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What do you really think about men?

May 17, 2010
by Dan Griffin
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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.



Hi Jim - i think you said it very well. the more work you have done on your own issues the more objective and supportive (read: compassionate) you are able to be. The question is only one the man himself can really answer. Our job is to ask questions that allow him to look at his behaviors and values to discern if they reflect what he really believes and who he really is. There is likely an incongruence to hyper-masculinity as opposed to a man being masculine. In other words, when you look at the man and his behavior there is a defensiveness and/or a reactivity that seems to be there. Think of your own experience. As you have grown in your emotional balance and awareness hasn't your behavior balanced out as well? There are assessment instruments that help clinicians know how much a man has internalized the traditional male role - most of them are proprietary but could still be helpful. The key from a motivational interviewing perspective would be to make sure that a man never feels as though his sense of masculinity is wrong but rather that we support him in seeing that his options for how he expresses his masculinity are broader and deeper than he may realize. Let him choose how he wants to live his life as a man and out of that freedom of choice many men will find their true masculine selves.

dating a woman and wondering why not. It's becuase he has no guts and no sense of his own masculine strength. Yes they are Nice but they drive people mad. Then I found two wonderful responses

I have worked in the field of substance abuse for over 15 years. I now work with mostly men with substance use disorders who are in treatment as a result of a parole officer referral. I have found that, over the years as i work on my own anger issues and especially working on issues around growing up in a hostle and abusive environment, i am more able to remain objective and supportive of clients showing signs and symptoms of the same. I would like some feedback on this issue. How do we tell when a man is "hyper-masculing" versis versis a "masculing man?"

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Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin


Dan Griffin, MA, is an internationally recognized author and thought leader on...

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