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Due to the New APA Guidelines, I Will No Longer Recommend Talk Therapy

As a co-founder of an organization advocating for shared parenting after divorce, I talk with my share of parents, usually fathers, who’ve been minimized to seeing their children only four days a month. It is an extremely traumatic, emotionally scarring experience. Parents contact me in a desperate attempt to get back into their children’s lives in a meaningful way. They wonder what strategies might work, if there are legal avenues they have not pursued, and if someone is willing to advocate on behalf of them and their kids.

These are difficult discussions for multiple reasons. Of course, fathers want the injustice they’ve experienced to be both quickly recognized and rectified. Unfortunately, that’s not how our legal system is designed. But these conversations are even more difficult since any path to seeing their children more must begin with helping fathers process the trauma they’ve experienced.

I used to recommend a multi-step process, which incorporated talk therapy as part of a holistic approach. With the recent issuance of guidelines by the American Psychological Association denouncing masculinity, I can no longer do so.

There is, without question, a reluctance for traumatized fathers to initiate the process of seeing a therapist. In part, it’s the unfortunate societal stigma that seeing a therapist means “you’re crazy.” That’s hogwash. Life is a tremendously scarring experience and the vast majority of individuals could benefit from therapy at some point. We all have experiences -- “That was the year my dad died,” “my mom got cancer,” “my business failed,” “I got divorced and lost my kids,” etc. -- which could be aided by a quality therapist. Yet despite this strongly held belief, I’ve been cautious in recommending talk therapy. That’s because psychology is no different than any other profession with a small percentage of masters, a slightly larger group on their way to becoming masters, and then the rest. While a quality therapist can be extraordinarily useful in helping traumatized individuals navigate their predicament, there are many well-meaning but incapable therapists who are, at best, providing no help at all to financially strapped dads. That’s always been a risk I was willing to take.

With the issuance of the APA’s new guidelines against masculinity, my major concern must now be that traumatized fathers will be treated in a sardonic fashion. That potential risk now outweighs the potential rewards.

How can I draw that conclusion?

Just as telling as the APA’s anti-masculinity announcement was the lack of an uproar from the members they represent. Who are those members? The APA states:

The percent of psychologists who are women increased from 57 percent in 2007 to 65 percent in 2016. Within the psychology workforce, the mean age for women (47.6 years) was almost seven years younger than the mean age for men (54.4 years).