Case Study


Case Study

Doing Vulnerability: The Art of Helping Men Open Up

November/December 2017


Many of our clients, especially men, believe in the traditional definition of vulnerability: a state of weakness that leads to being open to attack. Often they’ve spent much of their lives learning how to avoid feeling vulnerable at all costs—which works well in situations demanding that they stay calm, turn off emotions, remain task focused, and perform under pressure. Adhering to values such as toughness, assertiveness, logic, discipline, confidence, and perseverance becomes the measuring stick of their success in life. Understandably, these clients are usually reluctant to embrace the positive benefits of vulnerability as a necessary pathway to authenticity, clarity, and growth.

Like many therapists, I’ve noticed over the years that when I can orchestrate vulnerable moments with clients, my own engagement becomes more intense, time slows down, and I feel more therapeutically alive. Vulnerability is the language of emotionally connected beings, and like a powerful magnet, pain, doubt, fear, mistrust, and other vulnerable states bring forth new opportunities for deep intimacy and transformation, especially in work with couples. However, as I found when working with Antoine and Mary, there are times when leading clients along the path of vulnerability can be not only challenging, but wrought with potential pitfalls, where men like Antoine, acutely sensitive to how expressions of intimate and tender emotions conflict with their self-image, can get lost in dark…

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