How to Find a Male-Friendly Therapist

At least once a week someone asks me how to find a therapist who is friendly to men. The question usually goes something like this:

“I live in [North American city, often coastal]. Every therapist here seems to be woke AF. I don’t want to work with someone who thinks masculinity is a disease. Can you recommend someone?”

Finding a therapist is not difficult. In most places you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one. That’s because “therapist” is not a protected title in most jurisdictions, so literally anyone can call themself a therapist.

And believe me, some therapists — credentialed or otherwise — could stand to be slapped with a dead cat.

The challenge is finding a therapist who is well trained and who doesn’t view the male half of humanity as broken, abusive, or oppressive.

Thanks to ideological pushes within the profession, increasing numbers of therapists are being trained to view their clients as broken little birds who are terrorized by cultural forces beyond their control.

These therapists-in-name-only are learning to place the locus of control outside their clients (who are pathetic and helpless) rather than inside (which would make them resourceful and resilient, and we can’t have that).

High on their list of external sources of oppression is masculinity.

In 2019, the American Psychological Association codified an industry-wide animus toward “traditional masculinity” in their Guidelines for Working with Boys and Men.

As I have discussed at some length, those guidelines were little more than a playbook for advancing feminist ideology in the therapy room.

This evolving brand of treatment views masculine traits as “on the whole, harmful” rather than as a mixed bag of strengths and vulnerabilities.

The adherents of this ideology therefore hope to replace “traditional” masculinity with a more domesticated demeanor, one client at a time.

Their version of masculinity might function well in the effete halls of private universities, but it is utterly anemic in a world where men are expected to do more than grovel and emote.

Unfortunately, any man who is facing the daunting task of finding the right therapist must now do the additional work of weeding out the political activists.

Don’t be discouraged, though. There are still plenty of excellent therapists. The good ones will happily answer questions before you meet with them.

As for what to look for, this 2016 article by Jonathan Shedler (a former professor of mine) is an excellent primer on how to recognize good therapy within the first couple of sessions.

While I’m bragging on former instructors, this book by Michael Karson is a blunt and beautifully written treatise on the basic competencies any therapist should possess. It is not a short list, and the demands of the job are not simple.

But back to the topic. Unfortunately, it seems my profession has reached a point at which it is not enough to look for basic competency. Finding a good therapist now means screening out pea-brained ideologues, as well.

One or two well-placed questions should help. Here’s a rather direct one:

What do you think of the APA’s guidelines for working with boys and men?

A reasonable response would acknowledge that there are some useful points in the guidelines. For example, the authors outlined some positive aspects of fatherhood, and they recognized that emotion-focused therapy can be unhelpful to some men.

At the same time, the guidelines are ideological in nature and therefore suspect by default. I wouldn’t trust any therapist who didn’t acknowledge that.

Here’s another question:

What social issues do you believe it is important to discuss with your clients?

There is only one acceptable answer to this question: “I do not push any agenda. My clients have my undivided attention.”

Anything less than some version of that answer is absolutely unacceptable.

Dr. John Barry, a psychologist and colleague in the UK, suggests this question:

Do you believe men’s mental health problems are caused either by traditional masculinity or by the effect of patriarchy?

In a recent survey of 107 therapists, Dr. Barry and three of his colleagues found that therapists who consider their style of therapy friendly toward men do not tend to believe “patriarchy” holds women back. Nor do they believe masculinity is merely a social construct.

They are also less likely than other therapists to believe their own clinical training was friendly toward men.

John didn’t suggest it, but I think each of those beliefs can be framed as a question:

Do you believe patriarchy holds women back?

Do you believe masculinity is a purely social construct?

Can you tell me about your clinical training in regard to working with men?

That’s six questions. I wouldn’t ask more than one or two. Strive for conversation, not inquisition.

One last point. It’s a mistake to assume female therapists are necessarily feminist ideologues. I have heard that suspicion from many men. Unfortunately, their suspicion is often born of experience with unskilled therapists.

Skilled therapists — psychologists in particular — have no difficulty keeping their political opinions out of the therapy room. Why? Because they know how to do their job, and they are proud of it.

Activists, on the other hand, are more invested in their belief systems than their clinical skills. I know whereof I speak, having had a couple of truly awful instructors long ago.

The good news is that ideologues are nothing if not simple-minded, and that makes them easy to detect.

In my experience, it is easy to provoke activists into revealing their agendas even without the use of dead cats, though I keep one on hand just in case.

I’m going to open this post to comments because this piece is very much a work in progress. I want to hear your stories and suggestions. Thanks in advance.

New Video: Clever Theories About Women

I posted this video nearly a month ago. A more responsible professional would have written an announcement at the time.

The thing is, videos like this one are colossally time-consuming. By the time I hit the “publish” button, my mind has moved on to other things.

That leaves me wondering how to write this type of announcement.

Should I summarize the video? Should I cover material I wish I had included in it? Maybe you would like to hear a story about my dog?

I finally decided the most sensible option is:

New video. Enjoy!

The White Horse

This might be the most important horse story you read all day, or at least one of the top three.

I know a man who frequently visited Scotland as a child. His extended family there owned a business delivering milk in horse-drawn carriages.

Among the horses in the stable, one was particularly prized by the family: the white horse whose name the man couldn’t recall.

This clever horse had learned his route so well that he could walk it with minimal guidance. He even knew which houses to visit. (I don’t know if he could recite each customer’s order. The man didn’t say.)

The white horse was also unusually even-tempered. Unlike other horses, he was never stubborn or oppositional, and he didn’t demand breaks. He simply hitched up each morning and did what was expected of him.

The white horse made life easier for the family, and they loved him for it — or so they said. Their actions didn’t align with their words. They gave him the heaviest workload. They neglected his health. They ran him constantly and gave him little attention.

I’ve heard that neglected draft horses can develop debilitating bone problems. Maybe that was the white horse’s demise. Whatever the case, the man said the white horse died young. The family had simply worked him to death.

Question: do people train horses, or do horses train people? Any good behaviorist will tell you it’s a two-way street. The less agreeable horses in the stable lived longer than the white horse, in part, because they were more demanding of their owners.

The man who told me this story recalled the white horse with some sadness and kinship. “I’ve been the white horse my entire life,” he said. Many of the people closest to him have exploited his industrious and accommodating nature. (He has had enough, and he’s changing that.)

Countless men play the role of the white horse. Breaking the pattern means retraining people, which isn’t rocket science. If a horse can memorize a delivery route, then a man can learn to say things like “yes please,” “no thanks,” and “fuck off.” It’s simple, though not necessarily easy.

The white horse was merely following its nature, but the man who acts like the white horse has two natures: one that insists on giving, and one that resents those who accept. Half of him says, “Let me pick up the tab!” The other half thinks, This is the third time I’ve paid. The selfish pricks. He is a house divided against itself.

Resolving that conflict is challenging, but it is no coincidence that anyone who has the strength and resilience to be the white horse also has the means to overcome the habit once he decides he has had enough.

The Most Powerful Swimmer in the Kiddie Pool

A stranger once glanced at the cover of The Tactical Guide to Women and concluded I must be some sort of pickup artist. I understand the misapprehension, but he couldn’t have been more wrong.

I’m the anti-PUA. The matchbreaker. The intimacy Grinch. I’m trying to persuade people to disobey their glands and rethink their relationship strategies — especially those strategies that squander potential and impede a values-driven life.

For example, there’s the strategy of choosing chaotic relationships, in which a capable adult chooses a partner who struggles to manage the minor challenges of daily life.

This partner is as lost as last year’s Easter egg. She hates her boss. She’s behind on her rent. Her friends are boneheads. She’s broke, she drinks too much, and her dog is a holy terror that rages at everything and pisses indoors.

The man who chooses this relationship submits himself to chaos and drama. Drama is expensive, so what’s the payoff? Simple: he gets to be the competent one.

This relationship is the kiddie pool of life, with all its silly little scrapes and tangles. Rather than mastering himself in the open waters of the real world, this man gets to be the most powerful swimmer in the shallow end.

Plenty of women choose these relationships too, but I think men are particularly prone to it simply because most of us are service-oriented by predisposition and training. The world consistently demands of men that we give more than we take.

That’s not a complaint. This arrangement presses us toward meaningful challenges, but it also creates the risk of misplaced effort.

Any competent and dutiful man, who is so inclined, can make a chaotic relationship the centerpiece of his world. It’s a simple matter of replacing his goals and values — to whatever extent he has defined them — with the task of propping up a child of misfortune.

The descent into chaos is especially appealing if she’s hot and the sex is good. That shiny package is a convenient distraction from the knowledge that he could be doing something more useful.

I’ve never met a man who didn’t come by this strategy honestly. The people who should have taught him about harmonious relationships fell down on the job, so he arrives at adulthood thinking, for a variety of reasons and to various degrees, that others will only tolerate him in the role of servant and problem-solver.

The punchline? These allegedly helpless women are perfectly capable of being resourceful and resilient, but they relinquish their competence because they are compelled to be saved as much as he is compelled to be the savior.

People with reciprocal insecurities have a way of finding each other. There’s something useful in that: the patterns of behavior among the people we choose can be a reflection of motives we don’t yet recognize in ourselves.