Over the years, research studies have rather consistently shown that when women and girls want to talk about feelings or distress, they seek out other females. Interestingly, when men or boys want to talk about feelings or distress, they don’t usually seek out male peers — they also seek out women or girls to talk to.
This recent article from Medicine.net extends these observations into the realm of therapy.
Group Therapy Not For Men?
Is group therapy equally beneficial for men and women? Fewer men participate in group therapy and, given a choice, many say they prefer individual therapy… Women were found to have better outcomes in group therapy than men. Women experienced more improvement in their symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Why this difference? The men were less committed to their therapy group. At the same time, the other members of the therapy group perceived the men as being less compatible — in other words, the women did not like the men being there. The interpersonal dynamics appeared to be working in both directions.
In other words, it would appear that men and women find the presence of other men in group therapy inhibiting. As William Pollock so eloquently demonstrated in his book, Real Boys, boys learn at an early age to hide their “weaker” feelings from other people, especially other boys. By adolescence, according to Dr. Pollock, most boys have become so adept at hiding their feelings from others that they are also quite adept at hiding them from themselves and have a very difficult time even finding a vocabulary to describe their feelings. As adults, this process continues. In the face of an emotional crisis, men can be induced to talk, but not to other men (sometimes but not necessarily including male therapists). In the context of group therapy, I believe the social dynamics of the group elicit these strong tendencies of men to try to conceal rather than express or explore their feelings — this is why group therapy is so difficult for them and why even women in group therapy seem to find the presence of men disruptive.