Book Review: Doing Psychotherapy With Men

June 28th, 2011 by Pelle Billing


I’m reading an excellent book at the moment, one that I even took the time to review on Amazon. It’s called Doing Psychotherapy With Men, by Dr John A. Ashfield, and it’s highly relevant for anybody who’s interested in men’s issues and male psychological health.

Here is the review:

An important book on an important subject

Some people may ask if we really need a book on doing psychotherapy with men. After all, don’t we simply need good psychotherapy for people in need – regardless of gender? Don’t we have enough gender stereotyping as is in society?

As much as I can empathize with the rationale behind those lines of thinking, it turns out we do need specialized knowledge in the field of psychotherapy, just like in medicine and other professional fields. The intersection of biology and culture presents men with unique challenges, opportunities and yes – distinct on average psychological functioning. Tackling this subject head on is also very much needed in this day and age where manhood and masculinity are increasingly viewed as pathologies.

The book unfolds in a logical way, starting out by defining core concepts, then moving on to male coping, communication and ways of handling stress, as well as specific diagnoses such as depression and alcoholism.

Rather than starting anew in each chapter, the author demonstrates how key ways of male psychological functioning shine through in many different situations. The included cases studies are also very useful, and help maintain this integrated and holistic vibe.

One of my own major take aways from this book is that male psychological functioning and coping are not deficient, but simply different from that of women. I thought I knew this but this book showed me how I still held on to the belief that men need to be more like women, psychologically speaking, and “get more in touch with their feelings”. In my opinion one of the reasons that the cultural zeitgeist presents male psychological functioning as deficient is that women have tended to be the norm in the development of modern psychotherapy (Freud, etc), just like men tended to be the norm in the development of modern medicine. There are other factors too, but we have been on a trajectory for decades where men are portrayed as deficient women when it comes to emotions, communication, etc.

None of this is to say that men cannot develop and improve their psychological health – after all, this is what the book is about! – but they will do it as men and not by trying to fit into a mould which is not for them.

To sum up, I recommend this book for any man who wants to understand himself better, and for any woman who wants to understand men better. For psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers, this book has the potential to make every future meeting with a man that much more productive and healing.

13 Responses to “Book Review: Doing Psychotherapy With Men”

  1. Rutger Stjernstrom Says:

    Thanks alot for the tip!
    Emediately went and placed an order. I’m so looking forward to burying me self between the covers:-)
    Have a great summer!

  2. Allan Says:

    I’m glad this is getting more attention!


    NY Times article on how few male psychotherapists there are and the difficulties it poses for men:

    Rick Goodwin is the director of one of the only agencies to exclusively focus on mental health services for men at The Men’s Project (it’s in Ottawa, Canada). He speaks to the integration of services issues in this interview: i.e. how anger management leads to healing from childhood abuse leads to fathering help.

    This Social Work Today article on the lack of a male gendered approach to childhood sexual victimization:

  3. Hamstrn Says:

    Thank you Pelle I also ordered a copy.

  4. Jonas P Says:

    Very interesting. If you have the time perhaps you could say some more about what types of coping strategies men use and why they’re not deficient but just different? Also of course how the author suggest we help men in psychotherapy…

  5. Rutger Stjernström Says:

    Found some further reading on the subject. Havn’t read it myself though…

    APA Psychotherapy Videotape Series IV: Psychotherapy With Men, with Mark A. Stevens, PhD. (2003). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Brooks, G., & Good, G.E. (Eds). (2001). The new handbook of psychotherapy and counseling with men. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

    Englar-Carlson, M., & Stevens, M. (in press). In the room with men: A casebook approach to psychotherapy with men. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Andronico, M. (Ed.). (1996). Men in groups: Insights, interventions, and psychoeducational work. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Levant, R., & Kopecky, G. (1995). Masculinity reconstructed: Changing the rules of manhood–at work, in relationships, and in family life. New York: Dutton.

  6. Pelle Billing Says:

    Good to hear that some of you are ordering the book!

    Jonas, I’ll probably write more about the book on the blog, so stay tuned.

  7. Allan Says:

    More FYI, briefly,

    The APA’s Division51 Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity has free membership right now and an interesting listserve (professional and student membership content)

    This interests me as a sexual assault advocate for men and support group leader. Particularly, “help seeking behavior” in men and male-oriented protocols to respond that work interest me. Frequently people respond in ways that work for women but turn men off, and then blame men or say they aren’t interested in getting help.

  8. Pelle Billing Says:

    Thanks for the tip Allan.

    BTW you may want to find an alternative expression for this: “a sexual assault advocate for men”. It can be misunderstood.

  9. Allan Says:

    Oh? I mean a sexual assault advocate working with male victims… Isn’t that clear?

  10. Jonas P Says:


    As I’ve noticed in my field (psychiatry) there’s also the problem that even when men come in with the same problems as women, mental health staff don’t treat them the same. Almost every patient that’s been released and committed suicide shortly thereafter have been male and have in retrospect been a high risk patient that was released too early. (With high risk I mean things such as not having any social support, no money or place to stay, perhaps substance abuse, and so on.) We are much more careful with women who have the same issues even though men actually react worse to things such as losing their job.

    My point is just that I totally agree that we need specialized therapy for men, but we also need to take a look at the ways in which we treat men and women differently not because they are different but because we think of them differently.

  11. Allan Says:


    I see exactly that too: lots of research and need that shows men are not different, but they are thought of and treated utterly differently in the US. I’d like to get training and credentials to specialize in men’s psychology and mental health, especially victimization/trauma but I don’t see employment in i.e. a men’s center as likely, even possible here.


  12. Jim Says:

    Allan, have you seen “I Don’t Want to Talk About It”? That author says what oyu are saying, and goes into quite a bit of detail.

  13. Memphis Steve Says:

    Gender and Sex are not interchangeable. Gender simply refers, at best, to which sex we present ourselves to be externally. Sex is which sex we are biologically. When dealing with the human brain and psychology, gender is irrelevant, but sex is not.