Why is Therapy Difficult for Men?

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June 2, 2015
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Why is Therapy Difficult for Men?

by Patrick Heard, MA

Silver and gold will not make men better. It is the opinions of wise men that enrich with virtue those who share them.

Plato

Why don’t many men seek out counseling as often as women?

1. Men often perceive counseling as an unfriendly, even unsafe environment. They believe that they are being told they are the problem, and that they are the cause of the relationship conflict and they are being called in to explain their failures.

2. Men who have experienced earlier failures or losses in childhood are more vulnerable to attention given to a fragile masculinity. Men react to their woundedness by lashing out and attacking or projecting blame to others in an attempt to protect and guard against further damage.

3. Men are not wired to want to express their emotions and expose their inner feelings to others while women value the social exchange with others as essential and meaningful for life.

How to make counseling more user-friendly for men:

  1. Don’t call it counseling. Call it consultation or label the male as the collaborators.
  2. Offer short-term classes, or workshops on various topics that would appeal to men.
  3. State the goal of therapy for men is to strengthen them, empower, and build them up.
  4. Normalize their anxiety about therapy and sharing their feelings.
  5. Sharing stories of other men’s journey in counseling may help reassure resistant men.
  6. Your own self disclosure can also help men to feel they are more like others than not.
  7. Acknowledge defensiveness as a protective mechanism that they feel they need to use and then help them learn when to lay the defenses aside.
  8. Mix in humor and small talk about subjects that men enjoy talking about.
  9. Heap abundant praise on men when they are engaged in sharing their feelings, when they push past fear and acknowledge vulnerability.

For more on this subject see David Wexler’s book, Men in Therapy, and various editions of Psychotherapy Networker.