Explain their absence
Hi Vanessa Torre,
I understand your anger, why the eff should you be doing all this work towards better relationships when it seems like the people you are interested in in your dating pool are not?
Let's broaden the question to men and therapy in general. (I know you asked about “your group”, but that question is mostly unanswerable.)
I like to not “explain ghosts”. Before seeking to explain something one should make sure it exists. To paraphrase one of the most toxic male statisticians, James Bond, "The first time is happenstance, the second time is coincidence, the third time you've actually got enough data that lends credence to the existence of the phenomenon and now you can scientifically look for an explanation." (Actually, he says, "... the third time is enemy action." )
Going forward, please pardon my use of the gender binary, I’m just continuing within your framework. My anecdata tells me that there are many more non-gender-binary identifying people in therapy than one would expect based on the prevalence in the population, not even accounting for the fact that even so they are probably severely underserved.
Let’s look at the data. Psych Today says that 37% of people in therapy are men. That is much higher than I expected! It may not distinguish between group vs. individual or between different types of therapy or between different causes of seeking therapy. So for example, those numbers may include and be gender biased by those seeking therapy for addictive behavior. I don’t know. Also, I don’t know how that study’s question was asked, and depending on that it may not be inconsistent with our experience that “there aren’t any men in therapy”. That study may have counted the “number of patients who’ve been in therapy over the last year”, and have failed to account for any difference in number or frequency of visits by gender. So, e.g., if those 37% who are men on average went for therapy only 25% as often as the 63% women, then you or I will perceive that only 1/8 of the “people in therapy” are men. We should really dig into this data more. I am perfectly happy to assume that data backs up your perception, since there is as yet no provable contradiction.
I would seek to explain your group-therapy specific question only if I knew that the percentage of patients in group therapy is any different from that in individual therapy. Which I don’t know. So I’ll go back to the broader question, “Why are there fewer men than women in therapy?”.
Your respondents have already touched on some of the reasons there aren’t men in therapy. So I won’t repeat those. In addition to the barriers to entry (fewer men than women are even trying therapy), I speculate that what I’ll call “rationality and impatience” cause men to drop out much quicker. Hear me out please. First, I guess that we both agree that men are likely to be much more impatient than women and drop out after a few sessions of not “seeing results”. Their definition of expected result might be “I’m already in therapy like you asked, why aren’t you having sex with me?” as opposed to “Am I the better person I want to be?”. We also know that Western culture, which is male-dominated like every other, is ends-oriented and not process-oriented. (Try getting people to do Tai Chi. The second question is, “Will it fix my lower back pain?”)
Now we come to the rationality bit. I don’t believe there are any innate differences in rationality. However, we live our entire lives in a biased sea of culture, expectations, guidance, encouragement etc. that leads to men thinking they are (and possibly more men being) more rational than women. Yes this is a big illusion, e.g. men’s racial, misogynistic and other prejudices lead them to make irrational and poor business decisions — they would rather make less money than discriminate less.
Rational — or perhaps more specifically, scientifically minded — people may have actual reason to give up on therapy (yes, you can point your finger at me! But, admit it, my guess is you know plenty of women who’ve been in therapy for years and are still dicks towards men.). Not only that there is not “early success”, but they may see that there is no rigorous methodology and that the process as such is too wishy-washy to possibly lead to success. To see why therapy is much more ineffective than it could be and how it can be made much more effective, see model thinking as applied to therapy.
- you have a single unreliable source of data (we only have the client’s version of events)
- there isn’t a rigorous method for hypothesis testing the diagnoses against the symptoms, so people flounder around with different diagnoses endlessly
- and finally, even if the data, the symptoms and diagnoses are good, there isn’t a mechanism for practising all this theoretical self-knowledge. So of course, the next time a slightly new situation presents itself, you’ll fail. Just like anybody who only knows Newton’s Three Laws of Motion theoretically and has not practised enough problems will fail the moment you present them with a slightly different configuration of planes, masses, springs, pulleys and strings.
However, with a little bit of scientific rigor, one can get improved outcomes from therapy.