Choosing a Male Or Female Therapist
The research has shown that the most important factor in the ultimate effectiveness of your therapy is your degree of comfort, trust, and emotional rapport and connection with your therapist. That should always be the number one most significant consideration, which is often irrelevant of his or her gender. If you’re seeking individual psychotherapy and you’ve always felt more able to speak openly, candidly, and comfortably with someone of your own gender — or, for that matter, to someone of the opposite gender — that is a very important consideration. So, whether you’re a man or woman, if you tend to “relate” better to, and to “be at ease” more with, men or women, that’s an extremely important consideration.
Historically and biologically, women tend to be more emotionally-focused than are men. Although this is certainly a generalization and there are countless exceptions in both men and women, in general, women tend to be more comfortable with the world of feelings, and are oftentimes more comfortable expressing them than are men. There are a great many men, for example, who can be very in touch with one feeling: that of of anger — often having seen that emotion modeled by their fathers as young boys — but who are not often aware of feelings of sadness, shame, or fear/anxiety, and/or who would often not be comfortable expressing those feelings even were they are aware of them. If you came from a household where your mom was more “emotional” or comfortable expressing feelings (other than anger) than your dad, you may be more likely to be more at ease sharing your feelings with a woman rather than a man — regardless of your own gender.
However, notwithstanding the above, there are a number of compelling reasons, as listed below, why choosing a male marriage counselor, relationship coach or psychotherapist may be the wise choice:
- Many men are more comfortable talking about issues regarding their sexuality with other men with whom they’re likely to feel more understood. If you’re a man looking for help with issues concerning sexuality, this may be an important consideration.
- At the same time, if you’re a woman in relationship with a man where sexual issues are prevalent, it may be helpful, for the same reason, to choose a male therapist that your spouse can relate to, especially if he is reticent or ambivalent about even getting counseling in the first place.
- If you’re a female and your male partner (spouse or boyfriend) is hesitant about counseling or is quite opposed to the notion, he may feel more comfortable with the notion of a male counselor, regardless of whether the issues involve sexuality at all. Otherwise, your partner may, from the get-go, feel “ganged up on” by you and a female therapist or feel just by virtue of the counselor being female, that she would be allied or joined with you (i.e. “on your side”).
- A male psychotherapist who is able to talk about himself as well as the whole gamut of feelings other than just anger openly, who is trustworthy, gentle, loving, and compassionate serves — as do all therapists — as a model for what male behavior can indeed look like. Separate and apart from the substance of what is discussed in therapy sessions, therapists unconsciously model healthy and adaptive behavior. If you — as a woman — are seeking to help the man in your life to learn how to identify his own more tender feelings and to communicate verbally on a feeling level, there is probably no better path than for he — and you — to experience such communication modelled by your male therapist. This may not only be a new experience for him, but for you as well, if you’ve not, as a female, experienced this aspect of the male psyche. The psychological imprint of such experience goes a great deal deeper than words can possibly communicate in bringing about new potentials in your male partner, in you, and in your relationship.
- With reference to the second paragraph (above), if the reason that you’re generally more comfortable speaking and relating to a woman about intimate feelings and other matters is because of your lack of connection, comfort or trust with your father — regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman — it could be extremely therapeutic and healing to have the experience of a loving, compassionate, and trustworthy male with whom to bond and connect. It may not be as comfortable from the day one, but if you’re able find a male counselor that you do indeed have a deep sense of trust and comfort with, you have the potential of healing a huge wound and negative belief system about men, and opening up a window towards much deeper and healthier relationships with men in general.
- Gay male couples may feel more likely to resonate with a male counselor because of their own gender, sexual and emotional issues, comfort, and predispositions.
In summary, there are a number of factors to consider in choosing the therapist or relationship coach that’s best suited for you. Although the number one factor should generally be your level of comfort, trust, and rapport with the counselor, the above bullet points highlight particular, significant reasons for choosing a male counselor, particularly if you’re able to find one who embodies that level of personal comfort, trust, and safety.
As always, it’s strongly urged that you “interview” any potential psychotherapist or relationship coach by phone to see if it “feels” like a potentially “good fit”, and that you expressly reserve the option to consider your first meeting an exploratory initial consultation to see if it continues to feel like the right match to all parties involved including the therapist or coach (should you be doing in-person, rather than phone or Skype) work.