Lonely, guilt-ridden sex addict fighting back the years? Stressed, celibate guppie convinced you've got HIV? OutUK's Adrian Gillan lies back on the couch with gay psycho duo John and Steve to unearth just what taunts a 21st Century boy. And we also talk to an American psychotherapist about how best to create and maintain a gay relationship.

"I do use a couch," gay psychotherapist John confides from his Central London pad, "but not for everyone and it is not black leather - more a Middle Eastern cotton print design."

Until fairly recently John admits that many in his profession failed their gay patients. "When I set up practice over a decade ago, it was hard to find properly qualified practitioners who did not regard homosexuality as a sickness."

"Having been involved in gay rights for almost thirty years, I still find it rather disturbing that some young gay men in the 21st century are so riddled with guilt, with a shame that is palpable."

Couples tend to bring issues to with distance
and closeness.
"People usually seek counselling," insists John , "when their emotional pain is too much for them to bear or when their time-strapped GP gives them a prescription for anti-depressants without asking why they are depressed."


"There's still a stigma attached to therapy," he concedes. "Some people think you've got to be 'crazy' before trying it. Or they think it involves electric shock therapy! Many clients also worry they are being overly indulgent. But isn't it more self indulgent for a person to live with their misery, making those nearest to them miserable too? Going into therapy is about maturity and being ready to take a frank and sometimes unnerving look at oneself."

"If you think you need to see a therapist," counsels John, "seek one out who is properly qualified and experienced and who can offer you treatment appropriate to your needs. There should be a good chemistry between you. See how three or four sessions go. Then if happy, continue. However clients should never feel manipulated or trapped by their therapists."

"Many of our gay clients have high powered jobs and suffer from anxiety, depression and overwork," he says. "Sometimes an hour or two of therapy is the only time for real reflection that these busy and stressed people get. Others may lack a sense of community - ill-at-ease in the world of gay clubs and bars - and we provide them with a safe environment to explore their problems and look at them from a different angle."


"In recent years we've noticed an unusual phenomenon around HIV hysteria," says John. "Some people are convinced that they have HIV or a related illness and demand HIV tests on a weekly and sometimes daily basis, when they know that they could not possibly be infected. We see this obsession as a smokescreen hiding the real problem. Once the real problem is unearthed and thought about, the obsession often vanishes."

"I see a lot of gay or bisexual men and same sex couples," says practice colleague Steve. "Overall, gay men bring many of the same problems as straight ones - erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, loss of desire - though recently I've seen a lot of gay men for sexual addiction."


"These men often describe themselves as 'promiscuous'," he continues. "Yet promiscuity isn't really a problem in itself: it just means you have a lot of sexual partners. However such people commonly lack a particularly strong sex drive to match - they might not even feel horny! In fact, they are often masking something like depression or fear. And when asked to abstain from the addictive behaviour during therapy, the true cause usually emerges."

Says Steve: "Couples tend to bring issues to do with distance and closeness. A man may love his partner to bits whilst at the same time wanting to have a bit of fun with other blokes. Moreover, gay couples of long-standing are often unhelpfully put on a pedestal, like some idealised romance, by other gay men perhaps not in such stable relationships. But this 'ideal couple' probably needs just as much support as everyone else."

"And," he adds encouragingly, "whilst it's true that gay clients over fifty have often experienced greater oppression than younger lads, there is life for the gay man after forty! Many of the happiest and most well adjusted gay men I have known have in fact been older."

"Naturally," Steve muses wryly, "I get straight clients who are really gay or bi but in the closet. But it also works the other way round - gay guys who are seriously considering going straight. There are as many sexualities as there are people, or colours in a rainbow."

The Power Of A Partner


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