California State University, Fullerton, counseling professors Matt Englar-Carlson, PhD, and David Shepard, PhD, teach graduate psychology classes on counseling and conducting therapy with men. Here are a few tips they share with students to make sure clients have effective sessions:

In the first session:

  • Acknowledge at the start any possible ambivalence or resistance toward therapy.

  • Recognize any fear of treatment and perceptions that help-seeking indicates failure.

  • Avoid pushing for feelings too soon; take a client's lead.

  • Facilitate an egalitarian relationship by responding honestly to questions that may require some self-disclosure.

  • Don't assume men know their feelings or can articulate them.

  • Assess how much the client adheres to traditional notions of masculinity--is he highly competitive, reluctant to admit any psychological distress or emotionally restricted?

As counseling progresses:

  • Tell the client how men are socialized to disregard feelings.

  • Explain the value of feelings.

  • Help him identify his feelings.

  • Convey that anger covers sadness, loss and shame.

  • Help the client express yearnings for connections and intimacy.

--M. GREER