Monday, May 23, 2011

Psych Central - Hard to Find a Male Therapist?

Yesterday I posted an article from the New York Times on the challenges of finding a male therapist - and the likelihood that it will get tougher in the future as current therapists retire and the current 5:1 ratio of women to men becomes more felt in the marketplace.

Dr. John Grohol, the CEO and founder of Psych Central, basically says, "So what?"

I think he is seeing the issue only from a mental health perspective - there seems to be no recognition of the gender issues some men may have in choosing a therapist. As the NYT article suggests, many men (not all, but a significant number) would prefer to have a male therapist.

Likewise, there are many instances when a male therapist is desirable for women, too. Several women who read the last post felt that a male therapist was their preference and was necessary for their growth. I am about to begin my practicum and internship at a facility that works with sexual assault victims - I will be the only male intern, and they are glad to have me.

I was told that they sometimes prefer a male therapist for some clients to allow a powerful transference (my supervisor is classical psychoanalytic) and to act as a model of a male who is not violent and who does not treat them badly.

Considering these factors and others, there is a need for more male therapists, in my opinion.

Hard to Find a Male Therapist?

By John M Grohol PsyD
Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Hard to Find a Male Therapist

Well, yes. Fewer men are choosing clinical psychology as a profession.

We’ve known this for many years, as graduate programs in psychology — both Master’s level and doctoral — have increasingly become female-dominated. In my graduate class of 1990, over 75% of the class was female. That percentage has only increased in the past two decades.

So Benedict Carey’s new article in the New York Times is a bit of a puzzler. The angle is that because of this gender discrepancy, a good male therapist is increasingly becoming difficult to find:

Researchers began tracking the “feminization” of mental health care more than a generation ago, when women started to outnumber men in fields like psychology and counseling. Today the takeover is almost complete.

And I say, “So what?”

I say that only because while I think everyone should have their choice of therapist gender, there’s virtually no research demonstrating that there’s any relationship between therapist gender, client gender and treatment outcomes. Since there’s no data, it’s hard to get too worked up about a trend that started over 30 years ago.

So instead of data, Carey trots out a few — mostly male — therapists to sound the warning bells:

“There’s a way in which a guy grows up that he knows some things that women don’t know, and vice versa,” said David Moultrup, a psychotherapist in Belmont, Mass. “But that male viewpoint has been so devalued in the course of empowering little girls for the past 40 or 50 years that it is now all but lost in talk therapy. Society needs to have the choice, and the choice is being taken away.”

Actually, without data, we don’t know that “the choice is being taken away.” We know that there are less male therapists than there were 30 years ago. But we don’t know whether that makes any difference. Are fewer men seeking therapy because of it? Are men who do seek therapy from a woman when they wanted to see a male worse off because of it?

These are good questions to ask. But without research, we don’t know the answers.

Despite these complaints - and more, so read the whole article - Grohol still recommends the NYT article.

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