This is the third in my series on the APA Guidelines for Practice with Men and Boys.
To bring a much-needed helping of sanity to the subject of the psychology of men and boys comes the ever-excellent Michael Gurian (The Federalist, 1/14/19). Gurian is a world authority on the brain chemistry of males and females and on differing therapeutic approaches to each. Over the years, he’s penned some 32 books, at least one of which made the NYT’s Best Seller list.
His point in his Federalist piece is that men and boys aren’t just products of our culture and they’re not uniquely privileged by it. They have their own male-specific brains and biochemistry and any effort (like that of the APA) to relegate them to an ideologically-skewed set of traits that must be eradicated is to do far more harm than good.
First, says Gurian, the field of psychology has for many years “skewed female.”
Without realizing it, over the last 50 years we’ve set up counseling and psychological services for girls and women. “Come into my office,” we say kindly. “Sit down. Tell me how you feel or felt.” Boys and men often fail out of counseling and therapy because we have not taught psychologists and therapists about the male and female brain. Only 15 percent of new counselors are male, leaving 85 percent female. Clients in therapy skew almost 80 percent female—males are dragged in by moms or spouses, but generally leave an environment unequipped for the male nature.Unsurprisingly, men tend to be less than enthusiastic about the prospect of engaging in psychotherapy. They feel they’re in alien territory which indeed they are. The field of psychology isn’t male-friendly because it assumes a falsehood – that men are like women.
But, as the APA’s new guidelines demonstrate, the matter is far worse than an unintentionally misdirected trend away from male well-being. Quite the contrary. According to the APA, men and masculinity are the problem. The male individual who hangs on to masculine norms is not only sick himself, he’s a danger to others, primarily those he loves. Plus, his worldview, his values are responsible for everything that’s wrong with society generally. After all, if he believes that being strong and self-reliant are positive attributes, he’s just making himself a stranger to his wife and kids. Ditto if he places hard work and providing for his family high on his list of important activities. And heaven forbid that he should be sexually assertive with a woman.
This is what Gurian calls the “ideological swamp” into which the guidelines have fallen.
Male nature, the male brain, the need to contextualize boyhood into an important masculine journey to manhood, are all missing from the new American Psychological Association’s “Guidelines for Practice with Boys and Men.”…
Males, we are told, are born with dominion created by their inherent privilege; females (and males) are victims of this male privilege. The authors go further to discuss what they see as the main problem facing males—too much masculinity. They call it the root of all or most male issues from suicide to early death to depression to substance abuse to the reason for family breakups to school failure to violence. They claim that fewer males than females seek out therapy or stay in therapy and health services because of “masculinity.”This virulent misandry isn’t just that; it’s pseudoscience as well.
Perhaps most worrisome: the APA should be a science-based organization, but its guidelines lack hard science. Ruben and Raquel Gur, Tracey Shors, Louanne Brizendine, Sandra Witelson, Daniel Amen, and the hundreds of scientists worldwide who use brain scan technology to understand male-female brain differences do not appear in these guidelines. Practitioners like myself and Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D., who have conducted multiple studies in science-based practical application of neuroscience to male nurturance in schools, homes, and communities, are not included.The reason they’re not included is that they don’t conform to the APA’s misandric take on men and boys. Gurian and the rest seek to actually understand males, not just condemn them. They try to develop therapies that are, you know, therapeutic. Their exclusion from the APA’s guidelines is proof positive of the true motivation of those who created them – the denigration of men and masculinity. If they truly wanted to help therapists help men become better human beings, don’t you think they’d have given a nod to the hard science on who men are and how they respond in therapeutic settings?
Included are mainly socio-psychologists who push the idea that maleness is basically socialized into “masculinities” that destroy male development. On the APA website, Stephanie Pappas sums up the APA’s enemy: “Traditional masculinity — marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression — is, on the whole, harmful.” Our job as therapists is, the authors suggest, to remove all but the ideologically sound “masculinities” from boys and men, and specifically remove masculinities that involve competition, aggression, strength, and power.Let us be entirely clear. The organization of professionals that tells us its job is to help the emotional and psychological development of everyone has no intention of doing that for men and boys. Its guidelines make clear that its goal in their case is the remaking of males according to the precepts of those who despise them.
By contrast, Gurian grasps all too clearly what psychotherapy should be about.
Masculinity, including traditional masculinity, is an ontology in which a male of any race, creed, ethnicity, or kind commits to developing and exercising strength, perseverance, hard work, love, compassion, responsibility for others, service to the disadvantaged, and self-sacrifice.
What professional in the psychology field would not want to embolden these characteristics?I can name a few. Among others, the authors of the guidelines come to mind. But consider the “constellation” of male traits named above by Gurian beginning with “strength” and ending with “self-sacrifice.” Now compare them with the “constellation” on offer in the guidelines with its emphasis on violence and “anti-femininity.” Tell me then who’s the one who truly cares about males and their emotional health and well-being.
[T]rying to hook mental health professionals into the ideological triad that:
- masculinity is the problem
- males do not need nurturing in male-specific ways of being because men have it all in our society anyway; and
- manhood is not an ontology, a way of healthy being, but a form of oppression,ignores one of the primary reasons for the existence of our psychology profession: not just to help girls, women, and others on the gender spectrum be empowered and find themselves, but also to help boys and men find their purpose, strength, and success in what will be, for them, a complex male journey through an increasing difficult lifespan.
For a long time now we’ve been on a mission to denigrate men and masculinity. This is true despite the fact that essentially everything in human society that makes for what we call civilization was invented, discovered, developed, refined, built, maintained, etc. by men. Men did all that and continue to do all that precisely because of their masculine traits.
The wholesale denigration of men is morally wrong and offensive to any decent person. But if morality fails to move one, perhaps self-interest will. The attack on men is an attack on civilization, the largely comfortable, healthy, prosperous knowledgeable lives that, as time goes on, more and more people enjoy. Simple self-interest dictates that we cease the tearing down of men because failure to do so portends the decline of everything that we’ve come to rely on to make our lives good. We attack men at our own peril.
But attacking men is what the APA is doing.