader may also want to visit www. for information on a broad range of men's health-related issues.

Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

When counseling a man who expresses concern regarding ED, the counselor should encourage the man to have a full medical examination so that the extent of the problem is fully understood. Biological causes of ED may be treated differently from psychological causes; in either case, however, the counselor needs to understand the embarrassment, anxiety, and sometimes the sense of loss that men with ED may have (Wittmann, Foley, & Balon, 2011). Such feelings can prevent clients from discussing their concerns and can result in poor or even lack of treatment of ED. Often, the treatment of ED involves a biopsychosocial approach that includes biological interventions, education, and counseling. …

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