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.