Tough Guys and True Believers: Managing Authoritarian Men in the Psychotherapy Room


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Some men are especially difficult to manage in the psychotherapy room. They are controlling, exploitive, rigid, aggressive, and prejudiced. In a word, they are Authoritarian. This book is a guide for therapists and counsellors who work with these men, offering an understanding of their psychological development and providing empirically supported recommendations to work with them effectively. In the first part, Robertson describes several versions of authoritarian men. Some are Tough Guys (workplace bullies, abusive partners, sexual harassers), and others are True Believers (men who use religion to justify their authoritarian behaviour). Robertson draws from a diverse literature in psychology, sociology, men’s studies, and neurobiology to describe the developmental histories and personalities of these men. Part two offers practical and specific strategies to assess and treat these wounded men—developing a masculine friendly alliance, respecting their personal and religious beliefs, and teaching them self-awareness and self-regulation skills. Throughout, Robertson emphasizes a reality that many therapists doubt: Some authoritarian men want to change their behaviour, and are capable of doing so. This book presents an empathic and respectful view of a group of men too often written off as unmanageable and unchangeable.


  • Part I: Understanding Authoritarian Men
  • “Who are these men, exactly?”  Four Prototypical Faces.
  • “He always has been that way.” Authoritarian Personality Characteristics.
  • “God wants him to take charge.”  Authoritarian as Divine Mandate.
  • “Men are born as males.”  Authoritarian as Adaptive Strategy.
  • “Boys learn to be men.”  Authoritarian as Social Construction.
  • Part I Summary: Putting it all Together.
  • Part II: Managing Authoritarian Men in the Psychotherapy Room
  • “I never wanted to be this way.”  Up Close and Personal: Two Authoritarian Men.
  • “What does he need the most?” A Healing Relationship: Attunement & Empathy.
  • “What is wrong with him?” A Qualitative Assessment: Collaboration & Insight.
  • “How can he be helped?” A Multimodal Treatment: Self-Awareness & Self-Regulation.
  • “Does an authoritarian man really change? For good?”
  • The Process of Change: Outcomes & Maintenance.

About the Author

John M. Robertson, PhD, is in private practice and Director of Psychological Services for the Professional Renewal Center in Lawrence, Kansas. He has many years of experience working almost exclusively with authoritarian men.