The answer is, of course, it depends. But on what factors? Some thoughts:
- If the client is more comfortable talking to members of his or her own gender, then maybe they would benefit from a therapist of that gender
- If the therapist is uncomfortable talking to members of the opposite gender, then maybe they would benefit from a therapist of the opposite gender
I’ll bet you picked up on the fact that what matters is the comfort level of the client with someone of the same or opposite gender–but that it isn’t necessarily the best thing to stay in one’s “comfort zone.”
For example, a woman who is always talking to women about women’s topics might be better off speaking to a male therapist to get a fresh perspective. On the other hand, maybe the problem is so associated with womanhood–changes due to menopause, perhaps–that she feels only a female therapist will do.
Some men feel more comfortable talking about their feelings with a male therapist, on the other hand. They may decide that a man will better understand them. Conversely, men often choose a female therapist because they have more experience talking out their feelings with other women in their life.
Recently I updated my profile a little and realized that there was a piece of information that I had dropped, the fact that I trained at the Marine Corps base at El Toro the year before it closed. I trained there because I didn’t want to be a female therapist who “didn’t understand men.” I learned a lot:
- Men may not talk about their feelings, but they certainly do have them, if given the right opportunity and a safe place to open up
- Men like to compartmentalize, which is sometimes a good coping mechanism if you need to get on with life even though things are bothering you
- When a man looks himself in the eye in the mirror, he wants to feel good about himself, and to do that he needs to get honest, even if it’s painful
- Because men don’t have many outlets for their feelings, they sometimes do destructive or even stupid things to act out what’s going on inside
- When a man really loves someone, he’ll go to the ends of the earth for that person
Still, as my associate Liz Dube, MFTi and I are females, we can’t be everything to everyone. If you decide you will feel more comfortable with a male therapist, we understand–and wish you well in your journey to heal.