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MALESURVIROR: A CONSUMER GUIDE TO THERAPISTS

MALESURVIROR: A CONSUMER GUIDE TO THERAPISTS
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Look­ing for a good ther­a­pist? Inter­est­ed in chang­ing your present ther­a­pist? It’s not a sim­ple thing like shop­ping for a car. At least you can pick up a copy of Con­sumer Reports and get objec­tive infor­ma­tion if you’re look­ing for transportation.

How do you get infor­ma­tion about good ther­a­pists famil­iar with male sur­vivor issues? Some­times a good source can be rec­om­men­da­tions from oth­er sur­vivors. But what if you are in recov­ery with­out the ben­e­fit of a male sur­vivor sup­port sys­tem from which to get refer­rals, or there is no one rec­om­mend­ed near you? (An excel­lent resource is malesurvivor.org which has chat rooms and ther­a­pist listings.)

As a spe­cial­ist work­ing with male sur­vivors for years, I’ve seen many men who had encoun­tered mis­di­rect­ed, inad­e­quate or harm­ful ther­a­py. Some­times it is a fail­ure on the therapist’s part to acknowl­edge he doesn’t have suf­fi­cient expe­ri­ence with male sur­vivor issues. The therapist’s expe­ri­ence may be lim­it­ed to hav­ing attend­ed a work­shop at a con­fer­ence or read a book on the sub­ject. While he may be sin­cere­ly inter­est­ed in work­ing with male sur­vivors, the ther­a­pist tends to learn on the job while the sur­vivor is paying.

  • Lack of expe­ri­ence work­ing with males. Some­times it is a fail­ure on the therapist’s part to acknowl­edge he doesn’t have suf­fi­cient expe­ri­ence with male sur­vivor issues. The therapist’s expe­ri­ence may be lim­it­ed to hav­ing attend­ed a work­shop at a con­fer­ence or read a book on the sub­ject. While he may be sin­cere­ly inter­est­ed in work­ing with male sur­vivors, the ther­a­pist, rather than the sur­vivor, tends to learn on the job while you’re paying.
  • The­o­rec­ti­cal Bias and/or attach­ment to a sin­gle modal­i­ty Anoth­er ther­a­pist to avoid is the one with a the­o­ret­i­cal bias. A clue to iden­ti­fy­ing (and avoid­ing) the biased ther­a­pist is his stress­ing a par­tic­u­lar approach or tech­nique (like adver­tis­ing as a Jun­gian, ana­lyt­ic, Ratio­nal-Emo­tive-Ther­a­py spe­cial­ist, etc. Not that any of these schools of treat­ment is bad, but the empha­sis on a par­tic­u­lar spe­cial­ty may indi­cate a bias which is not the most effec­tive means of treat­ing your vic­tim­iza­tion issues.) If it seems like the ther­a­pist is intent on fit­ting your issues and expe­ri­ence into his the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work, you may want to look for some­one who sees you more as an individual.
  • Lack of respect for bound­aries. A big red flag should be the therapist’s aware­ness and respect for your bound­aries. Every­one who has been sex­u­al­ly vic­tim­ized has had his bound­aries ignored and vio­lat­ed. A ther­a­pist who gives hugs with­out an invi­ta­tion to do so, is cross­ing bound­aries. This can include less per­son­al (and unwant­ed) con­tact such as shak­ing hands, sit­ting too close­ly or even intru­sive eye con­tact. Your gut feel­ing is the best indi­ca­tor of some­one who does not respect your bound­aries. If you feel uncom­fort­able when “inter­view­ing” a poten­tial ther­a­pist, trust your instincts.

Anoth­er ther­a­pist to avoid is the one with a the­o­ret­i­cal bias. A clue to iden­ti­fy­ing (and avoid­ing) the biased ther­a­pist is his stress­ing a par­tic­u­lar approach or tech­nique, like adver­tis­ing as a Jun­gian, ana­lyt­ic, Ratio­nal-Emo­tive-Ther­a­py spe­cial­ist, etc. None of these schools of treat­ment is bad, but the empha­sis on a par­tic­u­lar approach may indi­cate a bias that may not be the most effec­tive means of treat­ing your vic­tim­iza­tion issues. In my expe­ri­ence, a par­tic­u­lar­ly good approach is Cog­ni­tive-Behav­ioral Ther­a­py (CBT). If it seems like the ther­a­pist is intent on fit­ting your issues and expe­ri­ence into his the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work, you may want to look for some­one who sees you more as an individual.

A big red flag should be any therapist’s lack of aware­ness and respect for your bound­aries. Every­one who has been sex­u­al­ly vic­tim­ized has had his bound­aries ignored and vio­lat­ed. A ther­a­pist who gives hugs with­out an invi­ta­tion to do so is cross­ing bound­aries. This infringe­ment can include less per­son­al (and unwant­ed) con­tact such as shak­ing hands, sit­ting too close­ly or even intru­sive eye con­tact. Your gut feel­ing is the best indi­ca­tor of some­one who does not respect your bound­aries. If you feel uncom­fort­able when “inter­view­ing” a poten­tial ther­a­pist, trust your instincts.

What if you are already in treat­ment with a ther­a­pist you feel is incom­pe­tent, inex­pe­ri­enced, of a philo­soph­i­cal direc­tion you don’t see as help­ful, not respect­ful of your bound­aries, or just plain makes you feel uncomfortable?

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