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Does A Therapist's Gender Matter In Therapy? A Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy Podcast Episode

Does A Therapist's Gender Matter In Therapy? A Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy Podcast Episode

The question about whether or not a client should see a male or female therapist? Always plays on their mind because some clients strongly believe they should only see a same-sex or opposite-sex therapist when they go to psychotherapy. Yet research shows that the success of therapy doesn’t depend on the therapist’s gender as much as people think, and in reality the therapeutic alliance is a lot more important. In this clinical psychology podcast episode, you’ll look at why the gender of a therapist rarely matters, in what cases it could be important and why the therapeutic alliance is a lot more important for therapeutic success. If you enjoy clinical psychology, psychotherapy and learning more about therapists, you’ll love today’s episode.

Today’s episode has been sponsored by Clinical Psychology Reflections Volume 3. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at

Why Do Clients Have Gender Preferences For Therapists?

This is definitely something that I find really interesting about clients because sometimes they prefer to see the opposite sex as therapists because if they attended a same-sex school then they might be competitive in the presence of same-sex peers. Or they might want to only see same-sex therapists because we need to remember that often clients are already embarrassed and ashamed unfortunately for being apparently “messed up” as so many clients put it. Therefore, they might prefer to talk to a same-sex therapist because it might be less embarrassing for them.

Equally, you might find that because of past events in the client’s life, they are more comfortable talking about certain topics with certain genders. For example, if a woman had major depression and she believed it was mainly caused by the horrific sexism she faced at work then she might want to say to a woman instead of a man. And that’s okay.

On the other hand, I know if I ever decide to go to therapy for my past, I would most likely probably want a male therapist because I find it easier to talk about this stuff with men, considering it was a male friend that made me start talking about what’s happened to me in the past.

However, this is all subjective preference and this is what a client feels. All these preferences are valid but they are certainly not the be-all and end-all of psychological therapy.

So what makes good therapy?

What Makes Good Therapy?

Time and time again therapists (regardless of their age, gender and therapeutic model) all agree that the strongest predictor of whether a therapy will work or not is the therapeutic alliance. This is the strength of the connection between the therapist and the client that is very much built on acceptance, respect for each other and empathy.

This is supported by tons of research and a lot of meta-analyses have found that all the studies show the same general direction of the relationship. The stronger the alliance, the higher chance the therapy has of working.

Whereas when studies look at gender preference and therapy outcomes, the results are nowhere near as clear-cut. Since some studies show when a gender match happens, the therapy is more likely to work but other studies don’t.

However, the real problem with this gender question is that the question is basically moot at this point in time. Since it doesn’t really matter what a client wants in terms of gender. Not only because public mental health services are so stretched, clients are thrown to certain therapists just to try and get through the backlog, but because clinical psychology itself is such a female-dominated workforce.

What Shapes A Client’s Gender Preference?

In all honesty, there isn’t much research on how many clients set out to start therapy with a certain gender of a therapist in mind. One study from Counselling Psychology Quarterly found that 60% of men don’t have a preference and the rest were basically 20% men, 20% women.

There was no real difference found.

Therefore, it seems that whatever shapes gender preference for a therapist is very individualistic but there are some common themes. For instance, trauma is an important factor because a lot of abused women are abused by men so a female therapist makes sense. Equally, men prefer male therapists because of the outdated and extremely pointless ideology about “you can’t look weak in front of a woman”.

Talking about your feelings, your pain and your difficulties doesn’t make you look weak.

And whilst this is all perfectly valid, clients need to know or be aware that these ideas and preferences about a therapist might be limiting their search. All because of ideas and notions that will be proved false later on in therapy.

Why Could Gender Preferences Be Worth Listening To?

Now that we’re looked at why gender preferences towards therapists aren’t a good idea, we now need to look at if there are any circumstances in which they actually are needed or should be listened to. Therefore, trauma is obviously one example because women who have been abused by men are a lot more comfortable with female therapists and this makes for a better bond.

However, most of the time, gender preferences need to be challenged even more so when they are based in gender stereotypes. Like the idea of men not being able to show emotion in forward of women. That seriously needs to be challenged.

Overall, finding a good therapist that works for a client will take time and some clients need to try a few different ones to find a therapist that works for them. It doesn’t mean that these therapists are bad, it is just that we are social creatures and we all need to find people we “gel” with at times. Especially when talking about something so personal.

If you’re a clinical psychologist then this is important to be aware of that clients might have a gender preference that will probably need to be challenged as part of therapy.

If you’re a client listening to this then just know that the gender of your therapist doesn’t matter at all. It is all about the relationship you have with them and that will ultimately predict whether your therapy will be a success or you both need to go back to the drawing board.

I really hope you enjoyed today’s clinical psychology podcast episode.

If you want to learn more, please check out:

Clinical Psychology Reflections Volume 3. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at

Have a great day.

Clinical Psychology Reference

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