Group gives guys the opportunity to open up

Emily Farley Adult Services

Men aren’t necessarily known for expressing their feelings or being vulnerable.

Which is why when Julian Brown, Bert Nash Adult Outpatient Program therapist, started a client group for men he wasn’t sure how open or talkative they would be.

Turns out, they had plenty to talk about.

“Initially, I was thinking there would be a lot of reservation coming from the guys,” Brown said. ‘But they have been very vocal. They jumped right in and started talking about things.”

Participants must be a Bert Nash client and receive a referral their caseworker. The men’s group meets for one hour every week. Discussion topics for the group vary from week to week.

“We talk about relationships, appropriate ways to treat women as well as appropriate ways to treat other men, shame and guilt from experiences associated with their fathers, how to date, what’s OK and not OK to do on a date. We talk about whatever they want to talk about,” Brown said. “I act as a facilitator. I usually have a list of topics that I think the men may be interested in talking about. I encourage them to talk about what happens in their lives between sessions.”

Group members have found the conversations to be helpful and supportive.

“It’s great to sit down with some guys and just hash stuff out,” one group member said.

“I need to get my thoughts out sometimes, and they let me do it,” a group member said.

“It’s a different vibe talking with men. I don’t know, it just is,” another group member said.

Brown said the group challenges some of the stereotypical masculine characteristics that many men grew up with.

“We, as a society, have been dealing with a lot of things as far as sexual harassment, sexual abuse, appropriate behavior in the workplace, the expectation that men don’t express themselves except when it’s anger or frustration,” Brown said.

Brown is excited to see how men in the group are changing the way they think and behave and learning new skills instead of relying on old coping mechanisms.

“There’s been this barrier there, that says men can’t talk about their emotions, they can’t say what they are feeling, they can’t express what is going on inside, unless it’s coming from this hyper masculinity,” Brown said. “Many have felt like this is the way to deal with problems. But that’s not acceptable. And they are learning new skills to deal with life, to deal with women, to deal with other men.”