Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Male Restricted Emotionality and Counseling Supervision

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Male Restricted Emotionality and Counseling Supervision

Article excerpt

There is a growing body of literature demonstrating that some aspects of the traditional male gender role are associated with negative outcomes for men (see Brooks & Good, 2001a, 2001b, for review). For example, men who strictly adhere to the socialized behavioral norm of not expressing their emotions in certain situations, termed restricted emotionality (RE; O'Neil, Helms, Gable, David, & Wrightsman, 1986), often experience increased (a) anxiety (Cournoyer & Mahalik, 1995), (b) depression (Good & Mintz, 1990; Good, Robertson, Fitzgerald, Stevens, & Bartels, 1996), (c) anger (Blazina & Watkins, 1996), (d) homophobia (Jome & Tokar, 1998), (e) increased relationship difficulties (Fischer & Good, 1995; Sharpe, Heppner, & Dixon, 1995), and (f) physiological distress (Shepard, 1994). Overall, this line of research is associated with the construct of male gender role conflict (GRC; O'Neil et al., 1986). Male GRC is "a psychological state in which socialized gender roles have negative consequences on the person or others" (O'Neil, Good, & Holmes, 1995, p. 165). It typically results from rigid, sexist, or overly restrictive male gender roles interacting with incompatible demands of everyday life and, therefore, leading to negative affective, cognitive, and behavioral consequences for men as well as for those around them (see O'Neil et al., 1995, for review).

Research also demonstrates the importance of investigating the impact on the therapeutic process of RE experienced by male counselors. Indeed, Wisch and Mahalik (1999) asserted, "therapists undergo the same gender role socialization as do their clients" (p. 51), thus implying that male therapists are not immune to the potential impact of GRC-related distress (Mintz & O'Neil, 1990). In fact, it is possible that male counselors actually experience a more intense struggle with this issue (Tokar & Jome, 1998), as counseling typically focuses on emotion and emotional process (Heesacker & Bradley, 1997), which are considered difficult for men experiencing RE (Levant & Pollack, 1995). Hayes (1984), for example, concluded that increased levels of RE in counselors-in-training were associated with less empathy for, and more interpersonal difficulties with, nontraditional (i.e., highly emotional) male clients. This finding was echoed by Wisch and Mahalik (1999), who determined that greater levels of RE contributed to male counselors overpathologizing gay male clients.

However, despite Wisch and Mahalik's (1999) assertion that "[those] involved in the training of doctoral and masters students would do well to address gender role issues" (p. 58) in order to avoid the occurrence of such clinical biases, we uncovered no published studies investigating the impact of male RE during counseling training. Such investigations would seem paramount, because one of the more essential aspects of training--supervision--is also one of the most likely places where RE-related difficulties could begin to emerge (e.g., Holloway, 1992). Supervision is "an intensive, interpersonally focused, one-to-one relationship in which one person is designated to facilitate the development of therapeutic competence in the other person" (Loganbill, Hardy, & Delworth, 1982, p. 4). Male supervisees with higher levels of RE may have difficulty with such an intense relationship (e.g., Brooks, 1998; Good, Dell, & Mintz, 1989) because of their traditionally socialized resistance against expressing emotions, appearing vulnerable (e.g., Levant & Pollack, 1995; O'Neil, 1981), and relinquishing power in interpersonal relationships (Good et al., 1989; Lips, 1991).

Investigating the impact of RE within the realm of supervision also affords a unique opportunity to assess the role of potential moderators (Baron & Kenny, 1986). For example, the prevailing explanation for the relationship between RE and appropriate clinical behaviors is that male counselors experiencing increased levels of RE use the defensive style known as "turning-against-object" to deal with their feelings of anxiety and distress (Mahalik, Cournoyer, DeFranc, Cherry, & Napolitano, 1998). …

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