Counselors Say Men Are More Willing to Try Couples Therapy
When It Focuses on
by E. Bernstein; Wall Street Journal
There's a complaint I hear on a regular basis from readers: "My marriage is on the rocks, but my husband refuses to use couples therapy."
There are variations around the theme. Sometimes, wedding ceremony is over, and also the wife thinks if the couple had opted to therapy it might have been saved. Once in a while a male writes to say he regrets refusing to try it until it absolutely was too late.
Some marriage therapists are beginning to create a more male-friendly type of couples counseling to deal with this common situation. The gist is less talk, more practical solutions.
Decades of research has shown there is some truth to many of the stereotypes about men and psychotherapy: Men really do not talk about their emotions. They be worried about controlling their anger. They resist getting help, whether or not it's asking for directions or going to the doctor. They think care is "just talk" and isn't solution-oriented enough, or that this wife along with the therapist (that's often a woman) will gang up on the husband.
Of course, there is a stigma about psychotherapy among both males and females. And therapy isn't a surefire relationship preserver: Some couples who check it out still wind up splitting.
But psychologists and other experts say the stigma against treatment therapy is often stronger among men, and overcoming their resistance can be quite a critical 1st step in re-establishing communication.
Men typically don't want to go simply because they think they're being shamed or scolded. WSJ's Elizabeth Bernstein discusses ways to get men into therapy on Lunch Break with Sara Murray. Photo: iStock/4774344sean
In some instances, once the wife asks the husband to venture to therapy, she gets been hard on him, labeling him as bad at opening, or "emotionally impotent," says Traci Ruble, a relationship and family therapist in San Francisco who focuses primarily on helping men feel relaxed in therapy. "I don't wish to pick on women—they're usually hurt because they want the connection—but the way they try to obtain husband to start up is simply by shaming him, which never works."
Men may feel coerced into counseling by their partner, says Gary Brooks, a Temple, Texas, psychologist and co-author in the 2010 book "Beyond the Crisis of Masculinity." Many men receive the ultimatum "If that you do not go, we have been done," he states.
Because women are really much more comfortable discussing their feelings, some men believe that treatments are female-oriented and that they will be at a disadvantage, Dr. Brooks says. "Men go into therapy feeling 'one down,' " he admits that. They "have an idea that masculinity has to be proven, a constant anxiety of, "Am I man enough?'"
Dr. Brooks is promoting a male-friendly therapy practice called "Gender-Aware Couples Therapy" that focuses more about practical advice and having results compared to talking through problems. "It actively works to recognize a man partner's feelings and pain," Dr. Brooks says. "It assures him that while he will be held accountable, he can not be blamed for all you problems."
To start, Dr. Brooks sees the male partner alone for a session or two, to assist him articulate why he or she is angry. Often, the man has been doing something destructive to the relationship—drinking, philandering, closing. Dr. Brooks says the aim in these sessions is to help the man recognize the sentiments driving his behavior.
"We mention the frustration," he admits that. "They feel they're trying but whatever they do it isn't really enough." One in the most helpful questions he admits that he asks is, "What's bugging the hell from you?"
During the couples sessions, Dr. Brooks explains on the wife that his job being a therapist is to aid the man articulate his feelings. He encourages the person to tell his wife what has been bothering him. He makes sure the couple talks about things the man has been doing right in the relationship, to make certain the woman recognizes this stuff.
Even before heading to therapy, experts say you can move past the impasse in the man's aversion to counseling. The partner who wants to attend therapy usually takes preliminary steps.
Start a conversation in regards to the pros and cons in a concrete, action- oriented manner. Frame the counseling as a preventative measure. "Put it in guy -friendly language," says Matt Englar-Carlson, a psychologist and professor of counseling at California State University, Fullerton, who studies men and therapy. Talk about needing "maintenance," "a tuneup" or "an oil change."
Discuss everything you both think you could get out of it. What are the goals and important things about going? How will you comprehend it is working? "There should be an ongoing dialogue," says Mia Adler Ozair, a Los Angeles clinical psychotherapist. "It is not a power struggle."
Focus about the hopeful outcome. Say: "I would like to go to therapy with you, because I think we needs to be having more fun, high should be more sex, more kindness and much more fairness within our relationship. I am not sure steps to make it happen. Let's find someone to aid us."
"Appeal to his a sense return on investment," Ms. Ruble, the San Francisco therapist, says. "I think the person wants to feel that he or she is going to get his money's worth."
Take responsibility for your own behavior. Say that you want to look at your part of what is wrong so you need help.
"She is performing two things when she constitutes a statement like this," Ms. Ruble says. "She is setting an illustration for her husband for the way easy it could be to be vulnerable and be responsible, and she or he is reassuring him that isn't going to become a gang-up session."
Don't issue ultimatums. Use "we" instead of "you." ("We might want to consider counseling," not "You want to do this for me personally.") Realize that sometimes a guy doesn't want to venture to counseling because he is worried the situation is worse than he thinks.
Promise to get supportive. Tell him you will not interrupt him so you really desire to hear what he wants to convey because you worry about him along with the relationship.
"You are shifting the main focus from 'I want my tastes met and want to be heard' to 'I desire to hear you and whatever you need,' " Ms. Adler Ozair says.
Take the initiative to discover a therapist, Ms. Ruble says. "I think she could close the sale by saying, 'I am going to find three those who may be able to aid us, we are going to talk to them on the phone as soon as we decide together what type we like, we will meet with the counselor for 2 sessions before we choose to commit.'"
There are steps men will take, too. Be honest about your purpose in nervous about therapy and whatever you fear. Read in regards to the process, speak with friends who have gone through it. If you understand more you might realize it's not that bad. Come up with some therapist candidates yourself. This can be empowering.
Remember: Being really good in a lot of things does not imply you is going to be good at everything. "We appear to have no problem taking a new class for professional skills," says Ms. Ruble. "So we shouldn't be ashamed to go out and learn some new emotional skills."