MEN’S GROUP FOCUS
*For men to experience a supportive environment to share and work through life transitions
*To examine and develop a deeper sense of self and masculinity
*To nurture men's efforts to enhance relationships, intimacy
*To complement the recovery programs for men in 12-Step recovery programs
Men’s Group Description
It has been over twelve years since I started facilitating weekly mens’ groups in my practice. I would like to share some of what has happened in these groups and what I have learned as a means to help those considering the benefits of joining a men’s group in my practice.
The hour and a half groups meet weekly in the early evening of a weeknight. They have been comprised of six to eight men each, with group attendance rarely below five men.. The mens’ ages generally range from their early 30’s to the late 50’s. Prior to entering the group, men typically had at least three to six months of individual or couples therapy and had the ability to express some of the feelings and issues that they wished to address in a group experience. Nearly all the men wanted to improve the quality of relationships in their lives. Sometimes this meant within their present relationships (about half the men were married and three quarters had been married at one time). Generally, the men had limited relationships with other men and frequently their primary friendships were with women. Depression and anxiety have been common presenting problems. Often, the men are either re-evaluating or in transitions with their careers. Like many men, they have much of their identity tied to their vocation. Family issues and parenting were also common areas that the men brought to share and work through with one another.
The groups have chosen to have a check-in ritual at the beginning of each session in which each man has a few minutes to say how they’re feeling in the moment and update the men on their issues and lives. The balance of the group is often a combination of 2-3 men sharing issues and group members speaking directly and honestly to one another about how they’re experiencing individual and group participation. Sometimes group exercises are designed to enhance interaction such as having the men say how it might be for them to have another group member as their supervisor or boss. Occasionally, based on the mens’ interest, there is a didactic focus such as reading and discussing an article on men’s sexuality or taking the Meyer-Briggs Profile as a group. A re-occurring phenomena is the desire (and sometimes resistance) amongst the men to go deeper and feel more connected with one another. When the men share the sorrow of painful and conflicted memories of their childhood, the level of trust and cohesion deepens.
Over the years, the groups have participated in a day-long retreats. This allows the men to experience each other in different contexts and develop greater cohesiveness, trust, and move further along in their resolution to their issues and desired growth. (I believe men enjoy intimacy shoulder to shoulder.) The men do develop friendships outside of group and have learned to reach out to one another. Several of the men have attended other men’s conferences and gatherings together. The men frequently encourage each other to take more risks, enhance their creativity, and like to see the resurgence of the passions that may have been more apparent in their youths. For example, the group was fortunate to have one member who wrote and read a poem at the end of each group which was inspired by the prior week’s session.
Other instances of growth include one married man being able to tell his wife that he was having trouble with “us” rather than blaming her or himself. Or another man who, with the group’s support, was able to move beyond anger to feel the loneliness and sadness of his wife not being able to empathize with years of unhappiness with his work. Change for another man came when he was able to detach and set boundaries with his family of origin as a means of feeling his individuality and enhancing his recovery from substance abuse, while knowing that he continued to love and care for his family.
When men leave the group they typically feel completed with an aspect of their lives and their overall feelings of esteem are significantly strenghtened and their sense of self deepened.