By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.


The divorce rate in the United States has hit an all-time high. It’s easier than ever to give up and get out. Domestic violence rates have also skyrocketed as stressors have become ubiquitous in families where both partners (or parents) must work and try to juggle responsibilities for family, career and marriage.


Here’s a look at some of the issues around counseling men:

  • Theories and therapies designed to better understand men have been under development since the late 1960’s. But today’s man seems to be barraged by stressors unlike in any other era. New theories of male psychology are a must! Men are very susceptible to “emotional hijacking by the limbic system” in situations that they perceive to be emotionally threatening. And they are more prone to “emotional flooding” in relationship conflict situations.
  • The latest research about male brain patterns suggests that men have an atypical response to depression. It is imperative that clinicians have a good working knowledge of these impacts.
  • Men are a complex breed and can be highly defensive in psychotherapy. Do you feel adept at bringing out the best qualities in your defensive male clients? For example, acknowledging men’s strengths and positive contributions in a relationship often relaxes male defensiveness-so the therapeutic message can really sink in. And men respond much better if they think of therapy as “coaching” or “consulting.’
  • When men are aggressive or violent in their relationships, it is often difficult to access our empathy. Try as we might, we may even find ourselves becoming judgmental. The self-psychological perspective enables us to avoid negative countertransference and to better understand these “good men behaving badly.” Just as in a love relationship, recognizing the underlying anxiety and sense of powerlessness in these men allow us to recognize ourselves in them.
  • Most of us can recite the DSM criteria for a Major Depressive Episode in our sleep. We know by heart the symptoms of anhedonia, worthlessness, poor concentration, loss of energy, weight changes, hopelessness and suicidality. But in men, often those symptoms are absent, though we know the man is depressed. Do you know what signs and symptoms to look for in order to assess male-type depression? Exaggerated behavior, blaming others, avoidance and escape, and discontent with self are classic signs of “male-type depression.”
  • Women often come to us with complaints that their male partners are unemotional and withdrawn. It’s time to develop a more informed and compassionate perspective about men’s emotional struggles in relationships and ways that you can help men enhance their relational function. Men are extremely sensitized to the “broken mirror” experience in their relationships with the women they love, and they often experience women as holding the power to govern their self-esteem and sense of well-being-even though women rarely ask or desire this power!
  • When we provide education and communication skills building to couples in therapy, men often tell us that they’d “never talk like that!” In order to help your male clients better deal with their emotions and to communicate more effectively in intimate relationships (using “guy talk” rather than “therapese”), you’ll need some innovative new strategies! Offering more compassion and patience can be framed as “relational heroism.” Managing temper can be framed as “getting power” over oneself.


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