Man at support group

"Any men’s group that gives you space to explore who you are can be helpful."

The general theme for most men’s groups is to encourage positive psychological growth in its members. Men’s groups vary by structure, leadership, and the process by which they help men achieve their goals.

As a psychologist who has been facilitating and writing about men’s groups for the past 40 years, I will share with you the range of men’s group experiences and what you might learn from being a part of one.

There are several important elements to finding a men’s group that is best for you. The first is to know what issues, concerns, or goals you are wanting to work on.

What issues can men’s groups help with?

Men’s groups can help with a variety of issues. Below are the ten most common questions that come up in my groups. If these are interesting to you, then maybe you are ready to benefit from the men’s group experience.

  1. What does it mean to be a man?
  2. How did your family of origin impact you as a man?
  3. What strategies did you learn about how to handle problems?
  4. What significant events or traumas have impacted your life?
  5. What does it take for you to trust other men with your vulnerability?
  6. How have you handled betrayals and disappointments in your life?
  7. What are some of your secrets that you have been hesitant to share with other men?
  8. What significance does shame and self-judgment have in your life?
  9. What is the nature of your relationship with your father? Your mother? Your siblings? How has that impacted you in your role as a man, father, worker, partner?
  10. How do you feel about your role as a worker?

For a full list of questions, see end of article.

What types of men’s groups are there?

There are several different types of groups that are available to men. Below I review some of the most common types.

Therapeutically oriented men’s groups

I run a therapeutically oriented men’s group that helps men feel more comfortable being more self-aware and expressive. Since many men tend to hide their more vulnerable selves in everyday life, just being open about anxiety, fear, desires, and frustrations can be liberating. Communication in group goes beyond talking about sports or external events. A well-run men’s therapeutic group can result in freed up energy for life activities and an expansion of the “toolbox” of interpersonal skills. In group, men can experience a sense of belonging and closeness that reduces isolation, frustration, and depression.

Men’s groups run by “The Mankind Project”

One of the oldest structured men’s experiences is run by an organization called “The Mankind Project.”

Its founders recognized the isolation that many men experience with each other and the tendency to rely on women in their lives to provide them with emotional support. The Mankind Project is a multi-tiered system of trainers, leaders, and members that has established itself across the world. There is a structured manual/book called Circle of Men (Kauth, 2015) that is used to provide common experiences for new members.

Unlike men’s groups run by professional therapists, a long-standing member who receives advanced training can become a group leader. Psychological growth in the Mankind Project is focused not only on establishing strong male friendships, but also on having each individual learn internal self-discipline so they can trust themselves intellectually and emotionally. By being less reliant on women, men can tap their inner strength and feel more empowered to take on tasks and personal missions in the real world.

Other men’s groups

Other men’s groups are often centered around a specific issue or concern.

  • Some men’s groups have a 12-step structure focusing on addiction to pornography, substances, sex, or work.
  • Other groups may be designed as safe places of support for working through trauma. These include groups for veterans of wars, those who have had a child die, or men who have lost their spouses.
  • Other focused groups might specialize on new fathers or men who suffered physical or sexual abuse when they were younger.

Research suggests than many men have more difficulty finding friendship as they age. While informal men’s groups might occur through participation in sports such as golf, poker, or tennis, these groups do not necessarily fill the void of sharing what is really going on in one’s life.

Finding a group that’s right for you

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find a men’s group, but there are some ways to try.

  • Search online for “men’s support groups” or “men’s groups” to discover local groups in your area.
  • A therapist or psychologist might be able to refer you to ones they know about.

Importantly, you need to ask yourself what kind of experience are you seeking.

  • If you are already in some kind of counseling, a more therapeutically oriented group run by a mental health professional may be most productive.
  • If you are looking for motivation to achieve your goals, then a group run by a life coach or career counselor might be best.
  • If you are looking for a more structured experience to empower you in your life encounters, then finding a local chapter of The Mankind Project may be an option you can check out.
  • If you are struggling with addiction or compulsion, you may want to look into a 12-step men’s group.

Ultimately, any men’s group that gives you space to explore who you are can be helpful.


Additional issues men’s groups can help you explore:

  • What is the nature of power and control, and where do you feel its impact in your life?
  • What is love and how do you express it? What keeps you from loving?
  • What have you learned about sexuality in your life?
  • How do you experience others’ sexuality that might be different than yours?
  • How have you dealt with anxiety, depression, and fear?
  • How do we handle our more primitive impulses?
  • How do you deal with your physical self, including aging, injury, and illness?
  • How can we expand our emotional repertoire?
  • What are our struggles with addictions?
  • What does it mean to have a “dark side”?
  • What are our goals, fantasies, and expectations for the future?
  • What is your passion? How do you reignite this in your life?
  • What is the nature of your intimate relationships and what might you do to improve communication?
  • How can you build a psychologically healthy life?
  • What can I learn from the relationships I am developing in the group?
  • How can ancient myths and stories be applied to our lives?
  • What are our creative outlets for emotional expression?
  • What have we lost? What is unfinished? How do you handle losses in your life?

Author Bio:

Dr. Fred Rabinowitz is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Redlands and a licensed psychologist in California. He also has a private psychology practice utilizing individual and group therapy that focuses on men and male issues. His latest book is Deepening Group Psychotherapy with Men (2019) published by the American Psychological Association. He is a past President of the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinities of the American Psychological Association.

References:

  • Kauth, B. (2015). Circle of Men: The Original Manual for Men’s Support Groups. Silverlight (self-published.)
  • Rabinowitz, F.E. (2019). Deepening Group Psychotherapy with Men. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.