Counseling Across Gender

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  • 0:01 Gender
  • 0:48 Gender Roles
  • 2:41 Counseling Across Gender
  • 4:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

How does gender impact counseling? Should counselors approach clients of different genders differently? In this lesson, we'll look at some of the challenges with regards to counseling across gender lines and the impact of gender roles on mental health.


Carl is a counselor, and he just got a job at a center that focuses on women's health and issues. He'll be working almost exclusively with female clients, and he's a little nervous about that. Is there anything unique that he needs to know about counseling women?

Gender is the state of being male or female. That is, whether a person is a man or a woman is typically considered to be his or her gender. But being male or female is not the end of the story; there are certain expectations and experiences that come with being one gender or another, and these can greatly influence a person and his or her life.

Let's look closer at gender, particularly gender roles and gender in counseling, and what things counselors like Carl should be aware of.

Gender Roles

As we've said, a person's gender is whether they are male or female. But what does that really say about a person? Since Carl is male, does that mean that we can automatically assume certain things about him and his personality?

No! But that's what some people do, anyway. Gender roles are expectations about how each gender should act, think, speak, and interact within society. Many people stereotype others based on gender roles. For example, Carl is a man, so he might be expected to be tough, independent, and work-oriented. You've heard the expression, 'Boys don't cry,' right? That's an example of a gender role - that men are tough and not emotional.

On the other hand, female gender roles might include the belief that women are sensitive, nurturing, and family-oriented. They might not be expected to be more focused on work than family or to be tough and not interested in nurturing others.

What do gender roles have to do with counseling? Because they are a deeply ingrained part of society, people can feel pressure to act certain ways. But if those ways are not part of who they naturally are, it can make them deeply unhappy.

For example, if Carl is sensitive and prefers to talk about feelings than sports, he might have a hard time with people judging him or making comments about his masculinity. This can be hard, but if Carl tries to pretend to be a macho man, he might experience depression because he is not being true to himself.

As a counselor, Carl is likely to see some people who feel depressed or upset because they don't fit into the mold of a traditional gender role. By understanding gender roles and knowing that they are socially constructed, Carl can help his clients find a way to be true to themselves and not feel bad for being different from what's expected of them.

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