While it is probably not surprising to some - one of the first issues in looking at men's treatment has nothing to do with a specific treatment modality or specific services, per se. The first issue has to do with all of the judgments and stereotypes of and experiences with men that make up your attitude towards men. And, if you are a man, your attitude toward yourself as a man. Basically, the first issue is: What do you really think about men?
Every one of our interactions with others is affected by our thoughts and feelings and how aware of them we are. We know that one of the most important – if not the most important - indicators of how successful a person will be in treatment is the therapeutic relationship that is created. The degree to which a man feels connected to his counselor and perceives that his counselor cares about his welfare and his needs will determine how much a man trusts that counselor and, in turn, engages in the services being offered. It also determines how “deep” a man is going to go. Do not fool yourselves – men are not thick, they know when you do not have compassion or understanding for their experiences. They know when you are not able to see beyond the veneer – and so they will not let you in beyond there.
Of course, there is also the issue of countertransference which is nothing more than a fancy way of talking about when a clinician's own issues are getting in the way of their ability to provide supportive and effective services to their client. The question is not whether you will experience some degree of countertransference but rather, how you will see it and handle it when you do? If you grew up in a home with an abusive man and have not done the work to find peace from that, do you think that affects your ability to help men who are angry and violent? If you were the scrawny kid who was picked on and beat up when you were younger and have not made peace with that part of you or the pain from those experiences, do you think it will affect your ability to support the hyper-masculine guy whose bravado is nothing more than armor for all of the pain and insecurity he feels. The scenarios are countless. And this is not about being perfect. It is about seeing your own humanity and imperfection before you can help another human being.
What do you really believe about men? Have you ever asked yourself this question - regardless of how long you have been working with men? Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman? If you do not think you have judgments or negative attitudes toward men, you may want to look a bit closer. Until you do, your work will likely be limited.