Clinical Implications for Working with Gay Men A Self Psychological Treatment Approach.


Ashraf Ahmed

Date of Award


Degree Name



Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Jennifer Cornish

First Committee Member

David L. Becker

Second Committee Member

Julie B. Colwell


Homosexuality--Psychological aspects ; Clinical health ; Self psychology Psychology


Specific training for conducting psychotherapy with gay men is limited for psychologists, particularly when using a Self Psychology theoretical orientation (Robertson, 1996). In fact, psychologists often are faced with conflicting and contradictory points of view that mirror society's condemnation of homosexuality (Robertson, 1996). This paper is written from a self-psychological perspective to address the lack of a constructive body of literature that explains the unique treatment needs which impact gay men. Estimates of the prevalence of male homosexuality have generated considerable debate. A common assumption is that there are homosexual and non-homosexual men. However, scientists have long been aware that sexual responsiveness to others of the same sex, like most human traits, is continuously distributed in the population (Michaels, 1996). Still the presumption exists that such traits are stable within each man over time (Michaels, 1996). Conflating same-sex sexual experiences with a categorization of the man as homosexual is problematic, in that defining sexuality solely on the basis of experience excludes people who fantasize about sex with others of the same sex but never have sexual contact. Thus, most modern conceptions of sexual orientation consider personal identification, sexual behavior, and sexual fantasy (McWhirter, Sanders & Reinisch, 1990). Gay men's mental health can only be understood in the context of homosexuality throughout history, since religious and moral objections to sexual attraction between men have existed for centuries. Men who desired other men were regarded as sinful and depraved if not ill or abnormal, and same sex contacts were not distinguished from lewd behaviors (Weeks, 1989). Although most people, regardless of sexual orientation, have experienced some feelings of personal rejection, rarely do heterosexuals become targets for disapproval based on the nature of their attractions and behaviors relative to the same and to the other sex. For lesbians, bisexuals, and gay men, however, homosexuality becomes the focus of aspects of themselves that make them feel hated and hateful (Isay, 1989). While gay men and lesbians are often considered together because of the same-sex nature of their relationships and the similar issues that they may experience in their treatment within society, there are many issues where they might be best studied separately. Issues involving with health, parenthood, sexuality and perceived roles and status in society, for example, are often related more to gender than to any shared concept of a 'gay and lesbian community'. Many issues surrounding lesbians and lesbian culture will have more to do with women's issues, and some issues involving with gay men will have more to do with the gay male subculture and with masculinity. The author of this paper has limited experience in working with lesbian and bisexual individuals, and although it is likely that some of the concepts articulated in this paper could translate to working with lesbian and bisexual individuals, further research is indicated to examine the beneficence of utilizing a Self Psychological orientation in psychotherapy with lesbian women and bisexual individuals. This paper presents an overview of the literature including historical treatments of homosexuality, the history of Self Psychology, key principles in Self Psychology, research on Self Psychology, identity development models for gay men, and Self Psychological perspectives on identity development related to gay men. The literature review is followed by a section on treatment implications for psychologists seeking to treat gay men, including case vignettes based on work from my own practice. I have preserved the anonymity of clients by changing demographics, and rearranging and combining presenting issues and historical backgrounds among the case examples.


Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


53 pages

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