ADHD and Dating: Strategies for Success

Mental health professionals have been identifying strategies for a successful relationship with ADHD. In fact, there are multiple online publications regarding this topic. However, ADHD’s impact on the dating process has been less explored. With the overwhelming influx of online profiles, multiple personal details to remember from different dates, and sometimes distracting and overstimulating environments such as bars and clubs, it can be helpful to build a list of strategies for having success and fun while dating with ADHD.

An ADDitude magazine article does mention some tips that include listening to your instincts and keeping a list of important qualities in a partner (Sarkis, 2010). However, these techniques can be expanded to include approaches for reducing excessive environmental distractions by strategically using dating apps, taking notes to remember details, and finding alternative venues and approaches. I elaborate on some of these below.

            There are a variety of techniques for managing online dating. In general, reducing the overwhelm of new potential matches can be helpful someone with ADHD to focus in on a few potential people at a time while remembering strategies for success Specifically, it can be helpful to create a criterion for potential matches to reduce incompatibility and distraction. Also, it may be prudent to communicate specifically with a few potential dates at a time to enhance one’s ability to remember details regarding the other person. Staying on one app instead of multiple ones can help to minimize distractibility and overwhelm as well.

            When going on multiple dates, it is easy to forget different details and information regarding every person you meet. Therefore, it is wise to take a few moments after a date to jot down important notes regarding the other person and to review them before your next date. Also, it can be helpful to spread out your dates so that you have more time to remember the details and process each one. Although this strategy may lead to meeting fewer people, being better able to remember the details of each experience ultimately results in better connections and experiences. It is also worthwhile to look into the possibility of dating in alternative venues that are less distracting, such as quieter restaurants, book readings, plays, etc. Sometimes. getting to know someone gradually, such as in a meetup group, is better than the rapid pace of modern-day dating.

            It is important to note that individuals with ADHD do have a variety of different strengths as well, including creativity and spontaneity. Activities that involve art, the outdoors, and exercise can be great opportunities that play to one’s strengths. Also, some individuals with ADHD enjoy improv and other activities that involve spontaneity. Finding a venue where you can thrive and show your strengths is often a good idea for somebody with ADHD.

            Although there are challenges in dating with ADHD, by using the right approach, one can have success. Simply using a few techniques to focus in on a few people while dating and remembering details does go a long way. Also. although it may be challenging, dating can also allow individuals with ADHD to demonstrate their strengths. Let’s not forget that it is also ok to have some fun during this process!   

Works Cited

Sarkis, S. (2010, May 1). Save the Date! Dating Advice & Strategies for Adults with ADHD. Retrieved from ADDItude magazine :

Learning Differences and Anxiety in Adults: How to Understand the Link and Treatment

Can you imagine waking up every day not knowing if you are going to get lost, bump into somebody, misread a social cue, or be able to process an influx of new information at your job or school? Millions of people with learning differences, experience being overwhelmed and misunderstood by the world around them on a daily basis. We know that children with learning differences in the United States are more likely to experience anxiety (The Understood Team, 2014-2020). One study finds that anxiety may be well-known in individuals with learning differences, but also under reported and under-diagnosed. (Elizabeth & Bakala, 2005). However, there are treatment approaches that can help this population to reduce and manage it. I outline a few of them below.

Individuals with learning differences can benefit from evidenced based chemotherapeutic techniques for treating anxiety, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), relaxation exercises, and exposure therapy. Nevertheless, while these interventions may be effective, it is also important to recognize that, “People with learning disabilities frequently contend with a lifetime of adversity, inadequate social supports and poor coping skills. These factors contribute to increased vulnerability to stressful life events, which may trigger anxiety disorders” (Ibid. 357). Therefore, it is important for a therapist to take into consideration the specific kinds of stressors that this population faces, and what kinds of coping skills they can implement to manage them.

Some of us may take for granted boarding a crowded train home from the office, ignoring loud noises, and multitasking. However, for individuals with learning differences, these mundane activities can be overwhelming and overstimulating. In fact, even the thought of preparing for them can cause anxiety. However, there are a variety of different techniques for managing them, including creating an organizational and task prioritization system, using public transit with a colleague, getting a ride to work, and lastly wearing ear phones or socializing in less noisy areas. Sometimes, individuals with learning differences can also practice acclimating to stimulating environments through exposure techniques. They may benefit from taking small steps to acclimate to environmental stimuli, while also developing the usual coping skills such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and modifying cognitive distortions.     

It is also important to recognize that individuals with learning differences may have struggled with previous life challenges that can cause their anxiety to be especially acute. They may have been misunderstood or even bullied by peers, struggled to maintain employment, or simply feel that the world moves at a rapid pace that is alienating and anxiety producing. Therefore, therapists can help individuals with learning differences to process their previous experiences, and to examine if their anxiety is motivating them to avoid similar feelings at work and internationally. Sometimes, avoidance is repeated to the detriment of the person’s social  or professional growth.   Therefore,  building resiliency techniques that not only include  developing interpersonal skills, but also allow for self-acceptance and less sensitivity to the judgments of others, can help to mitigate the negative effects of these previous experiences.   

While individuals with learning differences frequently benefit from evidence based interventions to treat anxiety such as CBT, muscle relaxation, and exposure techniques, it behooves therapist to take into consideration their acute sensitivity to environmental stimuli and the emotional impact of previous life experiences. By implementing different exposure therapy techniques and coping strategies for managing everyday sensory intensive experiences, this population can reduce anxiety. Many also benefit from examining the emotional impact of earlier adverse circumstances, and the sometimes self-detrimental strategies they take to avoid experiencing similar emotions in the future. However, by practicing self-acceptance they can lessen sensitivity to the judgments of others, while also accomplishing professional and social goals.  Individuals with learning differences can lead a less anxious life!     

Depression and Learning Differences: What Is Effective Treatment?


Many individuals with learning differences also suffer from depression. In fact, research has been found that students with learning differences are at greater risk for depression than their non-disabled peers. (Maag. W John & Reid, 2006). This is also likely true for the adult population. There are ubiquitous treatments for depression, including the well-researched CBT, medication-assisted therapy, and other therapeutic approaches. However, individuals with learning differences face unique challenges that should be taken into account when providing treatment for depression.  

  People with learning differences often have specific stressors that contribute to their depressive symptoms. For one, they receive frequent negative feedback from employers, in social situations, and even from family. Young adults with learning differences also struggle with independence, and can be categorized as “failure to launch,” a phenomenon in which adults  struggle to be independent and do not leave their parents’ home (Hendrikson, 2019 ). Although they may be too reticent to admit it, these young adults may feel significant shame regarding their situation, which they attempt to numb through computer and video games. Ultimately, these coping strategies can lead to depression, as the underlying emotions are never fully dealt with. Adults with learning differences of all ages often struggle with questions such as “am I employable?” “Will I ever meet somebody?”  However, while their situation may seem dire, it doesn’t have to be. There are effective strategies for helping adults with learning differences to manage their depressive symptoms!    

           CBT addresses automatic thoughts and the emotions and behaviors they trigger. For individuals with learning differences, two common negative thoughts are “I am a failure” and “I am not good enough.” However, many do not realize that they do have unique strengths, some of which have been overlooked by teachers, employers, and even family. For example, not only are individuals with learning differences often creative, thoughtful, and empathetic, but many are also resilient and resourceful in managing the obstacles that they face. CBT can help these individuals to start to realize their strengths. However, it also necessary to apply these identified strengths in overcoming daily obstacles, as exemplified by an adult with ADHD using strong computer skills to create an electronic organizational and time management system. It is not enough to only label pejorative distortions; it is also important to identify and implement strengths.  

Some individuals with learning differences lack a core sense of themselves beyond their diagnosis. In other words, they may feel as though they are defined by their limitations. Breaking free from this mentality involves redefining their self-worth and identifying their core characteristics. Many forget that their morality, kindness, and patience define them just as much as their external success. Therefore, taking time to get in touch with these qualities can help many adults with learning differences to battle depression.

           Many such adults also carry with them unconscious memories from childhood, especially negative feedback from teachers and parents. One of the most profound emotional scars is the feeling that we disappointed our parents, sometimes resulting in a disruption in our attachment to them. These memories can cause greater sensitivity to setbacks in adulthood. Therefore, forgiving oneself for what one might have change d or done differently, as well as abnegating oneself from full responsibility for the disappointment of a caregiver, can be an important therapeutic step. This work can be accomplished through ongoing treatment.

Although there is no one size fits all for the treatment of depression for those with learning differences, there are a variety of different approaches for reframing one’s thinking and understanding about the impact of early life experiences. It behooves all therapists to understand the thought patterns and early experiences that can contribute to depressive symptoms in adults with learning differences. Ultimately, by identifying and applying their strengths, these adults can achieve the professional and social success that they desire.             


Couples Therapy in Bergen County: How Do Communication Exercises Help?

Are you having the same argument over and over again? Does it seem as though no matter how hard you try, discussions dissolve into fights? Couples often struggle with communication. While they may gain some clarity regarding the causes of their conflict during therapy sessions, the same unproductive pattern can repeat itself at home. Sometimes, it feels as though nothing works!  However, couples therapy can be effective, with 70 percent of couples reporting improvements in their relationships (Lebow, 2011). Implementing certain communication practices between sessions can help your relationship to be part of that 70 percent.

Many arguments start when there is a fundamental misrecognition of either party’s subjective experiences. I have seen this while working with neurodiverse couples in which one partner does not understand why the other is especially sensitive to noise or changes in routine. Similar kinds of misunderstandings and arguments can occur with neurotypical couples as well. Sometimes, these misunderstandings can lead to arguments. Therefore, implementing some of the below mentioned techniques at home can help to improve communication before arguments begin.

  1. Practice articulating your experience in a fashion that your partner can understand.

 Let’s say that you and your partner disagree about here to take a vacation, and that you are adamant that you would prefer to go to a city instead of a rural area. Instead of saying “I hate the country because there is nothing to do there,” try making statements that describe your discomfort while also expressing an openness to compromise. For example, “I understand that you would like to enjoy some time away from the stress of the city, but I would like you to understand that it is really hard for me to be in isolated areas because it increases my anxiety. For some, changes in routine and location can cause significant anxiety. However, maybe we could compromise by choosing a rural location near a town.” Statements such as these help to show appreciation for your partner’s needs and desires, while also sharing your experience without making an accusation.

  • Make it relatable to their experience.

It may be a challenge for your partner to relate to your experience. For example, if you have a fear of loud noises that your partner simply cannot understand, maybe relate it to one of his or her personal experiences. A statement such as, “remember how scared you felt when you drove along that cliff? That is how I feel when I hear loud noises.” Relating your experiences to ones your partner has had makes it to be more likely that he or she will listen to you.

  •   Don’t assume that your partner understands

Sometimes, we become frustrated because we expect our partners to understand us. When they don’t, we may feel invalidated. However, remember that just because they do not understand does not mean that they can’t or don’t want to. Sometimes, he or she just needs the opportunity to relate to some aspect of your experience. You can help him or her by making your story relatable and expressing an interest in your partner’s story.  

The Spark: What is it and How to Create it Despite Learning Differences?

Ah the spark. We don’t know how to describe it, but we do know when we have it! It’s just that feeling that comes after a date. Maybe it’s the thought that we just have to see that person again. Perhaps it’s the excitement of a beating heart. One writer states that, “it’s that certain magnetic pull between two people when you both feel mentally, emotionally, and physically, and energetically connected” (Mcclearly, 2015).  In today’s world of infinite possibilities and instant gratification, it is not uncommon to expect a spark on the first date. However, creating this phenomenon may be easier for some than others. If a man’s wit, a sense of humor, and assertiveness are seen as primal prerequisites of attraction for some women, men who struggle with social skills or reading body language may be at a disadvantage. Men with NVLD and on the spectrum have many qualities to offer in a relationship; some of the more commonly mentioned are kindness, loyalty, and honesty.  However, these characteristics may become more visible later in the dating process and be overlooked by someone looking for an initial spark. However, there are alternative forms of dating and techniques for building an initial chemistry that I describe below.

Suffice it to say that the spark is considered overrated by many dating experts. In my view, its overvaluation also prejudices in favor of certain daters over others: those who are witty, funny, and well-dressed rather than those who are kind, sensitive, and introspective. However, it is also the case that there are strategies for getting to know someone that deemphasize initial chemistry. In my dating skills groups, some participants have expressed more comfort and interest in meeting people in groups of people who share their interests. For example, one participant decided to join a robotics meetup group. By building a gradual connection with someone who shared his interests, he worked up the courage to ask her out for a cup of coffee. This strategy worked better for him than a first date with a stranger who may have expected an instantaneous spark.

Even while pursuing non-traditional dating strategies, it is important to implement verbal and     nonverbal strategies for creating a spark such as investing time in grooming and dress. They can also include preparing for a date in one’s grooming and dress, minding one’s table manners, and having a good night’s sleep beforehand. They can also evolve into more advanced strategies such as asking open-ended questions, listening and remembering what was said, and maintaining flirtatious eye contact. Implementing these skills can take some practice, but through role play, one can become more comfortable with them.

Part of the value of working on social skills is to build self-confidence. However, I am not defining self-confidence as it is often understood, but rather as a genuine self-acceptance that has little to do with being assertive, cocky, or arrogant.  One can be self-confident and also humble and empathetic.  Perhaps the most important aspect of self-confidence is taking the focus off of one’s self and onto the needs of the other. The psychologist Dr. Markway states, “Self-confidence can also breed deeper empathy. When you are fully present, you’re more likely to notice that your date seems a little down, or that a friend in the corner looks like she needs a shoulder to cry on. When you are not preoccupied with your own self-doubt, you can be the person who reaches out to help others” (Markway, 2018). For men with NVLD and on the spectrum, being able to concentrate on someone else’s or your date’s needs may help to overcome hindrances associated with understanding social skills and reading body language.

Whether it is online dating, romcom movies, or simply the belief that we can have what we want, building an initial spark has become an increasingly valued part of dating. While initial chemistry is important, its overvaluation can disqualify men who are otherwise attractive. Men with learning differences and on the spectrum may prosses many positive attributes, but have yet to develop some of the social skills necessary for creating a spark. However, there are contexts for meeting others that build on compatibility of interests and both de-emphasize initial chemistry and improve connection. With some foresight and practice, individuals with learning differences can develop strategies for dating that will lead them to have the success they desire.

Markway, D. B. (2018, September 20). Why Self-Confidence is More Important Than you Think: Self-Confidnece is Linked to Almost Every Element Involved in a Happy Life. Retrieved from Psychology Today :

Mcclearly, S. (2015, October 22). Why ” The Spark” is Not a Solid Way to Gauge a A Lasting Relationship”. Retrieved from Elite Daily:


Finding the Way Forward: How Young Adults with Learning Differences can Build Self-Esteem while Navigating Uncertainties.

Many young adults with learning differences manage uncertainties in employment, social life, and family responsibilities. Some ponder worrisome thoughts such as, “How should I prepare for a work meeting? How am I going to prioritize among different assignments? How do I get ready for a date?” These are valid questions. Sometimes, there may be no certain answers. However, tolerating uncertainty while also accepting and learning from mistakes with self-compassion is necessary for building a positive self-concept or self-understanding. Having a high self-esteem can help a young adult with learning differences to navigate the setbacks that they may experience.

            A research study from the United Kingdom of eight young adults with mild learning differences aimed to measure their self-concept. Many identified positive characteristics such as being “friendly and knowledgeable.” However, at least two also acknowledged feeling “anxious and slow” (Prestana, 2015). It concludes that that these young adults might benefit from working with practitioners who can help them to improve their self-esteem and self-concept, as well as their social skills. By building a positive self-image and interpersonal confidence, young adults can better manage an increasing amount of uncertainty.

            A primary anxiety that many of us face in our social lives is the possibility of rejection. Many young adults with learning differences are highly sensitive to this due to the fact that some may perceive themselves as operating on the outside of norms and expectations. In fact, the fear of being rejected may cause them to avoid socializing all together. However, by working with a therapist to manage the feelings associated with previous or anticipated rejection, they can overcome this anxiety. It is important to remember that no one is defined by those who reject him or her. Many people who do reject us do so out of their own ignorance and fear. We may want to be accepted, but as people who learn and process differently, not everyone will understand us. that’s ok. What matters is that we find the people who do. There are steps to wade through the uncertainty in the meantime. Getting to know a person gradually can help to manage the uncertainty of starting a new friendship. Also, building on one’s self-concept and self-esteem can help that person to manage the anxiety of getting to know someone new.

            There is also uncertainty in employment. What does my boss expect of me? When can I take a vacation? When can I bother a colleague? These are all sources of anxiety. However, by working with a therapist one can begin to build one’s self-esteem and self-confidence. The refrain of “I don’t know and that’s ok” holds true for many of us. As young adults with learning differences, we often feel overwhelmed in situations in which we are not sure of what to do. Perhaps we have faced similar situations before. Maybe we were criticized for being overwhelmed. However, by accepting that we are not sure of a specific protocol and or expectations, we may be better able to take the appropriate steps to manage this situation. This can take the form of asking colleagues or supervisors for clarification. It is also advisable  to read through a company handbook. However, sometimes by taking a step back and simply observing while reminding oneself at it may take time to integrate can be a significant step towards reducing your anxiety.

            The young adult years are filled with uncertainty. Individuals with learning differences face added challenges associated with navigating novel situations in their social and employment lives. Therefore, building a strong self-concept and self-esteem can help to navigate these uncertainties. Ultimately, by building social skills, accepting rejection, and observing and inquiring about protocols and expectations at work, young adults with learning differences can have success during an uncertain time in their lives.    



Therapy does not always need to be provided in an office setting. In fact, there are many times when it can be more convenient to speak to your therapist from the comfort of your own home. Teletherapy is an effective method for scheduling regular therapy sessions without onerous commutes. You an also plan sessions within the flexibility of your own schedule. In fact, teletherapy can be useful for individuals with busy lives. Some may find it useful to schedule sessions between assignments at work. Others may do so  during their lunch hour or from their living room.

It is also possible to choose to work with a therapist when you feel sick, need a snack, or want to avoid inclement weather. Let’s face it! Sometimes, it is simpler easier to avoid going to your therapist when you have to get into your car and drive there or take public transportation. Your reward for this is waiting in an anonymous waiting room. Therefore, having the ability to simply click on a screen to check in with your therapist is preferable for many.

It should be noted that studies regarding teletherapy have shown that it can be just as effective as in-office treatment. Therefore, as we all face this current crisis, why not consider teletherapy as an option for treatment? Through HIPPA compliant services clients can expect to have safe, reliable, and private connections with their therapists. Please contact me to discuss this service in greater depth.

COVID-19: Why is it so Hard for those who Learn Differently!


These  are stressful and uncertain times. Practicing social distancing and good hygiene is essential! There is no question that individuals with learning differences must also do the same. However, these expectations may not be as easy for those who already struggle to recognize personal space and remaining organized. This is especially true for individuals with visual-spatial and executive functioning weaknesses such as Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD). In fact, according to CRC Health, “people with NVLD do not understand the concept of personal space, and often make others uncomfortable by crowding in.” (CRC Health, 2000-20015) Of course, there is some variation within this population regarding how these characteristics manifest. Nevertheless, many would benefit from taking special precautions during this time period. It is also important to be proactive in addressing anxiety. This is something that many individuals with learning differences already struggle with.

We are all told to avoid crowds and shop from home. If we must go outside for essentials we are supposed to keep six feet between ourselves and others. However, the reality of grocery shopping, pharmacies, and sometimes just walking down the street is that we all must be vigilant. This is a challenge for somebody without visual spatial deficits. It is especially difficult it must be for someone with challenges in this area. However, you can plan ahead for these activities, such as having a friend accompany you who can serve as a physical or verbal guide in maintaining a safe distance between yourself and others. Even using a shopping cart to create a bubble of personal space can be helpful. Also, it is often advisable to shop during the least crowded time period. It is also wise to develop a list beforehand of all that you will need for an extended time period. Lastly, for many it is helpful to take the extra step of crossing them off as you go along. With the right preparation, you can make this time period a little bit easier.

This can be an anxiety provoking time for individuals with learning differences. They may also struggle with challenges adapting to changes and even new sensory experiences. Even long lines at the grocery store may be overwhelming. Therefore, many individuals with learning differences may benefit from psychotherapy during this time period. It can help to normalize the changes and stresses that are occurring, while challenging the cognitive distortions that are perpetuating anxiety. By working with a psychotherapist, you can improve your overall mental health. Although this is a challenging period for individuals with learning differences, they can get through it!

A Two-Pronged Approach: How and Why Individuals with Learning Differences Benefit from Coaching and Emotionally Focused Psychotherapy

A call with a potential client yesterday reminded me why I provide psychotherapy and coaching. He described how his challenges meeting deadlines and finding a professional path have provoked symptoms of depression. He was looking for concrete strategies to improve his organization. However, he did also genuinely want to rebuild his self-confidence and overall well-being. Experience and research tell us that learning differences are often co-morbid with mental illnesses (Silver, 2013). Therefore, mental health treatment is often highly indicated as part of the treatment plan for these individuals. Unfortunately, there is a false dichotomy among mental health professionals between coaching and psychotherapy. This may result in these individuals receiving these services from different providers. However, I have found that treatment for those with learning differences is often most effective when coaching and psychotherapy are offered. Ultimately, these services helps a person to achieve the success and outcomes he or she desires.

Many of the individuals I have worked with have stated that they found either exclusive psychotherapy or coaching to be ineffective. They may make statements such as “I felt like we talked about the same issues over and over again, but I never learned how to change my situation.” Another common statement is, “I feel like my coach wanted me to make all of these changes without understanding why it was so hard for me to make them to begin with.” In other words, psychotherapy was insufficient in offering concrete strategies for helping this person to manage the practical challenges they faced on a daily basis. On the other hand, coaching that does not take into consideration the emotional impact of a learning difference may be met with understandable resistance. This is due to the fact that person with mental health challenges may have obstacles that interfere with implementing the strategies mentioned by the coach. Emotionally focused psychotherapy, when it is combined with coaching, helps an individual to accomplish psychological and concrete goals.

A young woman I work with illustrates why it is effective to combine psychotherapy and coaching. When her parents contacted me, they explained that she had been recently diagnosed with Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD). However, she still wanted to become a nurse. The beginning of my work with her centered on helping her to “Understand how my mind works.” In other words, she reported that she never had the opportunity to fully understand her specific strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, how they might impact her during her nursing school training. I was able to provide her with some concrete strategies for achieving success. As treatment progressed, she was able to explore some of the anxiety she experienced regarding her potential academic performance; these included deep-seated fears of letting her parents down. A combination of psychotherapy and coaching helped me to better understand not only the practical challenges she faced but also the anxieties and internalized pressure she experienced. Combining psychotherapy and coaching provides her with comprehensive services she needs for reaching her goal.

I want to be clear in stating that I am not suggesting that psychotherapists become coaches or vice-versa. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, my training is primary in psychotherapy and mental health services, and not in coaching. However, I am suggesting that as a therapist who works with individuals with learning differences, I do think it is critical for me to provide some form of concrete support when appropriate. I suggest that therapists not only become more knowledgeable about learning differences, but also that they become more open to making practical suggestions that can help their clients to achieve success. Ultimately, psychotherapy that includes some coaching is most effective for assisting a young adult to overcome his or her obstacles.

Finding the True Man Within: Masculinity and Mental Health Challenges for Men with Different Types of Learning Differences

As a Bergen County psychotherapist and coach, I see many young men who are struggling with some aspect of their masculinity. For young men with learning differences, social rejection, challenges in school, and later difficulties maintaining employment can not only be acutely painful, but also shake the foundation of their manhood.  The intersection of disability and masculinity is eloquently captured by Erin Kelly when she states, “When you have society constantly telling you. ‘You can’t do that!’ It eats away at your soul-no matter who you are. When you have a disability, people aren’t telling you that because they think whatever you are doing is wrong or against the law. They’re most likely telling you because you don’t ‘look the ‘part,’ due to the fact that you have a wheelchair or what have you…for a disabled man to hear these things, I think it would be worse than any pill to swallow” (Kelly, 2015) Young men with “invisible” learning differences might “look the part,” but also feel emasculated when friends and family members shoot them slightly disapproving glances when they discover that  they are living at home after college, for example. As an individual and family therapist who often works with young adults with nonverbal learning disabilities, I know how important it is to support these young men reconnect with their masculinity. These are a few of my techniques.

Some of the young men who come to my practice feel “stuck.” They may feel overqualified for their job, unable to afford moving out from their parents, or missing meaningful social connections. These feeling infringes on a traditional sense of masculinity that emphasis self-agency and personal responsibility. Therefore, it is helpful for them to reclaim their personal power where they can. For example, one male client who was interested in exploring outdoor activities with other men described the satisfaction he would feel when he cut down a tree, finally seeing the tangible results of hard work and feeling as though there was something he could change in his tangible environment. Other young men describe feeling most competent when they go to the gym and build their strength and endurance, while some others become involved in developing new hobbies, such as fishing or music. In general, encouraging the young men I work with to imagine their own efficacy and power outside of their work lives has been helpful for them to develop their sense of masculinity and power.

In addition to encouraging self-efficacy and personal power, I have found that some young men respond positively to reframing their experiences as uniquely masculine. Indeed, for many of these young men, it took tremendous personal sacrifice to graduate from high school and college, for example.  I may often ask them, for example, to consider the fact that they never gave up and that they pushed through, characteristics that are traditionally associated with masculinity.  Some of the young men I work with are able to consider that overcoming challenges has led them to become more resilient and better able to face down what life throws their way, like a boxer who has taken multiple hits but keeps on fighting. This image has resurrected a sense of masculinity in some of the young men I work with.

I recognize that some concepts of masculinity include aspects with which I strongly disagree, such as sexism and patriarchy. However, while I do at times present alternative concepts, I think that it is important to keep in mind that some of these young men have felt beaten down, misunderstood, and not even recognized as whole and complete individuals. For them, an identity that includes traditional ideas and concepts of masculinity are essential for developing a wholeness to their identify, something that may have been stripped from them. In this context, exploring how they can define a masculine identity for themselves solidifies a therapeutic alliance, as part of their identify is validated by another male.



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