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Life on M.A.R.S. – Piloting a Recovery Group for Men in an NHS Community Mental Health Service

by Dr Amanda Kinsella and Alastair Pipkin

Research and experience recurrently highlights that Secondary Care Mental Health Services struggle to engage with men. Various theories have emerged which attempt to explain this (e.g. Wyllie et al., 2012) – including that men have a distinct style of regulating emotions; that cultural discourses around masculinity inform a reluctance to help-seek in the traditional sense; and that men tend to suit a problem-solving, action-focused approach prior to delving into their emotional depths. Theory aside – suicide rates remain highest for men aged 40-44, and men are reportedly three times more likely to take their own lives than women (Samaritans, 2017). The case for meeting men where they are, engaging with them on their terms and promoting their use of both mental health services and psychological therapy is clear.

Project Summary

The Halton Recovery Team – a Secondary Care Community Mental Health Team; North West Boroughs Health Care Trust – have recognised a gap in service delivery.

The team piloted a 12-week men’s only transdiagnostic recovery group. Referrals were open to the whole service. The program is based on the concept of empowering men to consider themselves as agents in their own recoveries. An assertive outreach engagement model was used, including an initial joint home visit with the nurse and psychologist who would be facilitating the group. Invitation, transparency and equality were key messages. Additional individual weekly telephone support and a post-course individual psychology session to consider “Where to now” and next steps were offered.

The design integrated relational, third-wave cognitive behavioural therapies, focussing on psychoeducation, relatedness and behaviour change, as well as recognising differences between the help-seeking behaviours of men and women and normalising “men’s emotional processes“.

The aim was not about making men more like women but respecting masculinity and intrinsic differences by specifically exploring the why and how men feel “Dis–Ease” and the behavioural and emotional consequences of shame, isolation and feeling stuck. Concepts of wellness and recovery were explored.

The group prides itself on taking an invitational approach – including sessional and home practice, integrating mindfulness and relatedness skills for regulating affect. Delivery included suicide prevention and transparency regarding high male suicide rates and looking at improving safety net strategies in times of crisis. Group exploration within masculine narratives lead the way to compassion for self and others, helping to support change behaviour and individual recovery.


The pilot group had an 80% completion rate, with the one individual dropping out being offered a place on the following cohort.

Across the two cohorts, self-report measures of readiness to change and difficulties regulating emotions were used. The mean readiness to change score showed an increase pre- to post-intervention, denoting a shift from the ‘pre-contemplative’ stage to the ‘contemplative’.  Post mean scores, difficulties regulating emotions also showed a reduction, suggesting a reduction in emotion regulation difficulties. Self-report scales of curiosity about the future, confidence about moving forwards and hopefulness showed increase, while self-report scales of doubtfulness about recovery and self-critical thoughts showed a reduction.

Qualitative feedback was taken from all of the men  This was analysed using a thematic analysis, finding five themes; expectations of the group; past experiences of services; positive gains; positive aspects of the group; self-agency.

Some quotes from the men:

I don’t think any of us realised that when our bodies were doing stuff that our minds would then take over until it was explained … I certainly didn’t realise to the levels our bodies reacted in a certain way and then our minds run off with itself”

It gives me a chance of thinking I can recover, yeah … it’s gonna take a lot of time, but at least now we know there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Somebody actually understands that we’re not totally messed up”

[Being in a group with other men] you know roughly the sort of anxieties they’re going to have about certain things, it’s sort of set in stone because you’re all men, so you know where they’re coming from … It puts you at ease”

The group is currently leading into its third cohort, and the team has established a psychological and social pathway for the men following attendance – including being placed straight into individual therapy waiting lists should they choose, and further psychosocial support via an allotment group and newly established football groups. Men from the pilot group have gone on to individual therapy and attending the allotment group together.

The option for men to co-deliver future groups is currently being developed, as is the men co-producing and co-delivering presentations to the Trust regarding exploring commissioning the service more broadly.

The main learning from the pilot is that meeting men where they are enables engagement, empowerment, and overall, the co-creation and delivery of meaningful therapy.

About the authors

Dr Amanda Kinsella is a Senior Psychologist at North West Boroughs Health Care Trust ( Alastair Pipkin is a Trainee Clinical Psychologist at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust ( Website:

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‘Mad and Bad’: Men’s Experiences of Psychological Therapy in a Forensic Mental Health Setting

by Shazia Hussain

Since boyhood many men are socialised to behave in accordance with approved gender role norms, internalising the several gendered messages still rampant in our postmodern society. Inadvertently setting contingencies around appropriate self-expression and a collective set of expectations of how men ‘should be’. This sets them up with a pervasive image of what it means to be a man – what it means to be masculine. This is an image that they carry with them into adulthood.

Masculinity has no set definition, rather it is dynamically constructed through interaction with the dominant socio-cultural ideas present at any given time, within a specific context (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005), hence it is multifaceted. Nevertheless, the archetype of masculinity as in the minds of many men encapsulates a common set of attitudes, such as, emotional control, self-reliance, power, invulnerability, sexual prowess and success. Those who conform rigidly to these ideals experience what O’Neil (2008) referred to as ‘gender role strain’ and are at the greatest risk of psychological distress (Addis & Cohane, 2005) and engaging in maladaptive behaviours, such as aggression (Amato, 2012) . For they have set themselves the impossible task of achieving an ideal male image that is unsustainable.

Expectedly, when faced with circumstances that result in imprisonment, further affected by poor mental health, this ideal image threatens to collapse (Whitehead, 2005). To avoid complete disintegration of the self, a protective self or persona is erected in its place (Whitehead, 2005). In this new hypermasculine state emotional control becomes callousness, self-reliance and power become dominance, invulnerability becomes violence, and danger is seen as exciting (Beesley & McGuire, 2009). However, this state of manhood is fragile and can be easily lost or taken away (Vandello, Bosson, Cohen, Burnaford, & Weaver, 2008) resulting in increased hypervigilance towards the self and other men.

Where does this leave these men? Forensic mental health services face various challenges in engaging men in therapeutic interventions (McMurran & Ward, 2004). Rates for attrition and non-completion are variable, but reportedly range from 37 to 50% in extreme cases (McMurran & Ward, 2010). Those who do not complete treatment are at high risk of reoffending (McMurran & Theodosi, 2007). In the background, the men admitted to these services are faced with the reality of a loss of autonomy and control, alongside the double-stigma of being both ‘mad’ and ‘bad’ (Adshead, 2012).  For those working with these men and the men themselves, the journey of overcoming these internal obstacles is a gradual, non-linear and often lengthy process. It requires them to move from a position of defensive avoidance towards openness and vulnerability, which for the men in their current circumstances is often too threatening. This plays out in their time in psychological therapy as they attempt to redefine themselves as men.

About the author

Shazia Hussain is a ForenClinPsyD candidate at the University of Birmingham.


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Addis, M. E., & Cohane, G. H. (2005). Social scientific paradigms of masculinity and their implications for research and practice in men’s mental health. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 61(6), 633–647.

Adshead, D. G. (2012). Their Dark Materials: Narratives and Recovery in Forensic Practice. Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1–11.

Amato, F. J. (2012). The Relationship of Violence to Gender Role Conflict and Conformity to Masculine Norms in a Forensic Sample. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 20(3), 187–208.

Beesley, F., & McGuire, J. (2009). Gender-role identity and hypermasculinity in violent offending. Psychology, Crime & Law, 15(2–3), 251–268.

Connell, R. W., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept. Gender & Society, 19(6), 829–859.

McMurran, M., & Theodosi, E. (2007). Is treatment non-completion associated with increased reconviction over no treatment? Psychology, Crime & Law, 13(4), 333–343.

McMurran, M., & Ward, T. (2010). Treatment readiness, treatment engagement and behaviour change. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 20(2), 75–85.

McMurran, M., & Ward, T. (2004). Motivating offenders to change in therapy: An organizing framework. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 9(2), 295–311.

O’Neil, J. M. (2008). Summarizing 25 Years of Research on Men’s Gender Role Conflict Using the Gender Role Conflict Scale: New Research Paradigms and Clinical Implications. The Counseling Psychologist, 36(3), 358–445.

Vandello, J. A., Bosson, J. K., Cohen, D., Burnaford, R. M., & Weaver, J. R. (2008). Precarious manhood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(6), 1325–1339.

Whitehead, A. (2005). Man to Man Violence: How Masculinity May Work as a Dynamic Risk Factor. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 44(4), 411–422.




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Overcoming gay shame might reduce suicide attempts

By Soren Stauffer-Kruse

I came across an interesting Facebook post recently celebrating the International Day against Homophobia and sharing the outcome of a recent study [linked here]on teenage suicide in the USA.

Researcher Julia Raifman found that suicide attempts by gay, lesbian and bisexual teens had dropped significantly following the enactment of marriage equality laws in the United States.  Raifman argues that the introduction of marriage equality is likely to have made gay teens feel ‘more hopeful for the future’.  Ellen Kahn, of the Human Rights Campaign observed that ‘what we can learn from this study, and what we know from hearing directly from LGBTQ youth, is that the convergence of a supportive family, a safe and welcoming school, legal protections, and being equal in the eyes of the law can provide the foundation necessary to thrive and flourish into adulthood.’

Suicide rates amongst gay men in the UK have long been found to be significantly higher than in heterosexual men whose suicide rates in turn are also significantly higher than in women.  I have worked with gay and bisexual men as a Psychologist for the last twenty years and amongst all the things my clients have taught me one fact stands out most:  Gay and bisexual men suffer terribly from the shame they have internalised by not growing up in a supportive family or school environment or in fact as an integrated part of society.  Internalised homophobia is the most significant stressor in gay and bisexual men’s lives.  The bullying they may have experienced at school eventually stops but without knowing it many men carry internalised shame around with them, causing them to feel a deep sense of unhappiness without even knowing why.

It is very common for me to see a man in the best years of his life, at the height of his career and who may outwardly be stylish but whose life suddenly hits the wall.  When the celebrations of coming out and joining the pride parade subside, when casual encounters have stopped being fun, these men are left with a deep sense of inadequacy and shame that they have been carrying from their teens.  It may not be until they encounter therapy that they recognise the shame inside them.  Outwardly they can seem to others to be proud members of the LGBT community but inwardly they may feel a profound sense of inadequacy along with the crushing weight of not feeling lovable for who they are.

This can have very negative consequences for mental health and can be reflected in drug and alcohol use and also in bad relationship experiences.  If you feel unloved and alienated, drugs and alcohol may seem like the most obvious escape.  In desperation many turn to mental health services only to get more labels, stigma and shame.

The identity of a gay man is not just about his sexuality but his masculinity. A male psychology section within the British Psychological Society would therefore help recognise the specific needs of gay and bisexual men.  It would help UK psychologists take a lead on researching, raising awareness and reducing shame, stigma and trauma amongst gay men. It would help to advance knowledge and improve psychological practice across all our public institutions.

The US research makes me feel hopeful that we may be entering a new era of helping kids feel better about their sexuality.  Here in the UK we have made so much progress in terms of LGBTQ+ rights.  Now is the time for us to help young gay and bisexual men to get support and recognition earlier in life so that they don’t need to go through years of painful internalisation of shame that places their future mental health at risk.  We need gay pride but just as importantly we need Gay Shame Awareness!


About the author
Soren Stauffer-Kruse is a London-based BPS chartered and HPC registered practitioner psychologist specialising in Counselling Psychology. He has over 15 years of experience of working in Private Practice, the NHS and the Voluntary Sector. He is a guest lecturer at some of the UK’s most prestigious academic programs in Clinical and Counselling Psychology and LGBT Psychology. Soren also writes for both academic and mainstream publications.


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Childhood Trauma and Suicidality in Scottish Men

by Dr Charlotte Lemaigre

Pictured: Men’s SHARE service users attend weekly support groups. Photo reproduced with permission and consent.

The Men’s Suicide, Harm, Awareness, Recovery and Empathy (SHARE) Project is run by Health in Mind in Midlothian, Scotland. It provides emotional and social support to men in the local community who are at risk of suicide. The project works in partnership with the Dalkeith Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB), which offers financial and practical support to service users. This holistic approach allows men to take the time to reflect on and prioritise the different aspects of their psychological wellbeing.

As an active member of the project’s steering group committee whilst undertaking my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, I witnessed first hand the incredible and life-saving work of the SHARE project. Men bravely shared their histories with me and I was struck by the many stories of negative childhood experiences, including abuse and trauma that these men had faced.

Taking a keen interest in the men’s narratives, I started reading around the topic. I quickly discovered that little is actually known about the reasons why men in particular become suicidal despite statistics suggesting that they are the most at risk. The World Health Organisation, for example, estimates that men account for three-quarters of all completed suicides and those aged 45-49 are nearly twice as vulnerable as the wider male population. It seemed obvious to me that better understanding the causes of male suicidal behaviour would be critical to reducing suicide rates in this high risk population. Indeed, understanding pathways to suicide can inform suicide prevention. So, I set out to work with the SHARE project to conduct research that would help to develop our knowledge and understanding of male suicidality.

The study aimed to explore the relationship between childhood trauma and suicidality. It looked specifically at the role that social inhibition and difficulties managing emotions play in this relationship. The study was novel insofar as it focused on a sample from a socio-economically deprived part of Scotland. Evidence suggests that men from lower socio-economic demographics in higher-income countries are particularly under-researched and under-represented in the research despite bearing the highest risk of suicide.

In total, 86 men who accessed the SHARE project over a five-month period took part in the study. They completed four questionnaires: the first looked at their experience of childhood trauma (physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect); the second measured their interpersonal difficulties including social inhibition; the third looked at their difficulties in managing emotions and the final one assessed their suicidal thoughts and feelings.

The results showed that higher ratings on the childhood trauma questionnaire predicted higher score on the measure of suicidality i.e. the greater the degree of childhood abuse, the greater the level of suicidality. This demonstrates the possible negative collateral and compounding effect of childhood trauma. The study also showed that childhood trauma may predict suicidality within the context of emotion management difficulties and high levels of social inhibition. Suicide is clearly a multifactorial phenomenon that is the result of a complex interaction between numerous factors. This novel study showed that difficulties managing emotions and interpersonal difficulties (being socially inhibited) are part of this complex picture.

The findings of the study could potentially help shape guidance on suicidality and enhance clinical practice. Firstly it is important for organizations to identify the presence of early childhood trauma, emotion regulation difficulties and social inhibition when assessing men who are at risk of suicide. Thereafter, targeting social isolation and treating emotion management difficulties as possible interventions to reduce active suicidality in this population is imperative. Offering men emotional and social support is strongly advocated in order to directly address and reduce active suicidal thoughts or feelings.

With these results and conclusions in mind, it is not surprising that services such as the Men’s SHARE project are so successful. The project adopts a prevention and intervention approach, offering weekly support groups and one-to-one sessions that focus on the emotional, social and practical needs of men who at risk of suicide. It is a testament to Men’s SHARE that the men whom the project supports often recount how the project has kept them alive and more importantly, has helped them to live well despite their adverse childhood experiences.

About the author

Dr Charlotte Lemaigre, Clinical Psychologist, works with Southwark Integrated Psychological Therapies Team (IPTT) and Wandsworth Consortium Drug and Alcohol Service (WCDAS).  Email:  Twitter @charlielemaigre

Special thanks to John Murphy (Health in Mind), Julie Podet (Dalkeith CAB) and the service users of the Men’s SHARE Project for their time and contribution. For more information on the Men’s SHARE project, please visit:

If you would like to find out more about the study, Dr Lemaigre will be presenting a poster about the research in more detail at the Male Psychology Conference at University College London on Friday 22nd June 2018.


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Why fathers are important, especially for boys

by Dr Kevin Wright

Father’s Day is on 17th June this year. On average, people in the UK spend three times more on Mother’s Day than Father’s Day [see here] . It could be argued that this reflects how much the role of the father is valued compared to the role of the mother.

Are we undervaluing the role of the father? Well, research shows the father-child relationship is an important one, In fact it can be more influential than the mother-child relationship. This is especially true for the 8-12 year old child as they try to make sense of the outside world. At this age, the child – especially the male child – may see the father as representing that outside world. The child may see the father as more representing how to deal with the outside world than the mother so, for example, it has been found that children model their coping strategies more on the models they get from their fathers than that they see from their mothers.

A poor role model or emotional unavailability of the father, particularly to their sons, can have severe repercussions for development, especially if he is the oldest child having to deal with the arrival of a sibling. He may see this baby as usurping his position as the sole focus of attention of the mother. He may experience a grief reaction at the loss, part of which is to feel angry. This loss can be ameliorated if a father is physically and emotionally involved with the older child.

In the absence of positive male role models, sons often drift aimlessly and may end up in gangs.  This not only is a problem for society, but allows a boy to waste his life to criminality, mental illness, substance abuse and even suicide.

The solutions to these issues are no doubt complex, but a sensible start would be more investment in things like supportive parenting classes for fathers, more male teachers in primary schools, more male support workers (e.g. social workers, youth workers, psychologists and mentors), to provide a long-term way of working differently with boys and men.  At present there are no financial incentives for males to stay as in these careers in the long term, so experienced workers are lost to other careers. And there is little support for fathers to be more involved as carers of their children.

Parents, especially fathers, may need help to know how to support their children at school.  Schools need to enable fathers in this and not marginalise them in their parental roles.  Schools can help fathers by, for example, having parent/child classes to model how to encourage/value their children through their development.  Employment conditions need to be such that fathers can feel supported and encouraged to be carers of their children, particularly their sons, otherwise the cost to society is huge if the sons drift dangerously astray.

School support/counselling services should rethink ways to encourage boys to access emotional help. Boys may find it very challenging to talk about their feelings, but they might find it easier to express themselves through writing, or via technology/avatar programmes. It might make entering the process more appealing if ‘therapy’ and ‘counselling’ could be rebranded as something more appealing to boys. Without a doubt, we need to be more imaginative in the ways that we address the issues facing boys.

Society needs to wake up to how important fathers are to their children. Fathers need to know their role is important and need to be helped to understand how to be involved with the care of their children from the moment they are born and need to be supported to fulfil their role in bring up their children. Often they don’t fully realise how important their involvement is for the positive emotional development of their children, particularly for their sons.

Recognising the importance of fathers in the wellbeing of boys would be a step in the right direction for us all, for to look after the boy is to look after the man.

About the author

Dr Kevin Wright is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist. He will be presenting his poster ‘A Boy’s Journey away from gang life to being a man. Critical stages of development & intervention’ at the <Male Psychology Conference, 22-23 June/p>

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The Royal wedding, relationship stability, and wellbeing

by John Barry

Best wishes to the Royal couple on their wedding day. If Prince Harry is anything like the 2000 men in the British Isles who participated in our survey last year, then relationship stability will be one of the key factors in promoting his psychological wellbeing.

Our survey found that even after taking factors such as age and job satisfaction into account, men in enduring relationships had a more positive mindset. The survey also found that the more a man aspired to be like his father, the better his wellbeing. We speculate that his is because men who have a good concept of their father have probably come from a stable family background, and this childhood experience has helped create a happy adult.

One of the signs of how important relationships are is their relationship with recovery from substance abuse. Substance abuse is twice as common in men than women, and one of the key signs that people are on the road to recovery is when they get into a steady relationship.

Our advice is that if your relationship is making you unhappy, first do what you can to try to fix it whether that’s talking about it with your partner, or seeking couples therapy.

In any case, we at the Male Psychology Network wish the Royal couple all of our best wishes for a stable and happy future.


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The Science of Football Fandom

by Edward Love

Picture the scene: the lads are huddled around the TV swigging beers, eating crisps and taking good-natured swipes at the referee. The football is on and the home side is leading when, out of nowhere, the ref blows. Penalty for the opposition. The crisp bowl goes flying, leaving a trail of orange dust, and beer is spilled as John, Greg and Alan scream at the television.

By day they’re accountants and lawyers and bankers in shirts with stiff white collars, so why the sudden transformation? The science of football fandom gives us many of the answers – a field of study Dr Susan K. Whitbourne has spent years researching. “[When watching football with friends], you feel less responsible for your own actions and go along with whatever everyone else is doing. Your normal social inhibitions become loosened and all bets are off when the crowd around you acts in a disinhibited manner.”

The phenomenon is called “deindividuation”, and while violence can erupt from it, football doesn’t lead only to ills – far from it. Football can also give us a sense of community that extends beyond the stadium or the couch. “Identifying with your team, particularly your local team, enhances your mental health by allowing you to feel a sense of community and integration with the group,” Whitbourne says.

It is, however, a high-stakes game of Russian roulette – with our emotions in the firing the line. Wind the clock back to 2006, when Germany hosted the World Cup, and you discover that Bavarian men were three times more likely to have had heart problems when their team was playing.

So why do we take it so seriously?

Well, for one thing, winning means that our brains light up with excitement. We literally release chemicals that make us feel good. A win also means we’re validated in our support for our team. Cue the ego boost.

But another explanation might lie with the macaque monkey, which shares several traits with humans. The American Psychological Association reports that, in the 1990s, scientists discovered something amazing: “[I]ndividual neurons in the brains of macaque monkeys fired both when the monkeys grabbed an object and also when the monkeys watched another primate grab the same object.”

In other words, the macaque monkeys were experiencing what it was like to be in the shoes of their counterpart. Many scientists hold the belief that we humans have the same neurons in our brains, and that these messengers are firing all the time. A player in tears on the pitch after the match? We’ve felt those emotions before – despite not being on the pitch with them – and we feel our heart strings get that tug. A player singing the anthem with passion? We get up and sing just as loudly.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to watch human beings engaged in competitive, high-stakes action and not feel something; it’s hard not to put yourself in their shoes.   

The next time you wonder why John, Greg and Alan are getting so invested in the match, remember this: they probably can’t even help it. Turns out that a lot of us are suckers for competition, and during those 90 minutes, our brains are lighting up like a Christmas tree.


About the author

Edward Love is a writer and sports fanatic who consulted with Dr Susan K. Whitbourne to learn more about the science of football fandom.


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Preventing child sexual abuse

Written by Juliet Grayson

There were 64,667 police recorded sexual offences against children and young people from April 2016 to March 2017.  The Children’s Commissioner, in a report Protecting children from harm: A critical assessment of child sexual abuse in the family network in England and priorities for action, states “This enquiry estimates that [only] 1 in 8 victims of child sexual abuse come to the attention of statutory authorities.”  Multiplying 64,667 by 8 gives us an estimate that over 500,000 children are sexually abused each year. It costs £65,000 to imprison one sexual offender for a year if you include police time and court costs.   Yet for a fraction of the cost of this, some people can be successfully deterred from offending.

StopSO stands for the Specialist Treatment Organisation for Perpetrators and Survivors of Sexual Offences.  It is the only UK wide organisation to offer a therapeutic service to those who fear they are going to commit a sexual offence, before they do so.  StopSO also offers therapy to people who have already offended.

StopSO has over 200 fully qualified and experienced ‘general’ therapists who have either already been given specialist training to work with this client group, or are in training.  Before they see clients StopSO provides therapists with a basic forensic Foundation Training (3 days).  StopSO also offers a Professional Certificate in Therapeutic Practice with Sex Offenders, which is a further 10 days.  Both these courses are Accredited by the College of Sex and Relationship Therapy.

StopSO fulfils three primary roles:

  1. It trains therapists in working with potential and actual sex offenders.
  2. It refers clients to therapists.
  3. It subsidises the cost of client therapy where clients are unable to pay, (when it has sufficient funds).

Thirty-eight per cent of StopSO’s clients are unknown to the authorities. This creates a huge opportunity to reduce the harm of sexual abuse to victims, their families and the families of the perpetrators. There is evidence that some sexually abused children themselves become sexual abusers, so perpetuating an horrific cycle of abuse that continues into future generations, (Jesperson et al, 2009). We need to act now, as other governments are doing in countries such as the Dunkelfeld Project in Germany, to stop sexual abuse through preventative therapy.

StopSO is the only UK wide organisation to work with sex offenders of all types, from those looking at illegal online images, voyeurs and exhibitionists, people who commit contact offences with children and adults.

StopSO has been asked for help by over 1500 people since 2012, 50% of which were during 2017. Most StopSO clients pay for their own therapy.  However 20% cannot afford the cost of counselling.   Often, when StopSO lacks funds, we have to turn away these clients, who are asking StopSO for help not to commit an offence.  So far StopSO has relied on personal donations and small grants from charitable trusts.  StopSO has received no money at all from the government. StopSO needs to expand, and take on more staff to meet the current and future demands.

Good quality academic research on the counselling of sexual offenders is only available for those who have already been convicted of an offence. The most recent meta study of this group by Schmucker et al, 2017, shows that counselling leads to an average 26.3% reduction in re-incarceration rates. If this success rate is used for StopSO’s client group, then it is plausible that in 2018, StopSO’s work could stop 231 men from offending. The cost of imprisoning these men for a year would be over £15 million.

Sometimes StopSO clients allow me to report their stories, provided I change their names. Let’s call one Chris. He was concerned about his sexual thoughts towards children. He was not sure where to go for help. Now in his twenties, he had been living with these thoughts for some ten years, since he was a teenager. He had never looked at illegal images of children. But he was starting to think about this more and more and wanted help to ensure that he didn’t act out. He went to see his GP. His GP was open with Chris that he had a duty to report him.

The GP did not know where to get help for Chris, but he Googled ‘sex offender help UK,’ and he found StopSO. Chris was referred for therapy, but he could not afford to pay for himself. Luckily, StopSO had been given a small grant to subsidise therapy for those who couldn’t afford to pay for themselves.

Meanwhile, the GP completed a safeguarding referral to the local authority. The local authority held a strategy meeting which was attended by the GP, social services, local safeguarding children’s board and the police. The strategy meeting took the decision that there were insufficient grounds for any further investigation or action to be carried out. This was because Chris didn’t have any contact with children and there was no evidence that any offence had been committed.

Chris told me, “I know of an individual, much younger than me, who sought help for his worrying thoughts about children. He also went to his GP, but it was a different local authority, and he ended up being formally investigated by the police because of it. He had an horrific experience. In the end they found that he was completely innocent. He had no illegal images on his computer or phone. He had no children in his immediate family or living near to him. The authorities eventually decided that he was telling the truth, and their investigations confirmed that there was no evidence that a crime had been committed, nor did it seem likely that a crime would be committed.”

Chris told me, “If I had known his story beforehand I would never have gone to see my GP at all. And, if I had known there was somewhere to get help, where I would have been treated confidentially, I would have sought support much, much sooner. I waited until I was suicidal to ask the GP for help. Finding StopSO was, for me, what made the difference at the end of the day. I got access to a therapist who knew what they were talking about, and it has enabled me to remain law-abiding. I never want to harm a child, despite my desires. I have strategies now to manage myself, and talking about it has made all the difference.”

Chris does no longer feels at risk of acting out inappropriately any more. He also knows he can come back to StopSO if he ever needs to.

About the author

Juliet Grayson is the Chair of StopSO: The Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Perpetrators and Survivors of Sexual Offences

If you are having sexual thoughts about children, contact StopSO on or call  074743 299883 or email

StopSO’s patron is Simon Bailey, Norfolk’s Chief Constable and the National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead on Child Protection.

If you want to donate to StopSO, you can do so here

The section about ‘Chris’ was published originally in the Huffington Post on 18th September 2016

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When words HURT

by Miles Groth, PhD

Physical injuries may heal, although their consequences may remain painful for decades. Emotional trauma, which is often a concomitant, may be far less obvious, especially among boys and men. Boys typically are socialized to avoid admitting they have been shocked, confused and enraged by physical and verbal attacks, especially over the long term, and especially when the attacks began during infancy or early childhood and are delivered by someone who is presumed to love them.

Recently (April 2018), I presented a paper in Frankfurt at a conference on interpersonal violence between males and females in intimate partner relationships. The congress was international, organized to draw to the attention of individuals engaged in research and treatment of domestic violence victims just how much male victims are overlooked by the services available.

The audience (and most people, I believe) were surprised to learn that about 40% of men have experienced such aggression, compared to about 60% of women. They rarely report it, however.

My contribution focused on what sort of therapy is most appropriate for such individuals. Briefly, I propose an existential approach—what I term daseintherapy—that would complement standard treatments including medication prescribed by a psychiatrist. The term ‘Dasein’ is not unknown among humanistic psychologists, but it requires definition here. ‘Dasein’ is German for ‘existence’—in its specialized usage applying only to human beings—and carries the additional meaning of a way of life about which the individual has knowledge, whether it is conscious to him or “not consciously known” (Freud’s famous unconscious). The term ‘Dasein’ highlights that actual experience and related behavior emerge against the background of a set of possibilities that characterize the unique situation of a person.

To be a man in contemporary Western culture—from the States, to Canada and the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and most urban European settings—is to be in a unique situation in which ambiguity about gender and sex, sexuality, social roles, and personal responsibility is pervasive. Existential therapy—therapy of a person’s Dasein (existence) when the possibilities of being human are grounded in having a male body—is effective when a man has experienced emotionally wounding aggression because it aspires to be non-interventional. Even words, it turns out, no matter how kindly and gently they are offered by the therapist, are often experienced as challenging to males when they have been exposed to chronic aggression. Such men fail to hear what is said and expect what is said to them to be critical and even harmful.

If words themselves, which are the medium of psychotherapy, are “tuned out” as readily as a gesture directed against someone causes him to blink and raise a defensive hand because the gesture is expected to land as physical blow, the therapist must find a way to be there with the person that has one goal: to make way for the person to recover his own present. Anxiety is the sign of a yearning to be in the future; depression suggests not only sadness but also being stuck in a past that seems to be fossilized. To relocate himself in his present is the desideratum of working with boys and men who have been brutalized.

There is much to be said about the comparative lack of success with men in traditional modalities of psychotherapy, ranging from psychoanalytic psychotherapies to cognitive-behavioral therapies. Pharmacotherapy may be valuable for the short-term, but when the treatment is with words alone, the special experience of men—both in general, since they are encouraged to express themselves in violent ways, including contact sports, and in particular when they have been the recipient of emotionally and physical aggression with individuals who are close to them—requires that we consider an approach to counseling and psychotherapy with them that takes into consideration the socialization practices and expectations of what it is to be a boy or man in contemporary society.


About the author

Miles Groth, PhD. Professor, Department of Psychology, Wagner College, New York, US.  Founding Editor, New Male Studies (Australian Institute for Men’s Health and Studies) (emeritus)

Author, After Psychotherapy (New York: ENI Press, 2017)


You can vote now (7th May – 20th June) for a Male Psychology Section of the BPS.

Details here




Open post

Children’s colour blindness is not a black and white issue

by Dr Brenda Todd, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, City University of London.

Originally published on the BPS Developmental Psychology Section blog spot, 26/04/2018 [here]


In the average classroom, two or more children will look into a box of coloured pencils and only be able to recognise four of the colours. That is because one in 12 boys and one in 200 girls are red-green colour blind. In many cases their colour blindness will go undiagnosed for years, and they will be seen as ‘slow’ by teachers and teased by schoolmates.

According to a review of this topic by Chan et al (2014), colour blind children might become socially withdrawn, and fall into dysfunctional coping strategies (such as guessing colours, or avoiding subjects that require normal colour vision) that can last throughout the lifespan. These maladaptive coping strategies may be exacerbated in an educational system where routine screening for colour blindness isn’t carried out in schools, and where the needs of colour blind children are often neglected in lessons and exams.

There are many situations, cited by Chan et al, in which colour blind children experience embarrassing difficulties, for example:

Maths: problems understanding colour-coded graphs and charts

Biology: unable to accurately read stained slides under microscope, identify plant species,

carry out dissections accurately, understand coloured diagrams

Physics: experience difficulty with coloured wiring, use of prisms, coloured diagrams

Chemistry: unable to read litmus paper accurately, identify colours of different chemical solutions, identify metals by colour of flame produced when burned

Sports and play: cannot differentiate team colours

Art class: unable to appreciate how colours are mixed, unable to use colour appropriately

School meals: deemed ‘fussy eaters’ because the colour of some foods appear to be unpalatable

As colour blind boys and grow up, the condition and the psychological impact it can impose on them, has the potential to diminish their quality of life as well as limit their choice of career (Barry et al, 2017).

Given that colour blindness has so many dimensions of potential concern to a large number of individuals, families and schools, you might think that taking action on colour blindness is a black and white issue. But if so, why aren’t more developmental psychologists working in this field? Perhaps, as Seager et al (2016) suggest, we currently suffer from another type of blindness, ‘male gender blindness’, which means that we tend not to notice when boys are having difficulties as much as we notice problems for girls. Perhaps we think that boys are better able to cope or are less likely to appreciate being helped – or that they are simply being disruptive.

Whether you agree with this explanation or not, I believe we need to take a fresh perspective on topics in psychology that are sensitive to gender differences, and consider how such differences might affect the children and adults who experience them. A greater awareness of the potential difficulties, and a school-based strategy to address them early in life, can open up opportunities to improve outcomes. Hopefully, the creation of a Male Psychology Section of the BPS – the national ballot is taking place in May – will enable us to turn our attention to some of the concerns which particularly affect the development of boys and can have lifelong consequences for them. Some would say this Section is long overdue, given that we have had a Psychology of Women Section since 1988, and the APA have had a Division for men’s psychology since 1995.


You can vote for a Male Psychology of the BPS between 7th May and 20th June.

Details are here



Dr Brenda Todd is Senior Lecturer in Psychology, City University of London. Brenda presented her research findings on gender differences in children’s toy preferences at the Male Psychology Conference in 2014, and has since published a meta-analysis and meta-regression on this topic [linked here]


Barry, J. A., Mollan, S., Burdon, M. A., Jenkins, M., & Denniston, A. K. (2017). Development and validation of a questionnaire assessing the quality of life impact of Colour Blindness (CBQoL). BMC ophthalmology, 17(1), 179.

Chan, X. B. V., Goh, S. M. S., & Tan, N. C. (2014). Subjects with colour vision deficiency in the community: what do primary care physicians need to know? Asia Pacific Family Medicine, 13(1), 10.

Seager MJ, Barry JA & Sullivan L (2016). Challenging male gender blindness: Why psychologists should be leading the way. Clinical Psychology Forum, 285, 35 – 40.




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