In Therapy, Women Want to Talk and Men Want a Quick Fix

A new study finds that women and men tend to seek different outcomes in psychotherapy. In general, women want time to talk about their feelings and men want a quick fix.

The research, conducted by Dr. Katie Holloway from the University of Portsmouth and colleagues, was presented at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology in Liverpool.

For the study, the researchers asked 20 experienced therapists (clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists, and psychotherapists) whether they had identified gender differences in any aspects of their work. Every single one of the therapists reported noticing gender differences in one or more aspects of therapy, and the overall message was that — in general — men are looking for a quick fix and women want to talk about their feelings.

“One of the interesting findings was that 80 percent of the therapists showed a reluctance to talk directly about gender differences in the needs of their clients,” said researcher Dr. John Barry from University College London. “This could be due to the culture in academia, where discussions of gender similarities are more acceptable than discussions of gender differences.”

He added, however, that psychology “might be more effective in treating men if gender differences were taken into account more.”

In a second study, Louise Liddon, from Northumbria University, and her team asked 347 members of the general public to share what kind of therapy they would like if they needed help.

The men and women in this group, half of whom reported having received some form of therapy, showed many similarities in their preferences, but also some key differences. For example, men were more likely to have a preference for therapy that involved giving and receiving advice among others in an informal group. Women were more likely to prefer psychodynamic psychotherapy, where the discussion focuses on feelings and past events.

There were interesting differences in coping strategies too. Women more than men used comfort eating, whereas men more than women used sex or pornography.

“Despite the fact that men commit suicide at three to four times the rate that women do, men don’t seek psychological help as much,” said Barry. “This might be because the types of treatment on offer are less appealing to men because — many psychological interventions are more about talking than about fixing problems.”

“It is likely that men benefit as much as women from talking about their feelings, but if talking about feelings appears to be the goal of therapy, then some men may be put off. Our study found that men were more likely than women to say that there is a lack of male-friendly therapies available.”

Source: British Psychological Society