The Male Therapist (Post-Christmas Navel-Gazing)
I’ve never been to therapy.
I think I badly need it, but I know I won’t ever go. And I’ve come to realize why this will never happen.
I was raised and abused by a father who was a male therapist. I won’t (in this post) even touch on my even more abusive mother (who was not a therapist). Between the two of them, I grew up to be an emotionally paralyzed, very confused, silent, angry, socially anxious and awkward, depressed individual, and then was further abused by these parents for being emotionally paralyzed, very confused, silent, angry, socially anxious and awkward, and depressed. Exactly the kind of person who could use a little therapy to untwist the emotional twine binding her.
But as I said, I’ll never go. Even though I went on to formally study psychology for years, I kept to the hard sciencey specializations (statistics, neuroscience, psychometry) and kept all my clinical dealings as a sideline through clinical and forensic research projects, coursework and collaboration/friendship with the more interesting of the clinical (female) crowd.
Even in the thick of things, I still declined therapy while feeling I desperately needed it at the same time. Instead, I self-examined. I know exactly what’s going on with me thanks to years of this relentless questioning and probing. Unfortunately, therapists are useful creatures – you can self-examine all you want and still not make much progress towards balance or health. Therapists are guides, and they are supposed to support you when you are at your most exposed and vulnerable.
As I am an expert in mind-fuckery, I often think about therapy professions. That was what I wanted to be as a kid, and I discarded it in college. At the time, I thought my classmates were too wishy-washy, and hey, I was really good at math and experimental design, but looking back, I know that I left because it was too threatening. Part of me didn’t want to have to address the nasty truths in my life and thus become vulnerable. I knew what vulnerable was and the therapist I grew up with both made me vulnerable and exploited it relentlessly. Who wants more of that?
And as I’ve explored the therapy professions (social work, clinical psychology, clinical psychiatry, etc), I keep coming back to the same question or set of questions.
What draws men to this line of work? And more specifically, what draws men to therapy for female victims of sex crimes (rape, sexual assault, incest)?
Let’s come back to this and talk about female therapists first.
First off, not all female therapists are good and/or appropriate for your needs. The therapist’s professional orientation may not line up with yours. The therapist has been educated by the patriarchy and likely holds patriarchal views of women and their illnesses. Speaking from experience with clinical psych undergrad and postgrad students and professors, many therapists (male and female) are not the most stable themselves. People with problems tend to gravitate towards this profession and the field is sooo competitive that often, only the most obsessive and neurotic are given admittance to programs. I can’t speak for social work programs, but most of the practitioners I’ve met have been really weird people with weird agendas. But I DO believe that it is people with problems who are exactly the people who should be working in these fields because they understand first-hand what the patient is going through. It is important, however, that the therapist have worked out her issues to minimize the intrusion of said issues into her patient/client’s situation.
All said, there are tons of well-meaning women who gravitate towards the helping professions. Well-meaning doesn’t mean effective or correct, but it is a starting place. Men don’t often have even the correct starting place.
To speak more specifically about work with female victims of sex-based crimes (aka hate crimes against women), it is easy to understand why women get into it. Women want to help women. Therapists are often victims themselves. Oh who am I kidding, all women are victims of at least one sex-based offense and are exposed to male filth on a daily basis. Female therapists want to get in there and do some good. Are they going about it the right way? I don’t know. I don’t think most of women’s energy expenditure actually makes any progress towards ending male violence. But someone has to put on the band-aids, I suppose.
I’ve also known female therapists who’ve worked with rapists and men who sexually assault women and children. I can even understand why women gravitate towards this. The work is, of course, pointless. You can’t fix men, and you absolutely can’t fix a rapist. But again, women pour endless energy into trying to fix male problems that can’t be fixed. It’s a misplaced, erroneous belief in male ‘goodness’ (whatever) and a desire to keep women safe. *Sigh*
So we come back to men. I’ve written about men and the helping professions and volunteer work before. What could possibly bring men specifically into wanting to ‘help’ female victims of sex-based crimes? It boggles the mind. Men have little capacity for empathy, and I have never met a man who can wrap his head around the fear women live with daily as a result of forced proximity to men. So to deliberately be around and ‘help’ female victims isn’t a problem in their minds. The last thing women need after victimization by a man, however, is to be made even more exposed and vulnerable with a man controlling her aftermath. Male therapists must be looking for control or a vicarious experience or something. Perhaps they are invested in putting forth a male agenda in ‘managing’ female victims. Does he want to show that ‘not all men are bad’? How completely selfish and self-centred, if that is the case.
We have a new problem with aggressive MtT’s targeting battered women’s shelters and demanding to work there and be put into direct contact with female victims. They are becoming so self-centred and disrespectful that they are bringing law suits to fight for their right to access female victims. Why are they doing this? Is it an attempt to use women’s real experiences to build up their own sense of victimhood? Whatever they are doing, it is assault. It is disgusting. And it needs to be stopped.
Men also love to gravitate towards helping male sex offenders. I have personal experience with one of these creatures. I was taking a course in a form of counselling and was paired up by phone with a black, American, Christian man who headed up his own church and specifically helped rapists get on their feet after (unfortunately) being released from prison. He and I were to do ‘counselling’ sessions on the phone. He was controlling of me from the very beginning, and took advantage of my commitment to the course. He cancelled our sessions, let me do all the work, and would take other phone calls while we were in the middle of a counselling session. But he was smarmy, saying all the right things to smooth things over. If I were 20, I would have accepted the abuse and chided myself that as a WHITE woman, I supposedly was the privileged one. But I was older and well-versed in how all men have privilege over all women regardless of other group membership. Penis trumps vagina, regardless of race, every single time. One day, I called him on his repeated disrespect of me, and the truth came out. He attacked me mercilessly, and threw all the information I’d given him in my vulnerable state as counsellee in my face. And then he played the god card – he knew I was an atheist, and let me know I was shit because of it. Pure abuse. I suspect he was a ‘recovered’ rapist himself. I put my foot down, complained to the school, and only after my fellow student attacked the teacher was he thrown out of the program.
So, I suspect that sex offenders help sex offenders, and any man who gravitates towards therapy for female victims or male offenders is just there to perpetuate the system of abuse, keep the male agenda alive and well, ‘help’ women to put their experience in a compartment and not paint all men or the patriarchy as bad, and experience personal control and vicarious excitement over female victimization. I advocate for keeping men out of all professions where they have access to vulnerable women and girls.
Posted on December 26, 2015, in Anti-Feminism, Birth of a Feminist, Conversations with Men, Education, Male Privilege, Violence and tagged abuse, male privilege, men, patriarchy, psychology, rapist, sexual assault, therapist, therapy. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The Male Therapist (Post-Christmas Navel-Gazing).