What Men Want From Psychotherapy

Men are much less likely to seek clinical help for their psychological issues than women. Because they hold to traditional male gender roles, most men do not respond to psychotherapy delivered in a generic approach, most often welcomed and received positively by women. “Practitioners who are accustomed to working in androgynous environments may fail to fully grasp the foreign nature of psychotherapy to men who hold “traditional” North American masculine gender role beliefs,” said Robinder P. Bedi and Mica Richards of Western Washington University, authors of a new study exploring what approaches provide the best outcome for men in psychotherapy. “Understanding the perspective of men and further appreciating the impact of gender role socialization on alliance formation will enable psychotherapists to provide improved mental health services to men, a group that appears to be less well served than women by conventional psychotherapy practices.”

The researchers evaluated 37 male clients who were entering therapy for stress, anxiety, substance use, trauma and depression. They found the factors that were most important for the development of a healthy client-therapist alliance for the men were Formal Respect, Client Responsibility, Practical Help and Bringing out the Issues. “Bringing out the Issues (labeled using the language of the men in the study) emerged as a key category in understanding the perspective of men on the therapeutic alliance,” said the researchers. “It was the largest category, found to be statistically significantly more helpful and understood than all other categories except Client Responsibility and Formal Respect.” The team emphasized that clinicians who wish to achieve a positive outcome with their male clients should understand this fundamental difference between men and women in treatment. They added, “In developing a therapeutic alliance with a typical man, it seems important to balance conventional relationship-building techniques, such as empathy, paraphrases, normalization, and validation, with asking questions and providing suggestions.”

Bedi, R. P., & Richards, M. (2011, May 23). What a Man Wants: The Male Perspective on Therapeutic Alliance Formation. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0022424

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Carmen


    September 30th, 2011 at 10:38 PM

    Men are so used to being tough and ‘macho’ that sharing your problems with others is considered to be cowardly..This is the main problem why they find it hard to open up to a counselor first and foremost..And therapy is something that just cannot move forward without good rapport between the counselor and the client…And I suppose men make this process very hard.

  • Sal


    October 1st, 2011 at 5:41 PM

    I think that in general men have a much harder time admitting that they need help. So maybe they need to be coddled a little bit more diring the therapy process? But no matter- if they have sought out therapy then even though they may not be quite as open to sharing as someone else of another gender may be, they have to be willing to give it a try and want to get something out of it or they would not wnat to be there. I just think that maybe a therapist that mainly deals with men and their issues would probably be better equipped to deal with this hesitation that they might face.



    October 1st, 2011 at 11:45 PM

    From the gender differences,it must now be clear that the methods and techniques that work for women may not work for men and even if they do the level of success could well be different.

    So the need of the our according to me would be to devise newer methods and techniques in therapy that are tailor made for men.It may mean it takes some time but at least we will then be able to encourage men to cone forward to therapy and not let negative thoughts amongst others take over their lives.

  • doris


    October 2nd, 2011 at 6:26 AM

    Just like anything else in life men want something different that what a woman wants.

    On the sorry end of that men want to take the easy route and get the quick fix.

    They don’t wnat to delve into the real issues but keep it short, simple, and sweet, with the least amount of talking possible.

    Hate me if you like, but that’s the way I see it.

  • josh


    October 2nd, 2011 at 9:59 PM

    the emotional levels of men and women are different and there’s no proof required for that.just as is for any other group,treatment and therapy that is specific to men would be more beneficial to them.so if the success of therapy for men is to come close to the same for women,we need to make changes to suit for men.and before all that can happen,the first step would be to encourage men to seek help because a lot of times things complicate just because they were not fixed sooner.



    October 3rd, 2011 at 3:47 AM

    The problems that cause stress in women are not the same for men.So it only makes sense that there are appropriate approaches of therapy for each group.Only then can we provide good therapy to all.

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