Column by Nicky Ferry, training development manager at Gloucestershire Counselling Service in Stroud.

There’s been a lot of talk about Toxic Masculinity, especially in the wake of multiple mass shootings in the US and the global #MeToo campaign.

Indeed many of our political and world leaders stand out as prime examples of seriously imbalanced masculinity.

They pursue money, power and sex untethered from any real sense of responsibility, integrity or compassion. These men are steeped in a profound sense of patriarchal entitlement.

Yet what of the – very many - men who are horrified by such out-dated and abusive versions of manhood?

Where are healthy male role-models to be found – especially when increasing numbers of boys are growing up with absent fathers – or fathers who do not engage?

Culturally we are confused about masculinity, throughout advertising we see sanitised examples of masculinity that seem perfect, boyish and unthreatening.

In the counter culture we do meet men who stand out as naturally confident and kind, as we do in the mainstream, yet the alternative world is also riddled with toxicity in the form of male teachers and gurus who abuse their power as well as men emasculated by their guilt.

We know that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 and the statistic is increasing every year, when it isn’t for women.

While women are conditioned from birth to form close relationships and share their feelings and anxieties, men are taught directly or covertly that emotional openness is tantamount to weakness and is shamefully emasculating.

Yet as much as men can learn to be more connected to themselves and others from women, they need to find their way to authentic and healthy masculinity as men.

And healthy masculinity needs to embrace the drives for adventure, for empowerment and for intimate relationship.

Quite simply men do not need to ‘be’ a man, or struggle to develop their masculinity - they already are a man.

Authenticity is often more about unlearning toxic conditioning, than it is about learning to be real.

If you are interested to explore issues of masculinity, or are a psychotherapist, counsellor, psychologist or teacher, GCS is hosting a training day – to which all genders are welcome - with Professor Andrew Samuel on July 4, 2020 Men’s Issues in Psychotherapy and Counselling. See