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.
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