Why Men’s Therapy?

Just as the competent therapist sees women in the context of gender roles that therapist must also see men in the context of those roles and understand the impact of gender role strain on the male client. A deep understanding of the roles of men will also aid the therapist in communicating to the client as well as helping the client to use the therapeutic experience as completely as possible.

The stoic nature of men requires that they not seek a great deal of nurturance or support thus depriving them of tapping into a rather rich vein in the therapeutic enterprise. The autonomy and rigid masculinity prescribed by contemporary male roles significantly reflects and affects the therapeutic encounter. Therefore, therapy with men requires determination on the part of the therapist as there are often conflicts in the therapy engendered by the very elements of male roles which create the problems that cause men to come for therapy.

Impediments to Getting Help

Men are raised to see the world in an adversarial manner and to seek mastery of it. Psychotherapy functions best when it is a cooperative endeavor. Because of the structure of the situation, mastery remains in the hands of the therapist; mastery here does not imply complete control but rather that the therapist is in charge. This is so because it is the therapist who is the expert, who understands the structure of the interaction, and is to whom the client has come for assistance. Certainly the client has some power in the situation but by and large it is the therapist who ultimately is in charge, even in non-directive therapy as the therapist chooses what will be responded to.

Because therapy requires some surrender of autonomy as well as the development of an emotionally intimate climate the therapist must be patient as the male client grapples with yielding to these requirements. Therapy is antithetical to the way in which most men wish to dwell in the world. The are usually angry and/or depressed that they have had to resort to seeking aid which makes them unwilling to enter into the therapeutic bond. This unwillingness is exacerbated by the general reluctance of men to develop intimate relationships. This resistance stems from the emotional restrictions of men plus the danger to the competitive instinct should one get too involved with another person. The male client experiences conflict because he is struggling against establishing a relationship while the therapist is struggling to establish one.

Dr. Scher’s Approach

Dr. Scher is a pioneer in the area of psychotherapy with men. Decades ago, Dr. Scher began to question the constricting qualities of the male gender role traditionally practiced in Western culture. In its place, Dr. Scher called for the development of a nonsexist men’s movement, which emphasized a profeminist, gay-affirming, and non-racist conception of masculinity.

His 1979 articles in the then Personnel and Guidance Journal, were among the earliest articles on psychotherapy with men taking into account their gender role qualities. He was also the original editor of the Handbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Men, which was the first such compendium on the topic.

Based on his vast clinical experiences with adult men, young boys, and adolescent males; Dr. Scher began to formulate therapeutic strategies for helping males to live more emotionally connected and socially constructive lives. Although his contributions to the psychology of men are too numerous to describe here, it is worth noting that Dr. Scher is the author or editor of several books pertaining to men’s and gender issues in counseling.

Partial listing Dr. Scher’s writings on men’s psychotherapy:
Gilbert, L.A. & Scher, M. (1999). Gender and Sex in Counseling and Psychotherapy. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Scher, M., Stevens, M., Good, G. & Eichenfield, G. (Eds.) (1987). Handbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Men. Newbury Park, CA: Sage

1979, On counseling men. The Personnel and Guidance Journal. 57, 252-254

1979, The little boy in the adult male client. The Personnel and Guidance Journal. 57, 537-539

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