Issues about working with men and women, together

Can I just say what a sheer relief it is to find some constructive dialogues giving potential alternatives to the nonsense that is “Duluth”.  The late Ellen Pence did have the decency to admit in her 1999 book that she got the “power and control” thing wrong”. The trouble seems to me to be that because of the vested interests nobody in the UK  wants to read and understand the implications of that!

Our experience of running mixed groups has overall been very good, although we have of course completed work with 900 plus men and only 100 plus women.  With a maximum group size of 8 there are very often groups with no woman, my co-facilitator apart, but we have also had groups where there have been 3 women and 3 men. We do not, however work with couples in the same group; if both partners need to attend then they attend in separate groups.

As couple counsellors we saw no real problem with this. Our experience suggested that many of the problems faced by a female would be very similar to those faced by males, and in terms of couple relationships there is no reason not to include both gay men and lesbians in that mix although over 21 years we’ve only had two of each.

We were very relieved in 2011 to discover that Dr Louise Dixon’s paper suggested that in her opinion, based on criminological need, there was no academic reason for separate courses. However  the stumbling block we saw in her prolonged format, which we manage to largely avoid in ours, was one of “two emotionally vulnerable people”  being given plenty of opportunity to “get their heads together”, using the course as the alibi for where they were going.   Our format is so compact that although people get to know one another very well the opportunity does not really exist to develop a relationship whilst still on the course. Outside the course those people become adults in their own right.

We could also add that by and large men also need to learn about women, and the differences, woman to woman,  and also, of course, women need to learn about men, man to man. There is no better way I suggest of doing that than having them working together in considerable intimacy. So the last woman we worked with, for example, was able to give first hand experiences of having a baby by caesarian section, very important for two of thee men there.

On the subject of research we’ve found that men are by and large very willing to take part, women have been very much more reticent to talk “publicly” but are willing to talk off the record. I think that the men tend to think they’ve done something very wrong and having addressed their problems they usually feel very much better about themselves and women are not sure that they have done anything wrong and at the end they have become much more aware of the potential damage they have caused, which perhaps links up with a potential “bad mother” private image. So for a researcher in urgent need of data we could quickly find 30 men. I would have thought we should have been able to find 10 women – but as it was only two came through!

I see another group of members suggesting facilitators should be mental health trained practitioners.   My reading of Dr Dan Siegel’s work suggested that mental health professionals were highly skilled in diagnosis but seemed to have had very little training in what constituted good mental health and how that might be achieved. His long overdue definitions of emotion and the mind and the role and importance of relationships look to me as if they will be a very positive contribution for the next couple of decades.

I was also delighted this morning to find Dr Tonia Nicholls’ Youtube clip.