Currently I facilitate a group for men called The Brotherhood Group. This group has been running in my office every other week since October of 2011. It is a safe, supportive, and confidential place for men to talk with other men.
The group came about by the request of several of my clients who said they felt that men in our society did not have a place where they could go to have “real” conversations. Many have told me that they can often talk privately with their significant others about things, but that women usually have girlfriends to talk with as well, and men don’t always feel that other men are accessible. They explained that they still feel the stereotype in our society is one that expects a man to be “strong” and stoic, not showing the universal truth of human vulnerability and allowing genuine emotional expression – verbally or otherwise. And since I do so much work with helping inhibited individuals find their voices and expression, I decided to create a safe space where men could be themselves, and give each other permission for it as well. Some said that they needed more support or practice opening up and interacting with other men on more than a superficial level. Unless someone belongs to a fellowship such as Alcoholics Anonymous or another place where deliberate, intimate (yet platonic) conversations are encouraged, many men report feeling isolated and without support. Some people have asked me if The Brotherhood implies a religious undertone, but this is not necessarily true. The men have discussed some issues related to spirituality at times, but that is not the primary focus. This group has been a great help to many men who have taken comfort in hearing others’ stories, and have felt free to share their own. Discussion topics have included everything from work, relationships, to family issues and fatherhood, to internal struggles and conflicts, coping with addiction, wrestling with insecurities, and what it means to be a man. The group does a good job allowing permission for all members to be human and say what needs to be said without censorship.
When I asked my group members why they attended, they responded with the following list of reasons and explanations of what they get out of coming to group:
“The release of tension from holding things in.”
“We connect in a safe, trusting way – that is not otherwise available.”
“Every story here is so real – they talk about things that I have never heard even from my family.”
“Moments of peace afterward.”
“I can talk things out rather than act things out.”
“We realize we need the help – we’re ready.”
“I get so much out of talking to my Brothers.”
At times I begin group with a specific question or topic of conversation, but usually I let the group evolve on its own. Despite so many different theories and methods of group practice, I have always run groups in this open fashion, as I firmly believe that if you put people in a room together, they will find what they need to talk about, and it always defines itself and unfolds naturally.
I am careful to interview each group member before he participates to be sure that he is appropriate for group, and group is appropriate for him. Prospective members must either be referred by me or their own individual therapist. A prospective member who is not already in therapy must participate in at least one individual session with me to be evaluated before attending. Referrals are welcome.