A grounded theory investigation of why some men refuse to participate in marital and family therapy

Date of Completion

January 2006


Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




The bulk of the literature explaining men's underutilization of services has been written from the perspective of psychologists and researchers, rather than from the perspective of men in the community (Rochlen & Hoyer, 2005). Hence, it has been recommended that researchers increase attention given to client's experience of therapy so that we may better meet their needs and evaluate our services. The current study expanded this frame to include the perspective of men who have refused to participate in marital and family therapy. ^ Clinicians and researchers have noted that men are frequently absent from marital and family therapy and they are often the most difficult family member to engage in therapy (Hecker, 1991). Yet, very little research has thoroughly assessed men's reasons for not participating in therapy. Thus, there appears to be a tendency for the men who are absent from therapy to be relatively absent in the research as well. Therefore, without their voices being heard, we have been left with untested assumptions about their reasons for refusing to participate in marital and family therapy. ^ This study used grounded theory methodology (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) to investigate why men refuse to participate in marital and family therapy. Eleven participants were included in the study. Transcripts of their interviews were analyzed and coded using the constant comparison method to create a grounded theory of why men refuse to participate in marital and family therapy. ^ Findings include a wide range of non-relational and relational refusal themes. Non-relational refusal themes primarily fit within the following three broad themes: (1) patterns of male socialization are antithetical to the perceived expectations of therapy; (2) trust and personal disclosure issues; and (3) the belief that therapy would not be helpful. Several less prominent (idiosyncratic) themes were also found. Relational refusal themes included: (1) avoidance of blame; (2) minimization of relationship problems and/or disagreement about the severity of problems; and (3) opposition to significant others. The grounded theory developed in this study provides a framework for understanding why men refuse to participate in marital and family therapy. Implications for practice and future research are discussed. ^