Men and Group Therapy: Why Don’t Men Do As Well As Women in Mixed Gender Groups?

21 Mar 2016

men in therapy groupsMen tend to be suspicious of mixed gender therapy and support groups.  Is their any good reason for this?  Well some evidence shows that men tend to do badly in mixed gender groups.

Take the following research by Ogrondniczuk et al. (2004) as an example.  They studied a brief psychotherapy group for people who had been recently bereaved and found the following:

  • Women increased their adjustment to the grief by an average of 10%.
  • 19% of women improved on anxiety and depression ratings.
  • 14% of women improved in their general distress.
  • Whereas no men made any significant improvement in these areas.

But why do men seem to do so poorly in group therapy?  My experience suggests that it is not group therapy that is the problem, but in the mixing men and women together.

As a therapist I have attended many group therapy and training groups with both men and women.  What I believe is at the heart of men’s poor performance in group therapy is that women are simply better at emotional talk than men.  Women rush ahead leaving the men behind, dazed and confused.  This is a development on my argument that men and women’s emotional world are different.  It’s because men and women process emotional information and generate emotional talk differently, that men are better receiving group therapy and skills training, in the company of other men.

 

In the west we are kind of ambivalent to men only groups and this is a further inhibition for many men.  What is interesting is that all of the great religions have a practice of separating men and women.  The ancient wisdom is that women need other women to develop fully, and men need other men.  So why are we so anti the idea in the west? Your thoughts would be welcome…

 

Ogrodniczuk, J. S., Piper, W. E., & Joyce, A. S. (2004). Differences in men’s and women’s responses to short-term group psychotherapy. Psychotherapy Research, 14, 231-243.

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Phil Tyson PhD

Dr Phil Tyson is a mens' psychotherapist working in Manchester, UK and via SKYPE worldwide. He offers cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling and psychotherapy.

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