Men’s Group Counselling
Problem: Cultural Conditioning
Cultural conditioning is a major barrier, preventing men from entering into mental health care.
It is well documented that men’s mental health issues are minimized and that men face tremendous barriers to seeking help. In many cultures, men are socialized to work and provide for their families as their primary responsibility. Many male-dominated workplaces, even today, do not place a high value on emotions and relationships unless they contribute to the goals of the workplace.
As a result, often men do not always learn or understand the value of emotions, or that emotions can contribute to their own mental health, and the mental health of their loved ones. Often men are conditioned to function in the workplace for long hours, in some cases more hours on the work site than at home with their partners and children.
Much of their time is spent in a place where many emotions do not hold much value if any. Men can be ill-equipped and lack experience in relating to others emotionally because they are spending a large part of their day functioning in a place where many emotions are not welcomed. Just ask almost any man how comfortable he feels about crying with a co-worker or expressing feelings of being overwhelmed to a boss.
This mindset, largely a result of cultural conditioning, is often the primary barrier preventing men from entering into mental health care, seeking help, or engaging in activities that would support their mental health. The problem this presents for men is that to have successful relationships with significant others (especially intimate partners and children) it is important to have some awareness, competency, and skill in expressing emotions and making space for others to express theirs. Further, mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, adjustment issues, addictions, and anger management all necessarily involve becoming more skilled at emotional availability and emotional expression.
SOLUTION: OVERCOMING THE “MASCULINE” STEREOTYPE
Overcoming the stereotypically “masculine” lack of emotional sophistication is key to the healing process.
It is important to have a clinician who is familiar with men’s issues and recognizes their specific cultural barriers in order for men to engage in the treatment process. When a man does seek treatment, it is important to recognize potential impairments to his treatment.
Several studies involving military veterans and first responders show that men respond very well to working on their mental health in groups. Men like to work at something for a sustained period of time and attending one-hour sessions can feel slow. Men want to see the results of their sustained work.
This is a demonstrated recovery strategy for men from trauma, workplace stress, family and couples’ conflicts, divorce recovery, parenting challenges, childhood psychological trauma, loss, death, and grief.
The Approach: Working Groups for Men
Sometimes in team sports, an individual effort is not enough, and a team facilitator, or coach, is required.This can be particularly true for men’s mental health issues.
One of the ways for a therapist to overcome these barriers is to see their therapeutic role as being a part of a team, working with men and helping them work together in their own way toward their own healing and the healing of the other team members. Many men are extremely competent, working well with other people when they know their role; they are given tools and the skills and are shown hands-on how to use them.
When men work together as a whole, outcomes can significantly improve. Mental health issues are often more effectively tackled in groups where men are working together than in one-hour weekly individual therapy sessions.Not only can we see higher improvements and outcomes, but in a three-day work group session, we can have 24 hours of concentrated therapeutic work.
This can make the work seem faster because that is comparable to six months of therapy in one hour a week of individual sessions. Plus, in this comparison, group work is less expensive because group work per hour is approximately half the hourly rate of individual hourly sessions.
Establishing and Agreeing on The Purpose of The Men’s Group
The first step in effective group work is establishing and agreeing on the purpose of the group.
Each individual needs to know that all of the group members who will be attending the group are aligned with the stated purposes of the group.
For example, we offer a men’s group called, “Intensive Work Group for Men: Growing Our Mental Health.”
In this group, whether a man wants to address anger management, PTSD, relationship issues, depression, substance abuse, anxiety, or career stress management, the common purpose of the group is growing towards mental health.
Any person attending the group needs to agree with the purposes of the group and work toward the stated group goals.
Establishing Your Individual Working Personal Goals
Next, after establishing group goals, it is important to work with the group leader to begin to establish your individual working personal goals.
- What part of your personal mental health is the most important to take on in the group?
- Is it anger management, grief and loss, depression, or some other personal health goal?
Each participant prepares with some emerging goals that are shared and will be worked on in the group.
These goals are working emerging goals because as the group grows and moves forward, some of these goals might be met or grow and change.
Participants will establish clear goals through a 1-hour interview, formulating what is needed to work toward.
The following pre-group screening is critical to ensure that each person will match within the group dynamics.
- Establish that each man is willing to engage in the group, work as a team member, and help other men in a group setting.
- Establish confidentiality — each individual man is willing to safeguard the confidentially of each participant and make that commitment. They will be asked to re-state this commitment in the group.
- Establish unconditional positive regard and a non-judgmental atmosphere, not to analyze others or those who are participating in the group.
- Establish a commitment from each member to work as hard as they can to meet their stated goals. Like any team, the combined individual effort of each member is greater than just the sum of the parts. Working hard for yourself means working hard for each member.
These elements are addressed with each member and each member enters the group knowing the nature and energy of the group they are becoming a part of.
The pre-screening interview is key for promoting and preparing members for:
- Psychological safety
- Belonging — a “felt sense of belonging”
- Empowerment and respect — a person can make his own decisions but still belong in the group (no “group think”).
- Vulnerability — when a team is working well, they can achieve a state where it can work and move or happen together at the same time and speed. There is a state of flow and work can become effortless. It is in this place that the group can become safe enough for men to become vulnerable with each other. Here, there is a celebration of each other’s strengths and support for each other’s weaknesses.
- Building and consolidating trust and confidence within the group members
- Establish a sense of belonging in the group team welcoming them to participate
- Empowerment of each member to participate to the extent that they are able to, and to respect that when they are not able, they can take a pass or a break
- Growing and deepening sense of synchronicity / TEAM, so the group can gel together, become aligned and attuned, and have confidence in that.
6–10 participants per group
- To gain significant insights into the causes and elements that support or perpetuate their mental health issues.
- To experience, clear behavioral changes that are in line with their presenting goals; expect to experience positive effects of change from the group participation.
- Celebrate his own personal growth and that of his fellow group members.
- Date: Fall of 2022 (exact dates TBA)
- Duration: 3 days / 8-hour sessions (24 hours total)
- Location: 107–20103 40th Ave, Langley, BC
- Specialized in first responders, veterans, and men’s groups.
- Taught at various universities and presented at conferences.
- Trained and developed interns in the use of group therapy.
Download: Michael Dadson’s Resume
To register for the Men’s Group or for more information, visit us at gentlecurrentstherapy.com CONTACT page
Originally published at https://www.gentlecurrentstherapy.com.