I began leading men’s groups in 1999 by focusing on abusive behavior and anger management. Over the years, the emphasis of my groups has become broader. In my experience, when a man takes responsibility for the fact that his anger is a problem, gets help for it and commits to change, it initiates him on a healing journey that transforms his life. During this journey a man grows his character or emotional intelligence in all the important ways including: trust, humility, restraint, self-awareness, discernment, authenticity, courage and the capacity to give and receive love and support. Over time he develops authority, learns how to yield gracefully when appropriate and takes on leadership. The men’s group provides a crucible in which this growth can happen.
As a group therapist, I build a strong container by honoring each man for the person he already is, teaching him to accurately reflect on his behavior and attitudes and encouraging his willingness to be vulnerable in order to mature. The men’s group is part classroom where psychology is taught and skills are practiced. And it is part group therapy where deep sharing can occur and issues be worked through with the mutual support of other group members. Working with anger, our own, that of our spouse or that of other group members is one focus of the group. This involves using a specific journal format. Guided relaxation, biofeedback, and meditation is a second component. Skillful communication, identifying feelings and needs, and empathetic listening is the third. And internalizing a map for moving from reaction to response and from self-centeredness to leadership is the model that holds all the work together. Over time bonds of mutual care, validation and respect amongst group members give men the encouragement they need to change their lives from the inside out.