The American Psychological Association (APA), America’s largest professional organization of psychologists, has introduced a set of detailed guidelines for clinicians who treat men and boys. The “APA Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men” covers 36 pages. The APA claims that “traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful.”1
Why is the APA concerned about masculinity? Men, on the whole, are either not that interested in going to counseling or they are repelled by the whole idea of counseling. It is also well-known that men are generally biased against in therapy. As one social psychologist says:
If you’re a man who holds traditional values, why would you go see a psychologist when the starting point is that traditional masculinity is the problem?… Part of the problem among men is that one of the markers of traditional masculinity is independence and rejection of help.2
The evidence is in. Counseling is a functional environment for women and a dysfunctional environment for men. Most men naturally avoid it. However, they are often compelled to become involved. Once men are put into the one-down position in therapy, their masculinity is easily and often offended by the counselor. It has been said that many men conclude that they must become like women to succeed in psychotherapy.
The Psychotherapy Networker (PN), a journal for psychotherapists, devoted an entire issue to “The Secret World of Men: What Therapists Need to Know.” One PN therapist confirmed that:
Men usually get therapy only because someone else has insisted on it. When I ask men in an initial therapy session, “What are you doing here?” the answer I hear is “My wife told me I needed to be here.” Other times, it may be their boss or their grandmother or their doctor, or even a probation officer.3
Another PN therapist affirmed the same fact by saying, “Men more often came into therapy under pressure from someone else, frequently an unhappy spouse.”4 Also, the psychotherapist writers for PN would all no doubt agree with one of them who bluntly says that “even with men who know they need help is the very idea of sitting in a room, talking out loud about all this touchy-feely stuff; it creeps them out” (italics in original).5
Men in counseling are often caught between the proverbial “rock and a hard place.” They are yanked out of their reluctance to express the very feelings that women demand and are then criticized for expressing them. They often go into counseling wary and come out wimps. Psychology Today discussed this topic in an article titled “Man’s Last Stand: What Does It Take to Get a Guy into Therapy?”6
One author-therapist, Terrence Real, refers to these as “wife mandated referrals.” He says, “The average man is as likely to ask for help with a psychological problem as he is to ask for directions.” Real gives the reason: men do not consider counseling to be “manly.”7 This is doubly true among Christian men who are biblically knowledgeable and by conscience and common sense know they should not be there.
Of the total of those in counseling, the men who enter voluntarily are small in number. Gary Brooks, in his book A New Psychotherapy for Traditional Men, says, “Traditional men hate psychotherapy and will do most anything to avoid a therapist’s office.” He continues, “In fact, I believe that men’s aversion to therapy is so powerful that it’s wise to assume that most male clients, at some level, don’t want to be there.”8 Thus men are encouraged, intimidated, or brow-beaten into it by this culturally sanctioned phenomenon of counseling.
In Psychotherapy Networker one therapist reveals through humor the situation of men in counseling. He says:
You’ve heard the jokes. Every couples therapist has skid marks at the front door from husbands being dragged into the office.9
As much as men are not attracted to counseling, virtually all avenues in and out of the church force them into it. Again, counseling is a female-friendly activity, which obtains male clients mostly through intimidation, exaggerated claims, expectations of others, or coercion. Behind most men in psychotherapy or in biblical counseling is a woman, a court, an employer, a church denomination, or, as we have demonstrated elsewhere, a mission agency.
Absent a woman behind getting a man into counseling, the counseling movement would be seriously damaged, since up to one-third of the counselees (men) could disappear. Moreover, if the other personal, cultural, promotional, and legal incentives and mandates towards counseling were removed, men, on their own, would avoid it altogether.
If women were not in counseling as counselees, the men would not be there either and the whole problem-centered counseling mania would disintegrate.
PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, March-April 2019, Vol. 27, No.2)
1 “APA Guidelines for the PsychologicalPractice with Boys and Men,” American Psychological Association, August 2018, https://www.apa.org/about/policy/boys-men-practice-guidelines.pdf.
2 Amanda Mull, “Psychology Has a New Approach to Building Healthier Men,” The Atlantic, Jan 10, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/01/traditional-masculinity-american-psychological-association/580006/.
3 David Wexler, “Shame-O-Phobia,” Psychotherapy Networker, Vol. 34, No. 3, p. 23.
4 Holly Sweet, “Women Treating Men,” Psychotherapy Networker, Vol. 34, No. 3, p. 34
5 David Wexler, op. cit., p. 23.
6 Carl Sherman, “Man’s Last Stand,” Psychology Today, Vol. 37, No. 4, p. 71.
7 Terrence Real quoted by Sherman, ibid.
8 Gary R. Brooks. A New Psychotherapy for Traditional Men. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers,1998, pp. 41-42.
9 Steven Stosny, “Case Studies,” Psychotherapy Networker, Vol. 33, No. 2, p. 65.