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Male Therapists Are in Short Supply. What If Your Partner Only Wants to Talk to Another Man?
If this describes someone you love, you could tell him that, in terms of the research, a psychologist's gender makes little difference in the outcome of therapy. Or you could be a bit more useful. (Even if you don't agree with him, it's his belief that matters—you want him to get help, remember?).
To find out exactly what you can do, we followed up with one of Carey's sources for the article, Ronald F. Levant, EdD, a professor of psychology at the University of Akron, who is recognized as an authority on the psychology of men and masculinity.
If your partner has already expressed interest in talking to a male therapist: "There are a variety of resources for people to find one," says Levant. "The American Psychological Association, The National Association of Social Workers, The American Counseling Association all have locator resources. They don't list by gender, but you can often tell from names and photos which ones are men."
If there aren't any therapists in your area who are a good fit for him: "Consider online therapy," says Levant. "Some research, including a 2006 study published in the journal Psychology of Men & Masculinity, shows that men who tend to be more traditional in their perception of gender roles tend to prefer less personal forms of counseling. So online counseling might be an option for them. Your best bet is to contact the National Register of Health Service Providers in psychology." [Note: We did, and they told us that online therapy is a growing field that has become very popular with the military. But the military abides by different licensing requirements than most states, so the National Register suggests using their Find a Psychologist tool to find a licensed, credentialed psychologist in your state and contact them to ask if they provide therapy online. If they don't, ask if they can refer you to someone who does.]
If he still can't find the right guy: "I suggest stretching the boundaries of the word 'therapist.'" says Levant. "Maybe there's a pastoral counselor he could talk to. Many priests and ministers have been trained to provide counseling, or have received training in their Doctor of Ministry programs. Of course, while they may not be licensed as psychotherapists, you do want to look for someone who is reasonably competent." [The American Association for Pastoral Counselors offers general information about pastoral counseling. Read about state licensing of this profession and go here to find a counselor in your area.]
If he's found a qualified female therapist that he likes, but still feels hesitant about opening up to her about topics such as sex, masculinity or aggression: "Say to him, 'Why don't you tell her about your discomfort? See how she responds. Maybe she has a good idea of how to deal with this.'" says Levant. "A good therapist will know how to respond, and if she doesn't handle it well, then encourage him to move on. A fundamental requirement for being a good therapist is to be able to put aside your own frame of reference and see things from the perspective of your client. That's the essence of clinical training."
If all else fails, you might remind him that if Tony Soprano, one of the most masculine characters on television, was able to discuss his work and family problems with a female psychiatrist, he may as well give it a try.