‘Navigating between polarities': An exploration of how gay male therapists’ subject positionings affect their experience of the therapeutic relationship with male clients

  • Michael Beattie

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study looked at the intersection of subjectivities with respect to gender, sexuality and professional role for eight gay male therapists and how these positionings affected their experience of working with male clients. Following Hollway & Jefferson’s (2000) Free Association Narrative Interview (FANI) method, each participant was interviewed twice and the data analysed using psychosocial discourse analysis. The primary analysis was analysed again using an approach informed by Foucauldian concepts (Yates & Hiles, 2010). The data gathering and double-­‐analysis approach accessed intrapsychic, interpersonal and wider socio-­‐political fields within which subject positionings are understood to be constructed, performed and negotiated. All participants struggled to navigate between polar binary positions in gender and sexuality discourses. Three principal subject positions were identified: ‘Pinocchio’, ‘Walks-­‐Between’ and ‘I’m just a bloke’. Those in the ‘Pinocchio’ position appeared more effeminate and, by extension, more obviously gay. They tended to construct their sexual and gender identities as more important and were more likely to express fear and anxiety in talking about all-­‐male dyads. Those in the ‘I’m just a bloke’ position appeared more authentically masculine and tended to see their gender and sexual identities as relatively unproblematic. They were more likely to focus on their professional identity and to express relatively less anxiety about working with men. The ‘Walks-­‐Between’ position attempted to bridge gender and sexuality binaries to create a position that valued homosocial intimacy and vulnerability in the relationship. All but one of the participants suggested that it was important for the work that their sexuality remained hidden from their male clients, although most acknowledged that this was less problematic if their male client was himself gay. Page 5 The potential for both polar positions to work against homosocial intimacy in all-­‐male dyads as well as implications for counselling psychology research, training and practice are discussed and suggestions made for future research work.
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorAnne Marie Salm (Supervisor) & Tony Evans (Supervisor)

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