Masculinity and barriers to seeking counseling: The buffering role of self-compassion

J Couns Psychol. 2017 Jan;64(1):94-103. doi: 10.1037/cou0000185.


Less than 1/3 of college men seek psychological help per year when experiencing mental health concerns. Many believe this is because socialized masculine norms are incongruent with help-seeking decisions. In line with this, adherence to masculine norms, like emotional control and self-reliance, is consistently linked to factors associated with lower use of counseling. Identifying constructs that buffer, or reduce, the relationship between masculine norm adherence and common barriers to seeking help, like help-seeking self-stigma and resistance to self-disclosing, could shed light on mechanisms through which effective interventions could be developed. As such, this study examined whether self-compassion, or the ability to show oneself kindness and understanding in the face of challenges, moderated the relationship between masculine norm adherence and both help-seeking self-stigma and the risks associated with self-disclosing to a counselor in a sample of 284 undergraduate men (Mage = 19.68, range = 18-30). Results indicate that self-compassion is associated with lower levels of help-seeking self-stigma and disclosure risks. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, self-compassion buffered the relationship between overall masculine norm adherence and each of these barriers. Furthermore, when specific masculine norms were examined, self-compassion buffered the relationship between emotional control and disclosure risks. These results support the need for future research focused on the development and assessment of self-compassion based interventions aimed at decreasing the barriers undergraduate men experience toward seeking psychological help. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Counseling*
  • Empathy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Masculinity*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care* / psychology
  • Self Disclosure
  • Social Conformity
  • Social Stigma
  • Students / psychology
  • Young Adult