The Effectiveness of Gender Role Re-Evaluation and Non-Gender-Focused Group Psychotherapy in the Treatment of Recently Separated Men

Article excerpt

This article explores the viability of Gender Role Re-Evaluation (GRE) and Non Gender-Focused (NGF) group psychotherapy with recently separated men. Sixty-one participants were randomly distributed into three GRE or three NGF groups. Eleven psychometric measures were administered at pre-pre-group, pre-group, post-group and six-week follow-up. Results of a repeated-measures MANOVA revealed significant changes in Emotional Expression, Self and Other Orientation, and Psychological Well-Being, maintained at six-week follow-up. As the first randomized empirical investigation of men's consciousness-raising groups and gender role re-evaluation psychotherapy groups for men, these results provide a more positive re-framing of men's accessible potential for positive therapeutic change in groups, and a more hopeful perspective of the therapeutic potential of group psychotherapy with men undergoing a major psychosocial crisis.

Keywords: males, health care utilization, group psychotherapy, integrity, marital separation, values, gender role strain

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The literature suggests that men present a unique therapeutic challenge due to their socialized gender roles. The present study is of both historical and current significance. At the time this data was collected, the emerging literature on men and counselling predicted that men were poor psychotherapy candidates in two important ways: (a) they were unlikely and/or unwilling to seek help and (b) if they did enter counselling, they would have significant difficulty in expressing their emotions, and in establishing a viable emotional connectedness with others. This continues to be a prevalent theme in the literature on psychotherapy with men. For example, Good and Brooks (2005) suggested that "men's help seeking is often tentative and complicated by conflicting motives, making it difficult for counselors to establish therapeutic alliances" (p. 8). Levant (1996) indicated that men do not readily use preventive and therapeutic help, due to difficulties in (a) admitting that there is a problem, (b) asking for help, (c) identifying and processing emotional states, and (d) dealing with intimacy. Richard (2000) suggested that because of the difficulty that traditional therapy comprises for men, it behooves therapists to find alternative forms of treatment that address men's needs.

The hypothesis of men's difficulties in help-seeking and emotional relatedness stems back to Jourard and Landsman's (1960) and Jourard's (1971) hypothesis of the non-self-disclosing male, Pleck's (1976) sex role strain hypothesis, and Garnets and Pleck's (1979) definition of sex role strain as linked to "discrepancies between an individual's perceptions of her or his personal characteristics and her or his standards for herself or himself deriving from sex role norms" (p. 275).

O'Neil (1982) proposed that men who experience gender role strain have adopted the values of"the masculine mystique" (p. 8), expressed through six patterns of gender role conflict and strain: (a) restrictive emotionality; (b) restrictive sexual and affectionate behaviour; (c) homophobia; (d) socialized control, power and competition issues; (e) obsession with achievement and success; and (f) health care problems. Nahon and Lander (1992) suggested that this model has become deeply ingrained in current conceptualizations of men and their potentials--or lack thereof--for emotional expression, help-seeking, and positive therapeutic change.

The question of whether men can viably engage in both individual and group psychotherapy and in support groups is of paramount clinical and theoretical importance. Men's consciousness-raising groups have been described as important therapeutic tools in helping men overcome their gender role strain (O'Neil, 1982; O'Neil & Egan, 1992; Stein, 1982). O'Neil and Egan proposed that by undergoing the cognitive process of examining their internal gender role belief systems through a gender role journey, men will be able to overcome their gender role strain. …