Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

A Mixed Methods Study of Male Recruitment in the Counseling Profession

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

A Mixed Methods Study of Male Recruitment in the Counseling Profession

Article excerpt

Over the past 40 years, data suggest a widening gender gap for helping professionals, with approximately 70% of counselors, 71% of psychologists, and 82% of social workers identifying as women (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS], 2011). Fewer men are seeking higher education (Baum & Goodstein, 2005), and women outnumber men nearly two to one in counseling master's degree programs (Schweiger, Henderson, McCaskill, Clawson, & Collins, 2011). Men are the minority among students in master's degree programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 16.65%; T. Kimbel, personal communication, November 8, 2012) and among professional members of the American Counseling Association (ACA; 25.95%; R. A. Sites, personal communication, May 24, 2012). It is striking that counseling has become a female-concentrated profession, considering men represented half the professional counselor population in the 1970s (BLS, 2011).

Male counselors are a valued constituency for clients and may be especially critical for men seeking help for work life balance, sexual issues, and challenges of fatherhood (Rochlen & McKelley, 2009). Furthermore, ethical codes (ACA, 2005) and accreditation standards (CACREP, 2009) compel counselor educators to encourage individuals of varied backgrounds, including gender, to enter the counseling profession. Despite these professional imperatives, there is a paucity of research on the perceived impact of men entering the counseling profession.

A review of the interdisciplinary literature may offer insight to the entry patterns of men into female-concentrated professions and outline recruitment strategies that translate to professional counseling. The structural and psychological barriers that may impede recruitment of men have been examined in psychology (Norcross, Evans, & Ellis, 2010), social work (Christie & Kruk, 1998), nursing (Anthony, 2004), and teaching (Nelson, 2002). Although deterrents to professional entry exist, the implementation and impact of recruitment strategies vary across the helping professions. Marketing initiatives (e.g., slogans, pamphlets, websites) are designed to reach a wide audience to alter prevailing attitudes, entrenched stereotypes, and pervasive stigmas attached to men working in female-concentrated professions. Targeted recruitment efforts (e.g., personalized letters, informational forums, social networking) aim to increase professional access for underrepresented groups. Despite documented marketing and recruitment efforts among certain helping professions (Anderson, 2011; Morris-Compton, 2007), research is lacking on the perceived importance of similar techniques in professional counseling. In this article, we examine perceptions of male presence in the counseling field and male recruitment into counseling master's degree programs.


A triangulation design was chosen to explore quantitative and qualitative results and increase the breadth of inquiry (Creswell & Piano-Clark, 2010). Research questions included the following: (a) How, if at all, does the number of male students affect the culture of a graduate counseling program; (b) How, if at all, does the number of male counselors affect the counseling profession; and (c) How do counselors in training and counselor educators perceive efforts to recruit men into counseling master's degree programs?

Participants and Procedure

After obtaining institutional review board approval, a purposeful, sequential, multilevel sampling method was used with 10 counseling graduate students (Sample 1) and 217 counselor educators (Sample 2). Sample 1 included five master's degree and five doctoral students attending a counseling program at a large southeastern university. All participants identified as male. No additional demographic information was obtained to protect participant anonymity. Using phenomenological methodology to guide the data collection, the intention was to explore several individuals' experiences of a phenomenon (Creswell, 2007). …

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