Couple Therapy with Gay Men

David E. Greenan and Gil Tunnell

October 16, 2002
ISBN 9781572308084
Price: $39.00
214 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"

This book illuminates the unique needs of gay male couples in therapy and provides a practical framework for clinical intervention. The authors review the basic principles of structural family therapy and guide therapists in adapting treatment goals and interventions to better serve gay clients. Addressed are the universal issues faced by all couples in therapy, gay and straight, as well as the particular challenges gay men face in building nurturing, intimate relationships in a homophobic society. Extensive case examples and session transcripts are used to illustrate effective strategies for helping clients affirm the strength of their union, even in the absence of familial and social support; learn to resolve differences constructively; and overcome culturally conditioned barriers to connection and trust.

“A much-needed book addressing not only the needs of gay men in couples therapy, but also the therapist's and client's homophobia and perceptions of the potential staying power of gay couples....The enriching aspect of this book is how the authors take you through a child or adolescent's development, from his initial discovery that he is gay through the ensuing trauma that is usually endured alone, and how he is deprived of a relational context in which his authentic emotional self can emerge and grow....useful to all levels of couple/relationship therapists. Beginning therapists may still benefit from the review of structural couples therapy in general, and especially as it pertains to working with gay men in the context of couples therapy....Many case examples of both heterosexual and gay couples help illustrate the similarities and differences of using structural therapy with gay couples....a roadmap in writing a new script for how we deal with gay couples.”

Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy

“Among the numerous books on couples therapy it can safely be said that none match Couple Therapy with Gay Men in scope or depth....We are provided a step-by-step narrative of an exciting behavioral process, rooted in Minuchin's structural theory of family therapy, which aims at corrective experiences and personal growth through an interactive, here-and-now process. This program, richly illustrated by case examples, offers some valuable pointers, some directed specifically at gay therapists working with gay couples....This book merits the interest of all clinicians doing couples therapy.”

—Leo Goldberger, PhD, Behavioral Science Books Advisory Board Member

“This masterful book—grounded in vivid case examples—gives readers a clear theoretical framework and a 'how-to' guide for intervening actively with gay male couples in therapy. Whereas almost all previous works deal only with the intrapsychic dynamics of the individual partners, this one goes much further, shining a bright light on couple-level processes. The integration of family systems, gender socialization, and gay identity development theories is brilliant!”

—Robert-Jay Green, PhD, Alternative Family Institute, California School of Professional Psychology, Alliant International University; coeditor of Lesbians and Gays in Couples and Families

“A breakthrough book. Greenan and Tunnell eloquently describe a clear and compassionate model of therapy that is applicable to gay and straight couples alike, while demonstrating enormous sensitivity to the particular issues confronting gay couples in a homophobic culture. Telling the powerful and poignant stories of gay men courageously building their lives together, Couple Therapy with Gay Men is a superb teaching book about the art of couples treatment. I highly recommend it.”

—David Treadway, PhD

“In this timely and informative book, we are introduced to the outer world and inner lives of gay men in intimate relationships. In understanding the uniqueness of this bonding, we learn much about the development of sexual identity and the effects of gender acculturation on gay couples' interpersonal dynamics and complementary roles. We also learn much about the nature of love and the elements that go into all intimate relationships. The model of couple therapy presented here is based on transcending cultural stereotypes and creating an identity as a couple based on expanded role definitions, and the in-depth case studies are both informative and inspiring. This book should be required reading for students of psychotherapy as well as experienced therapists.”

—Peggy Papp, MSW, Ackerman Institute for the Family, NYC

“What is the road map for intimacy among males? Can members of a gay couple allow themselves to be vulnerable with their partners? What is the therapeutic process that expands the experience of a gay couple beyond the accepted norms of the dominant culture for intimacy? In order to elucidate these questions, [this] book presents case excerpts that are written in a form that invites you into the office, where you can observe the respectful way in which therapy moves from support to challenge and to the expansion and incorporation of complexity....Greenan and Tunnell deliver what they have promised: a guide for therapy with gay couples that is clear, practical, and useful.”

—from the Foreword by Salvador Minuchin, MD

“This book is a much-needed addition to the literature on treating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. If you think gay couples are just like any other couples, Greenan and Tunnell will change your thinking. As they reveal, gay couples face unique challenges and bring unique strengths to their intimate relationships. Couple Therapy with Gay Men is the perfect place to start your education about how to make therapy relevant and helpful for these clients.”

—Laura Markowitz, Editor, In The Family: The Magazine for Queer People and their Loved Ones

Table of Contents

1. The Marginalization of Gay Male Couples

2. Implications for Man-to-Man Closeness from Growing Up Gay

3. An Overview of Structural Family Therapy

4. Joining with Male Couples

5. Enactments: Identifying Complementary Roles

6. Unbalancing: Discovering New Steps

7. A Case Study: Male Couples and Connectedness

8. Toward the Future



About the Authors

David E. Greenan, EdD, is Executive Director of The Minuchin Center for the Family, where he teaches family therapy and consults to agencies that serve inner-city poor families. He is also a psychologist and family therapist in private practice in New York City.

Gil Tunnell, PhD, is a clinical psychologist in full-time private practice in New York City. He supervises and trains psychiatric residents and psychology interns in family therapy at Beth Israel Medical Center.


Clinicians who treat couples; students in couple and family therapy, clinical and counseling psychology, psychiatry, clinical social work, and nursing.

Serves as a text in clinically oriented graduate-level courses.

Course Use

Serves as a text in clinically oriented graduate-level courses.