Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Vanishing Male Therapist

Things are not looking very good for those who want to see a a gender-neutered workplace. People who traffic in idealistic illusions envision a world where there are roughly equal numbers of men and women in all professions.

When they find a profession where there are not enough women, they take the disparity as that women are suffering gender discrimination.

Anything short of equality must, in their mind’s eye, bespeak prejudice.

In reality, professions tend to be either male of female dominant. There is no such thing as a profession where there is true gender equality.

Over time, most professions have been male dominant. A few, like secretary and nurse, have always been female dominant. Nowadays advertising and marketing have also become more female dominant.

But now, what happens when a formerly male dominant profession becomes feminized? What happens when a large number of women enter a male-dominant profession? Is there a tipping point, a moment when a profession tips over and becomes female-dominant?

Recently, that is what has happened to psychotherapy.

In the past, therapy was a male profession. Now, with more and more women becoming therapists, it has become almost exclusively female.

As more women have entered the field, men have fled it. According to Benedict Carey, male therapists are a vanishing breed. Link here. Most of the male therapists practicing today are greying relics from a bygone age.

As is well known from studies of other professions, as more women enter a profession its prestige diminishes. Along with diminishing prestige comes diminishing income.

Since a man’s place in society is based largely on his prestige and income, this combination has consigned therapy to the world of female dominant professions.

Therapy used to be more like psychiatry, thus a relatively high prestige medical specialization. Now it is more like nursing, a lower prestige profession based on care and nurturing.

Carey asks which comes first: does a profession lose prestige because more women enter it or do fewer men enter it because it has lost prestige? As he points out, the income of therapists has been declining because the insurance companies who pay most fees have chosen to reduce them.

We would have trouble establishing causation, but we do know that there is a correlation: more women correlates with less prestige and less income.

I am old enough to remember a time when more women started entering the field of psychotherapy in larger numbers. They marketed themselves to potential female patients by saying that they understood a woman’s experience better than any man could.

No one seems to have noticed that personal experience is not a professional qualification. Woman therapists might well be more empathic toward other women, but that is not something that is going to be part of your graduate school coursework.

If therapy is merely based on experiences and feelings that you do not learn in a professional school, then naturally professional credentials become devalued.

Since most therapy patients are female, this marketing device worked well. Female patients tended to avoid male therapists, and this tended to discourage men from entering the field.

At the same time, therapy has tended to promote womanly values, values that are associated with feelings and emotion. Concomitantly it has failed to understand the importance of aggression and competition in male experience.

Its terms have been male unfriendly. No man is going to spend too much time with a therapist who is telling him to get in touch with his feelings.

Feminism also played a role. By defining women as an oppressed and victimized class, and defining men as an oppressive patriarchy, feminists taught women not to trust men. If men are conditioned to exploit women, no woman should ever expect that a male therapist will have her best interest at heart.

Unfortunately, this gender realignment did not necessarily serve women well. As more and more women entered the workplace, they did not really need a therapist who was feeling their pain. They needed therapists who grasped the reality of the workplace, who especially understood how it differed from the boudoir or the nursery.

If you share someone’s humiliation you will have that much more difficulty developing a plan to overcome it.

Now, Benedict Carey explains, with fewer male therapists, men are having more difficulty finding male therapists.

Apparently, we must now bemoan the fact that men who need help cannot get help.

Pardon me if I do not agree. If therapy has become a female dominant profession, then perhaps this is a good thing for men. I see it as a blessing in disguise.

Is it not better that men avoid venues that do not welcome them and do not respect their experience? Isn’t it better that men be discouraged from working with therapists who might well try to make them into something other than what they are?

I say it is.


David Foster said...

It has often been argued that women are (on the average) better at "emotional logic" than are men, and are also more interested, again on the average, at understanding the motions of others. IF these assertions are true, then it would make sense that more women than men would pursue Therapist careers when given a chance to do so.

OTOH, if women are typically better and more interested in emotional logic then are men, then it would ALSO point to fewer women in those STEM fields that involve relatively little emotional interaction. In a business, a woman with exceptional emotional logic gifts might choose a career as a technical sales executive rather than a pure engineer, even if she had excellent mental capabilities for engineering.

(I'm not implying that emotional logic is unimportant for engineering; indeed, it's more important than often recognized, but usually less all-important than it is in high-level selling)

By The Sword said...

I would like to have R. Lee Ermy as my therapist.

David Foster said...

Also, I should note that my previous comment is the application of the economic principle called Comparative Advantage to the employment field. A simplified example of how CA works in economics would be: Let's say it's 1850 and Britain and Spain are both equally good at making steam engines, but Spain is better than making wine. It's beneficial to *both* countries if Britain concentrates on the steam engines and Spain concentrates on the wine.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Great inference, David. It offers yet another reason to allow people to gravitate toward the professions that suit them, rather than force them into jobs that do not suit them because we need to create something called gender equality.

Dennis said...

I think in the long run that jobs will find a level where there are again women's and men's, for the most part, jobs.
I would posit that if one took two Bell Curves denoting likes, et al, one for women and the other for men, one would note that about 5 percent of women would meet the average for men and about 5 percent of the men would meet the average for women. We all have varying degrees of the types of logic we rely upon given our natural characteristics and propensities.
Both my undergraduate and graduate degrees are science oriented, but when I play and perform as a jazz musician I lean very heavily on the ability to create the emotional context of that music I am performing. I have noted that sometimes there is a compartmentalization that has to take place. Where in one area analysis is extremely important in the other analysis leads to paralysis. There maybe more connections that happen as we use both sides of our brains more extensively.
I am not sure that I see the gradual diminishing male presence in therapy as much of a problem. Eventually a significant number of women who are therapists will leave the feminist behind them and pay attention to the patient's needs. Here I think of Dr. Sanity as an example. She appears to me to be a very sharp individual who thinks.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Now that you mention it, I am wondering how many jazz musicians are women. Am I wrong to think that very, very few are?

I agree that women will adapt to the changing marketplace, leaving behind their ideology and working hard to help their patients.

The remarks I quoted again on how empathy makes it more difficult to help people were made by a woman, but by a woman coach.

I think that the movement away from therapy and into coaching will allow more women and men to focus on finding practical solutions to practical problems.

Still, women therapists are usually feminists and they often follow the party line. And they have created a situation where men simply do not want to consult with them.

Last night I was watching Law and Order: Criminal intent, where Det. Goren is being treated by a female therapist, played by Julia Ormond. I am sure that the producers wanted to help to market therapy and especially to make it more socially acceptable for men to consult with women therapists. But Ormond's therapist presents almost a caricature of therapy, with all of her questions of how that really makes him feel... I found it all rather pathetic.

David Foster said...

One field which seems to have pretty strong participation by both men & women is business-to-business sales, especially in software and computer services.

It's been said, accurately I believe, that the highly successful salesman must combine the traits of *assertiveness* and *responsiveness*.

David Foster said...

One profession that has gone from being almost all male to mostly female is veterinary medicine.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Do you think that perhaps medicine is going to be next on the list?

Anonymous said...

medicine is indeed becoming a female profession. for the past few years, the majority of medical students have been women. it used to be the case that there was a "pink ghetto" of medical specialties that women seemed preferentially to select (pediatrics, ob/gyn, psychiatry, primary care), but now they are moving into all the specialties, even some of the more "macho" ones, like surgery.
Dan B.

David Foster said...

I believe that in Russia, medicine has become a mainly female profession.

Dennis said...

There are a number of fine women players in Jazz, but you would not be remiss in thinking that the numbers are small in comparison. The numbers are growing, especially given the all girl big bands in Japan, a little, but not like the numbers in the Classical area. There is a very fine all female group called "Diva" which does some very good things though their last album left me feeling it lacked anemotional quality to it.
Empathy would, it seems to me, quickly creates a situation where one cannot see the forest for the trees. The ability to see a problem as a whole helps one to ask the right questions. What might be called "Watering the grass and not the weeds" approach.
Since I have little respect for therapy and its adherents I would agree that "coaching" offers a far better approach to helping people. The human mind is a wonderful thing and one has to watch that one does not stifle it for the sake of dogma.

Gary Lyndhurst said...

There is a complementary and unspoken law of Male and Female unity and the fun and experience of getting there. It is often thought that their is a separateness from the one body that the members are individual and getting a raw deal or a fair deal or just damn lucky when in fact they are exploring and living their own realities in total agreement of how why when and what they feel in order to experience their own creative force. Such labels and little boxes that generations have put their children in to repeat and repeat the process as it is the safe option. I don't have to take responsibility and just Blame well just Blame...! Men and Women must be free to do whatever they wish to experience in work health love life and play, even death...! It is only right that the shift happens to exploit the dominated male societies not unlike the present experiences of governments control and secrecy being eroded for indeed nothing will remain hidden. Open and agenda free employment relationships governments and all will start to shift even the banks and other large institutions. We need to establish new belief systems that recall our experience and knowledge and connectedness again. In doing so we move forward and in some cases in leaps and bounds rather than the time it's taken the monkeys to come out of the trees and here's the catch. What is intelligence...? If we had any male or female do you not think that we could have learned how to communicate by now? I don't mean the way they try and teach it I mean the way they try and practice it, or not...? We have to get away from being here to work and be enslaved to the financial institutions for they relish control and as a Male therapist (not of the mind) I want to see my clients for the least time span for I want them well and able to continue their journey of life and realisation of the connectedness they share but have forgotten because of all the control that has prevented growth in thought, meditation, and in being themselves, in just being rather than do do doing to death.
We all have to work but we don't all have to do what we are doing at present and we have the power to change that. Resources led societies will alter our present life of drudgery and what are you frightened of in exploring your loves social activities and work to complete your own and very skilled adept choices. Faith in the changes can happen in one giant leap or over years and centuries but it can't be controlled because you have to be truly free to experience your creative force at work. It starts small but boy does it have a kick when it takes off but how many of you will try it...? No matter at your own pace will these steps be taken for there is no rush no deadline no finality to life. Nothing to fear in fact except fear itself and we can see the results in the control and increase of fear under the present country and world financial situations and unrest. Start today think explore search and remember you have the time so to speak cos time doesn't exist and we are here and have been here for now before and camm-ere.... for even more wonderful experiences...! So forget the out cries of protect our jobs and who do's what and dominates what because that is why the changes are happening cos the shift has started and we are all part of this so wake up...!!! Breath the life force and remember you are never separate even if and when you get so low to feel that you are this is you feeling that way because you have been conditioned but now you are becoming free to think and just be... whatever you want to be???

Gary Lyndhurst said...

Sorry missed grammar ... *there even...

By Viagra said...

wow i like it very nice post.Keep it up.

transex milano said...

It won't actually have success, I consider this way.

physical therapist schools said...

This is a good common sense article. Very helpful to one who is just finding the resources about this part. It will certainly help educate me.