• We are pleased to announce Welldoing's Book of the Month for February

  • Our aim is to help our audience find a wide range of books and resources to help with their mental health and wellbeing, or share experiences that are useful to others

  • February's Book of the Month What Women Want: Conversations on Desire, Power, Love and Growth will appeal to women seeking to understand their lives better

Sigmund Freud, the creator of psychoanalysis, once said "The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?'" In this book, What Women Want (significantly, without a question mark) psychoanalytic psychotherapist and author Maxine Mei-Fung Chung aims to dig out the answer for herself.

The book is structured as seven anonymised case studies of female clients of Chung. They range from a woman who seeks out female lovers though she is engaged to be married to a man, to a bi-racial lawyer struggling with anger and shame. The desires swing through sex, family, work, parenthood, society: all the places in which women feel they can not always show their honest selves.

Reading the book some readers may be surprised by how inter-twined Chung as therapist, and her individuals clients can become during the span of treatment. Chung writes in the book “The popular view of a psychotherapist is that of a silent, implacable listener. A blank-screen human who is unaffected by discourse, challenge, similar life experiences and, from time to time, even the most shocking revelations. But as critic Stephanie Merritt wrote in The Observer, "Modern therapy is far more relational, and nowhere is this clearer than in her conversations with Tia, who specifically sought a therapist of colour who could identify with her experiences, and Beverly, who needed her therapist to be a mother. Chung writes frankly about the constant adjustments she has to make in the consulting room as she gauges the appropriate balance between disclosure and professional distance."

We felt it was a worthy winner for this month as it exposed some of what therapy sessions can be like, but also because it shows, in dozens of ways, how women's desires are curtailed, from their tiny girlhood onwards. Campaigning for equal opportunities is one thing that modern feminism can aim for, but shining a light on all the musts and shoulds that hold so many back is another, and one that we think many women will appreciate.

Maxine Mei-Fung Chung is the author of What Women Want: Conversations on Desire, Power, Love and Growth

Further reading

5 things I've learned about self-care as a Black woman

Once a mother, always a mother? The challenges of parenting adult children

Susanna Abse tells us the truth about love

The menopause and letting go of old identities

How do I decide if I want children?