Information About Starting a Men's Group
Tending the Fire: How to Begin a Men's Group
The DMC suggests that a minimum of four men are needed to begin a new men's group. From there the group can grow to a desired size. Groups can be of any number, though usually 5 - 7 men, allows for comfortable air-time for each man. Participants may be of similar or diverse backgrounds. Groups do not need to have a leader; most men's groups operate leaderless. The important objective is to create a safe and meaningful experience with one another, (this is described later in detail). Listening and honoring each man's experience, assists the development of a group that can serve men for many wonderful years.
The first six sessions is a time for men to begin to shape and influence the group. By discussing and identifying what they want or don't want from their new group experience, a flow and exchange unfolds; members begin to address not only their content but also the process of their group. All members can learn to reflect on the process, what they see the group, as a whole, doing or avoiding, patterns that become apparent. Commentary on the groups' process, helps to strengthen it's ability for meaning and self-reflection.
The beginning stage will likely see some men drop out from the group. This is to be expected, as men need to feel ready and that the group will adequately meet their needs.
A group will do better with some structure. Groups, in their first few meetings, will need to address how often they want to meet, where, and the duration of their meetings. Many groups meet either weekly or every other week, often for a two hour period. We suggest meetings be held in comfortable and quiet settings, with the security of no interruptions. This helps to promote personal reflection and group safety. Some groups experiment with adding some ritual, such as lighting a candle, sitting in silence for a moment, or simply closing the door as a transition point.
In order for the new group to coalesce, it must be a "safe" place. Safe both physically and emotionally. This is a cornerstone of any successful and long lasting group! Emotional safety is sometimes a new concept for men. When men feel they will be heard, not judged, and accepted for their differences, safety (trust) begins to root.
The DMC strongly suggests that men do not give advice to their fellow members! Instead, men might be encouraged to share their own similar experiences. Remember men are coming to a support group to be seen and heard; from this process, men learn how to self-advise, re-discovering their own useful skills. Advise giving, often can set up a dynamic between men, of obligation, which if not followed, can lead to resentments and distance.
Basic ground rules for a group should include an agreement to keep all group-content confidential. A member may certainly discuss, outside of the group, his own experience and reactions, but should never reveal other member's disclosures. Nothing has more potential to injure a group's stability than violations of trust. If members cannot rely on their personal statements to be secure, within their group, the groups' future will be jeopardized.
Group members become important to one another. Therefore, punctuality and regular attendance are crucial for the new group to develop. Group members seem to do better when they can predict who will be present and whom absent, so addressing schedule conflicts is crucial.
Most groups soon develop their own culture, one based on honesty, feeling safe to be seen and to be heard, and to risk expressions of vulnerability. In a group it is beneficial for members to offer feedback, (reactions), but to especially encourage one another to talk more from one's heart, rather than from one's head. One group said, "We pride ourselves on not talking about our safe issues!"
Groups have the potential to form into a meaningful alliance that is rich and healing. In such a context, men can explore their souls as individuals and as men, and may discover that they very much want to grow old together.
P.Gregory Guss, DMC co-founder
Senior members of the DMC remain available to assist new groups with their initial meetings, if requested. Please call: (530) 756-0555 ex. 362 or DMC.
For more information on how to get started, we suggest the following books: