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Is the APA Trying to Drive Men Out of Therapy?

Quillette asked 12 scholars to respond to the APA guidelines on "toxic masculinity." Here is what a couple of them said:

Introduction — John P. Wright, Ph.D.

John Paul Wright is a professor of criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati. He has published widely on the causes and correlates of human violence. His current work examines how ideology affects scholarship. Follow him on Twitter @cjprofman.

Thirteen years in the making, the American Psychological Association (APA) released the newly drafted “Guidelines for Psychological Practice for Boys and Men.” Backed by 40 years of science, the APA claims, the guidelines boldly pronounce that “traditional masculinity” is the cause and consequence of men’s mental health concerns. Masculine stoicism, the APA tells us, prevents men from seeking treatment when in need, while beliefs rooted in “masculine ideology” perpetuate men’s worst behaviors—including sexual harassment and rape. Masculine ideology, itself a byproduct of the “patriarchy,” benefits men and simultaneously victimizes them, the guidelines explain. Thus, the APA committee advises therapists that men need to become allies to feminism. “Change men,” an author of the report stated, “and we can change the world.”

But if the reaction to the APA’s guidelines is any indication, this change won’t happen anytime soon. Criticism was immediate and fierce. Few outside of a handful of departments within the academy had ever heard of “masculine ideology,” and fewer still understood how defining traditional masculinity by men’s most boorish—even criminal—behavior would serve the interests of men or entice them to seek professional help. Instead of passing quietly into the night, as most academic pronouncements do, the APA’s guidelines did what few such documents have ever done: They engendered a social media maelstrom, and likely not only lost professional credibility, but potentially created new barriers for men who need help.

It is tempting to excuse the APA’s guidelines as the byproduct of a select group of scholars whose intentions were good but whose delivery was tone-deaf. In today’s hyper-politicized environment, good intentions are often converted into the currency of ill-will. Yet the APA was forewarned by at least one psychologist that the guidelines would not be well received; that the document’s overtly partisan language and politically progressive narratives would not encourage men to receive services, but to keep them away.

The New APA Guidelines Are Predatory — Shawn T. Smith, Psy.D.

Shawn T. Smith is a licensed, clinical psychologist. He is the author of several books, including The Practical Guide to Men: How to Spot the Hidden Traits of Good Men and Great Relationships. Follow him on Twitter @ironshrink.

The APA, not known for its high testosterone level, seems to view masculinity with the same distaste a Disney princess has for manual labor. They speak of masculine traits with deep suspicion, despite the fact that their safe world rests on the backs of men who possess those traits.

I won’t spend these few paragraphs repeating the efforts of those defending masculinity. Instead, I hope to persuade other clinicians to take a stand against the APA’s ideologically-driven guidelines for working with men and boys.

If the APA were truly concerned about males, they would strive to help those who are suffering by building on the time-tested virtues of masculinity. Instead, they frame the “patriarchy”—that nebulous bête noire of radical feminism—as the root of all suffering. Seeing the world through that tainted lens, their response to men and boys can only be that of the radical feminist: tear men down. Denigrate noble traits. Advance feminist ideology at all costs.

Under this APA policy, any man unwise enough to trust a psychologist is to be chastised for his alleged privilege and sexism, and he is to be re-educated into something far more docile and apologetic than a full-blooded man.

If the predatory nature of the APA’s new guidelines isn’t immediately apparent, consider the inverse: psychologists organizing en masse to dismantle femininity, treating each female patient as an opportunity to reshape women as the APA sees fit.

People generally seek psychologists in moments of vulnerability. It is plain vicious to seize on that vulnerability for the sake of advancing an ideology. Ironically, the APA’s mercenary approach to the culture war—a war in which they have no business taking sides—exemplifies the destructive and ruthless qualities they wrongly attribute to honorable men everywhere.

Though it is encouraging to see some experts standing against the APA and it's pathetic attempt to "help" men shed their masculinity, the organization's willing blindness to the needs of men should make anyone skeptical of their ability to look after the mental well-being of male patients.