Should men be treated differently in psychotherapy?
31st January, 2012
According to Dr. Martin Phillips (2008) women in our society are better ‘educated’ in understanding and expressing a wider range of emotions. For example, it is more culturally acceptable for young girls to express sadness, fear, disappointment or embarrassment. Often young boys are told, “be a man… suck it up… don’t be weak”. So why are we surprised when those boys grow up to be emotionally uneducated men?
I wonder if men would be more willing to accept psychotherapy for emotional disorder if they felt that the source of their symptoms had an organic cause.
It is possible that many men may recall childhood memories of their parents and others that were close to them saying things like "it's only a scratch" and "big boys don't cry". Such comments suggest that the young child should cope with those apparently minor traumatic events on the basis that there was no significant visible damage if the child was to become a big boy, as if becoming a "big boy" was the prized goal and therefore making this goal highly desirable. It is possible that a child would learn under such circumstances that they should work hard to achieve the status of being a "big boy" and this could have been reinforced on each occasion that they managed to fight back the tears having cut themselves or suffered the unexpected loss of their close pal "Big Ted".
Having accepted the idea that they should dismiss minor trauma and rise above any resulting pain experienced (both physical and mental) as a young boy, an adult male may find that they needed concrete evidence to support any feelings of despair so that a measured response could be expressed in an attempt to conform to the socially norms expected of the "grown man".
It is true that every individual's childhood is different and that the call to dismiss emotion will vary from child to child, some will be encouraged to show no emotion at all, others will be allowed to show more emotion depending upon the circumstance. However, it is a culturally acceptable part of British (world?) culture that boys are expected to react differently to girls when faced with adversity (Susanna Duffy, 2006).
Based up on what has been said, there is a question to be answered...Is it possible that men do not express those painful mental cognitions, emotions and those physical sensations that cannot be readily accounted for due to the fact that the source or root cause cannot be measured in a way that allows a man to determine the appropriateness of his response? If a man feels that there is no clear justification for his "groaning" he has been pre-programmed not to "groan". With this in mind, is it time to consider a revolutionary approach to treating men from a psychotherapeutic perspective? Could treatment that commenced from a physiological perspective, talking about the effects of biochemical stimulus upon internal organs and the role of our nervous system in the development and maintenance of distress or the very real possibility of being able to identify the chemical cortisol in the bloodstream of those who are very stressed. (Liz Jones, 2011) encourage greater male participation in psychotherapy.
Whether accepted by those in the field of psychology or not, the medical model of illness continues to be the model most readily accepted by those living in western society and there appears to be something strangely reassuring to men when they learn that those symptoms that they feared were a sign of their "weakness" or "maddness" originate from a place that they feel familiar with; their own complex biological beings.
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