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Why Don't Men Like Group Therapy?

One-on-One and Long-Term Therapy May Help Men Open Up

Inside Group Therapy continued...

All the patients were assigned to 12 weeks of group therapy.

In the "interpretive group," patients worked through their emotions by talking about the death and traumas associated with it. In the "supportive group," the patients talked about coping with day-to-day struggles, received problem-solving guidance from the therapist, and were praised by the other patients.

The results:

  • Women had a 10% better adjustment to their grief than men; supportive therapy worked best for women.
  • 19% of women had significant improvement in depression and anxiety, whereas 14% significantly improved their general distress.
  • No men made any significant progress in these areas.

The Importance of Connections

Women are grounded by their connections with others, so group therapy works well for them, explains Joyce. For men, group therapy can stir up anxieties, threatening their sense of self. Men also feel alienated, vulnerable, and overwhelmed by the women's stories and their emotional sharing. The men quickly bail out before they get any benefit, he says.

Male-only groups could be more beneficial, Joyce suggests.

Indeed, men need a different approach, Kaslow tells WebMD. "For men, individual therapy often works better in the beginning, rather than going quickly to group therapy. Also, the therapist must take a different approach with men in individual therapy. Men need to feel empowered by therapy. They need an action plan, rather than just sitting and talking about feelings. They want to feel they are in control."

It's not a short-term process, she notes. "Over time, men may become interested in analyzing their feelings, reflecting on themselves, and feel less awkward opening up. Then they can move on to group therapy. There's plenty of evidence that men can benefit from all kinds of therapy."

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