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Men In Therapy

If you are wondering why your husband or partner is reluctant to participate in or continue therapy—whether it’s individual or couples therapy, research shows there are some very good reasons. A recent article in Family Therapy Magazine emphasizes the necessity for a different approach if we want more men to come to therapy. We are learning that an understanding of the “neuroscience of gender” is essential. How the male brain works gives us a clue as to how to approach working with males in therapeutic settings.

For example, did you know that a man has a lower attention span when he is sedentary than a woman? Asking a man to sit for 50 minutes and talk about his feelings is painstaking for a male. Moving around is much more helpful in order for the male brain to remain attentive. Therapists who allow men to wander around the room or even take a walk with them have more success in seeing them again.

Secondly, when we ask men to verbalize their thoughts and feelings, they often struggle. Why? Research shows that men have fewer “verbal centers” than women, particularly when sitting and talking, which is the primary vehicle for therapy. Additionally, the emotion they do show often gets misunderstood. There is actually a scientific basis for emotional expression. For example, if a man shows anger, he might be dismissed as being aggressive. However, anger in men is usually a way for men to express fear, pain, grief, shame—emotions that women can access more quickly with less aggressive defenses. One explanation for this is that women’s biochemistry contains more Oxycontin then men, making emotive processing and word/feeling associations much easier and more natural to them than it is for men. Research on longevity of men in therapy shows that they are more likely to continue if their lives are addressed more thematically through character, manhood, and values instead of feelings and emotion. So women, if you wish to have more productive “therapeutic” talks with your husband or partner, consider changing your expectations. Take into account the new male brain science, and you may see a lot more progress in your communication.

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