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MEN IN COUNSELING

December 2012

Announcing the Secret of Men's Depression: "The Plight of the Wounded and Wounding Man" workshop by Wendy Allen for SBCC Adult Education, January 19 from 9-12PM at the Schott Center. CEU's available. Open to students and the public. To attend, you must pre-register: 687-0812.


I have been working with couples for 25 years. How to really help men in therapy has undergone many changes over the years.

This is because Couples Therapy itself keeps evolving into new and more effective models. What used to be one component of family therapy is now a distinct entity in itself and requires specialized study, training, and therapeutic skills.

  • Women like therapy. It mirrors closely with our socialization and how our female brain works.
  • We have a long history of loving to talk in depth about anything and everything.
  • We find the process of change and transformation to be less frightening and more fascinating.
  • 2/3 of men have a more masculine brain style.
  • More testosterone means men like more control and domination over their problems and a vocabulary related to, “find it and fix it.”
  • Women get more dopamine from talking. Men don't. Men will talk as much as a women if there is a good, problem-solving reason.
  • Women talk to connect, men have to be connected to talk.


Therapist Pat Love (yes, that is her real last name) believes that women measure intimacy by interaction and men measure intimacy by proximity.

  • The Mirror Neuron System that gets developed early in women brings us to use a Classic Empathic System that spread everywhere.
  • For men, there is a different channel to empathy. The Temporal Perinatal Function works for men as, “I see you sad and I want to fix it.”


Instead of trying to turn men into more feminized versions of themselves, a Couples Therapist needs to help both men and women decipher the gender differences that lead both into really saying and wanting the same things: to be respected, acknowledged, heard, and cherished. The way both genders ask naturally express what they want can be very confusing and vitally different.

  • Women “tend and befriend.” We want to understand, thinking that will expose the “roots” of a behavior and give both of us lasting insight into our male partners.
  • Women need to “see” men's feelings and not just wait for them to put it into words they can understand. Often, my job is like a translator at the U.N. to help both partners understand what the other really means.
  • Women want men to tell them that they love them and to do it with a significant emotional expression
  • Men want to be acknowledged and thanked for the modern-day tasks that have taken the place of survival, protection and provide. Society has somewhat emasculated men and they often channel their energy onto paths that are soulless or soul-killing.
  • The damage of this in men is causing them to try and be powerful in ways that don't fit into a loving relationship
  • Men may revert to an unhealthy kind of power (controlling) or feeling helpless and powerless. Withdrawal and defiance are manifestations of this. I help them want to reverse this.
  • Women want to be nurtured as they themselves find easy to nurture. Men don't do this. They do and show in ways that make them loving accomplices. Women need to see these as loving acts.


Pat Love believes that men want to please women more than women want to please men.

In my work I have learned that men like clean requests that they can say “yes” or “no” to.
I help spouses learn to shift from complaint to a very specific request.

Instead of saying, “you're not doing your part of the housework,” say, “I'd like to make a request that you take the trash out every night after dinner” and “I'd like to make a request that you offer to cook three nights a week.”

This way the woman makes her request, cleanly and specifically., the man can say yes or no or at what percentage he can meet this request. Both spouses must learn to do this.

Then, you see where you are.

To the man I ask, “What is keeping you from getting what you want in this relationship?” And what I'm looking for is an answer that takes into account his part, the only part he can control and change.

When Dr. Love says to the woman, “look at him, this is the man who wants to please you, but only while his dignity and self-respect remain intact,” often ends the gridlock and brings the woman back in to the connection.

  • I teach men what dignity and self-respect really are, which is really different from dominating power.
  • I teach this to the women, too. It helps all of us avoid falling into the trap of the old-fashioned idea that men must develop estrogenic, female qualities.
  • I join with the hard truths of what behaviors and attitudes are working and what is not. This resonates with men and is very different then joining through empathy, which does not impact how a man can succeed in the relationship. I want the men to succeed in change, health, and happiness through what they come to understand and what they do.