Introduction to working with men and family relationships guide

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2022 • 140 Pages • 876.47 KB • English
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Introduction to working with men and family relationships guide A resource to engage men and their families 2 Introduction to working with men and family relationships guide © Commonwealth of Australia 2009 ISBN: 978-1-921380-24-2 This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the Australian Government available from the Commonwealth Copyright Administration, Attorney-General’s Department. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to the Commonwealth Copyright Administration, Attorney-General’s, Robert Garran Offices, National Circuit, Canberra ACT 2600 or posted at The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) commissioned Crisis Support Services Inc to prepare the information contained in this publication. FaHCSIA accepts no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of any material contained in this publication. Information in this publication is made available on the understanding that FaHCSIA is not providing professional advice. Views expressed in this publication are those of third parties, and do not necessarily reflect the views of FaHCSIA or the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. For additional copies please call 1800 050 009* (*free call unless calling from a mobile or pay phone) National Relay Service for users who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment TTY: 1800 555 677 Speak and Listen: 1800 555 727 Internet relay: 3 Foreword Forew0rd Of the millions of people across the world, approximately 49 per cent are men. It’s been this way since the beginnings of human-kind. So why then are we so perplexed and confused about how to engage and work effectively with men in our communities? Ironically, most of us asking these questions about how to best work with men, are men ourselves. What is it that confuses us about effectively engaging the masculine half of our society? Is it that we have just taken for granted the way men think, feel, engage and respond? The reality is that men are different to women. We have different needs, motivations, ways of expressing ourselves, and different ways of computing and reacting to information. For decades now, health professionals, academics, leaders in education and social justice have tailored support programs, teaching and health services to specifically meet the unique needs of women, and rightfully so. Thankfully, we have finally come to realise that these same initiatives need to take place in order to improve outcomes for men, in terms of health, wellbeing, education and family relationships. Now we just need to understand what men are all about, and how we need to work in order to effectively engage with them. All too often services are designed on false stereotypes. And when it comes to providing family and relationship services to Australian men, the picture most often painted is of the sad Aussie bloke struggling to overcome heart-breaking and complex addiction problems, family violence, or criminal behaviour. Libraries are filled with stories of suffering and despair that is seen to be caused by men. This guide breaks through these assumptions and takes a positive, strengths-based approach to explaining what men want and need, and how we can best support Australian men to engage with the services designed to support them and their families. As a patron of Mensline Australia – Australia’s only national, professional, telephone support service specifically for men with family and relationship issues – I’m passionate about improving access to quality services, tailored to the needs of Australian men and their families. Each year more than 60,000 Australian men (mostly fathers) call Mensline Australia for confidential support about managing family and relationship issues. It is now starting to be recognised that men play a vital role in the lives of children. This guide has been designed as a starting point for those responsible for working with men. It offers a user-friendly approach to working with men, enabling them to talk about their needs and better support their partners and children. I trust you will find it helpful in your vitally important work. William McInnes Patron Mensline Australia 11 March 2009 4 Introduction to working with men and family relationships guide 5 Contents Preface 9 Acknowledgements 10 Topic 1: Introduction to working with men 13 The historical development of Men and Family Relationship 13 (MFR) programs The significance of the non-deficit perspective 16 Current challenges 17 Principles for effective practice 18 Access to other networks 24 Topic 2: Working with men as fathers 27 Useful resources about fathering 28 Father-inclusive practice – what is it? 29 Dad myths 31 The changing role of fathers 31 An overview of the generative perspective 32 Erikson’s life stages of development 33 The generative framework and men 35 How the deficit perspective assumption is expressed 38 An alternative perspective of fathering 39 Men and adult relationships 40 Topic 3: Skills used when working with men 43 Help seeking behaviour in men 43 Child focussed practice 45 Using transition periods 45 Generative Chill 48 The engagement triangle 52 Appropriate responses to men crying 54 How to plan a successful fathers’ group 55 Tips for attracting group members 56 Tips for keeping group members 57 5 Contents 6 Introduction to working with men and family relationships guide Topic 4: Working with men and culture 59 Engagement strategies 59 Male socialisation experiences 60 Effective engagement of CALD men 63 Migration 66 Torture and trauma 67 Racism 67 Conclusion 68 Topic 5: Once were hunters and gatherers–working with 71 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men Reflection on facilitating group work programs with men who 80 are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Topic 6: Working with men in different contexts 85 A. Working with men and emotions (affect regulation) 85 Problems with the concept of anger management 85 Difference between anger management and domestic violence programs 86 Challenges faced in dealing with men and emotion 88 The importance of valuing the full spectrum of emotion – affect regulation 90 Useful tools for working with affect regulation 91 B. Working with men and family violence 93 Definition of domestic violence (DV) 94 Development of an integrated framework 96 Other research about domestic violence 99 Current challenges for working with men and violence 100 Historical development of DV programs for men 101 Skills used when working with men and violence 103 Change (view to the future) 104 C. Working with separated fathers 107 What motivates fathers to disengage from their children? 107 Physical reasons 109 Psychological factors 110 Stages of involvement 113 7 Contents The generative fathering framework as a tool to rebuild engagement 116 Valuing differences in roles 117 Ways that men can deal with disengagement 117 Useful steps for fathers rebuilding engagement with their children 118 Discussion 120 Solutions 120 Conclusion 121 D. Women working with men 122 Strengths women have in working with men 122 Challenges women face working with men 123 Practical points for women working with men 124 Change in the future 126 References 127 8 Introduction to working with men and family relationships guide 9 Preface Preface This introductory guide is one of the designated outcomes from the 2007 National Men and Family Relationships (MFR) Forum and articulates the core issues discussed at that event. The guide provides an interactive and user-friendly tool for practitioners who are new to working specifically with male clients and their family relationships. This guide is designed to compliment face-to-face training workshops on working with men. It provides information for engaging with men across a variety of disciplines, and some insight into the skills, challenges and best practice models currently being utilised both nationally and internationally in working with men. The guide will support a wide range of practitioners working with men across the community sector. In particular, this document might be popular within Family Relationship Centres where a significant new workforce is engaging with men through early intervention and post-separation services. Everyone is encouraged to read through all six sections of the guide, rather than pick out different bits. This is because certain theoretical ideas (like generativity) are weaved throughout the whole six topics. The six topics include: w Introduction to working with men. w Working with men as fathers. w Skills used when working with men. w Working with men and culture. w ‘Once were hunters and gatherers’ – working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men. w Working with men in different contexts. A. Working with men and emotions (affect regulation). B. Working with men and family violence. C. Working with separated fathers. D. Women working with men. The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) has funded the development of this guide. By investing in such resources FaHCSIA is helping services providers to work with families in a way that is more inclusive of fathers. These resources support a broad range of services that FaHCSIA funds for men and their families including Men and Family Relationship Services which provide relationship counselling, education and skills training, support, conflict resolution and case management services and Mensline Australia. 9 10 Introduction to working with men and family relationships guide Acknowledgements In developing the content of this guide, FaHCSIA appreciates the dedicated work of the following people: Andrew King Gabrielle Borggaard Jeremy Hearne Jonathan Nanlohy Mary Mertin-Ryan Ray McMinn Raymond Lenton Ross Fletcher Sandip Bhattacharjee Steve Sutton Stuart Anderson Wendy Sturgess In addition, appreciation is given to the following workshop convenors and practitioners at the 2007 National Men and Family Relationship Forum whose workshop feedback has been built into this induction program: Andrew King Daniel Moss Dr Khairy Gajeed Evyn Webster Gabrielle Borggaard Ray Lenton Rob Boyle Ross Fletcher Steve Sutton Stuart Anderson Terry Melvin Vicky Booth 11 Preface Icon used in the guide This icon is used to highlight the principles and activities that can be adopted when working with men and/or how practitioners can apply what has been discussed. You will find one of these at the conclusion of each topic. 12 Introduction to working with men and family relationships guide 13 Introduction to working with men Topic 1: Introduction to working with men Outline This topic discusses: w the historical development of Men and Family Relationship (MFR) programs w the significance of the non-deficit perspective w current challenges w principles for effective practice w valuable tools Read the following section and: w reflect on what are the programs in your area that are relevant to men and their family relationships? w develop a list of key services, along with key people that you can refer men to. w reflect on the services/support your program provides that will be of interest to men. Why are these programs provided? The historical development of Men and Family Relationship (MFR) programs The context of working with men in Australia only formally commenced 10 years ago. Prior to this time, few people were employed to work specifically with men (except for domestic violence programs). Since then, new funding has emerged from either Commonwealth/State/Territory Governments or private trusts/foundations. The Bernard van Leer Foundation ( provided the initial funding to the Engaging Fathers Project ( index.html) in NSW for developing their men and boys programs. Since 1998, the most significant funding for working with men has been though the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) and its funding of Men and Family Relationship (MFR) services ( 14 Introduction to working with men and family relationships guide This initiative was first announced in November 1997, with funding of six million dollars over four years through the Partnerships against Domestic Violence Strategy Programs. It initially delivered MFR services through 18 locations with a further 20 locations being established in July 2008. The funding of a national telephone line to provide support for men and family relationships was a strong cornerstone from 1997. In 2002, Mensline Australia formally commenced as the provider of this service. An independent evaluation of MFR programs indicated a high level of acceptance and support by men. Sixty seven organisations are now delivering a suite of early intervention and prevention family relationship services to men in over 121 locations throughout Australia (FaHCSIA, 2008). In order to understand the value of MFR services, an evaluation of the initiative was undertaken from November 2000 to August 2002. This evaluation focussed on two key issues: w The operation of MFR services; and w The experiences and outcomes of the program’s clients. The evaluation found that MFR services were very successful in providing support in rural and regional areas of Australia, where men’s services had been practically non- existent to a very diverse range of men (e.g. from culturally, linguistically and socially- disadvantaged backgrounds and Indigenous men), and at key life transition stages such as the birth of a first child, separation and retirement. The evaluation also helped to debunk the popular assertions that men: w do not want to talk about themselves and their relationships; and w will not seek help in relationship matters. In fact, it found that MFR clients responded very strongly to the existence of the men’s service. Men were quoted as making statements such as: w ‘It is about time there was something for us’ w ‘Until I heard about the men’s service I didn’t have a clue where to go to get help’. The experiences of the services clearly demonstrated that men are open to relationship support, provided that the approach is male-friendly and non-judgmental. The major keys to success identified in the evaluation, still apply today: w find a positive connection to bring the men into the service w build on the men’s self esteem and existing skills, rather than emphasising the challenges they experience. Since MFR programs were developed, a strong series of MFR practitioner based networks have emerged to represent either states or regional areas in Australia. These informal networks have focussed on developing the practice of working with men, sharing resources and building a wider range of effective frameworks to support men and their families. The website is used to share information about practice-based issues for working with men, to distribute useful resources, and increase awareness about regular national and regionally based MFR Forums. Membership is free and practitioners who have an interest in working with men and family relationships are encouraged to join. 15 Introduction to working with men The days of deficit-based models are numbered, with a growing body of knowledge and expertise in developing strategies for engaging with men. Despite these encouraging findings, the evaluation also noted a high level of unmet need for services specifically targeted to men. The overwhelming response from men was to ask for more services specifically designed for them, and for better publicity to increase awareness of these services. The evaluation also showed, contrary to popular belief, that men have a high degree of commitment to their families and are motivated towards the development and maintenance of successful relationships. Men were found to be generally willing to talk about their relationships and learnt new skills when the context was welcoming and the adopted approach was appropriate. This feedback also fits with the research documented by Don Edgar in Men, Mateship, Marriage (Edgar, 1997) who identified that most men insist that their ‘best mate’ (usually seen as a male bonding term) is ‘me missus’. In his research as the foundation director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Edgar found that across all socio-economic groups, the one person men could disclose their real feelings to was their partner. Through the evaluation, barriers to men accessing services were identified as follows: w Not being well informed about what counselling involved. w Believing that counselling does not ‘work’. w Feeling that existing services are really for women. w Perceiving counselling to be a last resort to save a relationship, or that needing counselling is a sign that a relationship is over. w Believing counsellors will take sides against them. w Feeling uncomfortable with the language and modes of communication traditionally used in counselling. Other examples of the significant change in men accessing community services is Mensline Australia ( providing a professional 24 hours a day, seven days a week national telephone support service (1300 789 978) for men and their families. Mensline Australia receives between 50,000 to 70,000 calls each year. Also, over 200 Men’s Sheds now operate across Australia. Two key websites that document the significant breadth of this new phenomenon are the Australian Men’s Sheds Association ( and Mensheds Australia (www.mensheds. During 2006, national research into men’s sheds was conducted in South Australia ( It indicated that men are accessing these sheds in very large numbers (Golding, 2006). Men’s sheds have allowed men to come together with shared interests and find new ways to feel useful and contribute again to their communities through learning or sharing their skills, making friends, networking and accessing health information programs and opportunities. The Mensline Australia Call Back Service (CBS) which is an extension of the Mensline Australia telephone support service, originated from growing concerns about male callers who were lacking support as a result of being geographically or socially isolated. The service was developed to respond to a number of barriers experienced