A Men’s Support Group – The Definitive Guide [2020]

Want to learn more about men’s support groups? Have you searched for “a men’s support group near me?”Perhaps you want to better understand what happens in a men’s support group?

If you are curious, confused or have a question about a men’s support group, you came to the right place. My name is Sean Galla and for the last 10 years, I’ve been running and participating in men’s support groups.

I was a young man when I first looked for a men’s support group near me. Now I am one of the men’s group facilitators here at here at men’s group. We facilitate impactful conversations and community for guys interested in self-improvement.

A men’s support group can be daunting and nerve-racking so I figured I’d document a comprehensive question-and-answer style guide for anyone curious about men’s groups.

Sean Galla

Written by

Sean Galla

An experienced facilitator, community builder and Peer Support Specialist, Sean has been running men's groups for 10+ years. Read Sean's Full Author Bio.

What is a men’s support group?

A men’s support group is a small bunch of men coming together to support each other with their challenges and to learn how to navigate their own challenges in healthy ways. The purpose of a men’s support group is to help guys experience more personal growth, mental health, success and happiness. Support groups for men will typically be 6-15 guys and will me regularly, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. 

It doesn’t matter if a guy is looking for a divorce support group, or prostate cancer help group or an online men’s support group, they can all find what they are looking for in a circle of men.  

Why do support groups for men exist? What’s the purpose?

A lot of folks are confused about why supportive men’s groups exist. Why do men need them? History explains.

For most of human evolution – we’re talking 200,000 years or so – we humans lived in small groups and spent most of our time in close quarters to others. During the day the men would go off and hunt and gather. While on the hunt or gather patrol, the men would have the opportunity to discuss men’s issues with the other guys.

It was just a small group and the guys knew each other well so they felt comfortable talking about all aspects of life and being a man.

A supportive men's group near me

At night, multiple families would huddle around the fire and share stories. The elders would pass down wisdom through tales and answering questions. And young men would head into the wildness with other, older me as a rite of pages. An event to mark the transition between boyhood and manhood. The boy would be able to learn from the older men and ask everything he could about being a man.

All of the stereotypical topics that we discuss today and more; you can see some of them here: men’s group topics.

Today we have none of this. We live in single-family dwellings. We work long hours and spend our free time vegging out with technology. And society has been conditioning men to not talk about their experiences or feelings.

This is becoming a problem because – evolutionarily speaking – we still have the brains and hearts of our answers who were living in small tribes. In the last 300 years, human civilizations have evolved tremendously and unfortunately, evolution works a lot slower – in tens-of-thousands of years. What does this mean?

We men are hardwired for connection, closeness and to talk through things, and yet modern-day society is pushing us towards isolation.

And men are bearing the burden of this isolation the most. The research shows that isolation is detrimental to a man’s happiness and wellbeing, to the degree they now say that social isolation is worse than smoking 15 cigarettes per day.

While some guys are able to go it alone and do just fine, most men privately struggle with life’s challenges and the isolation only adds further pressure and emotional lows.

The direction of isolation and men is showing some horrible trends including the incarceration rate being 90+% men and the suicide rate being 80% men.

Benefits of a men’s support group

With a supportive group of men, you will likely experience the following common benefits:

  • Become more successful in work and life
  • Get through a divorce in  a healthy way
  • Be a better father
  • A place to vent and lighten the load
  • Experience more happiness
  • Real friendships with guys that share more of your values and goals
  • A healthier romantic relationship
  • Improve mental health
  • Communicating better with loved ones
  • Save money over other similar options: counselors, coaches and weekend men’s retreats
  • Save time and energy compared to going it alone. 

We hope you will experience the above men’s group benefits and more!

How do men need support?

Honestly, different guys need different things we recommend that guys seek out local professionals for specific ongoing challenges with the wellbeing.

That being said, we’ve seen across thousands of guys that what most guys need most these days is the opportunity to share what they’re facing in life and how they truly feel about it. And just this alone – in online men’s groups or in-person men’s groups – can take so much weight off their shoulders and bring clarity to their situations.

A supportive men's group near me

If you ask most guys how they’re doing – unless it’s a man-cold – they will say “I’m fine. Everything is good.” Even when things are horrible most guys will say this out of fear of being seen as weak. If they were being honest, at any given time, most people would respond with “Ya I’m alright. Not that great.”.

Because that is the nature of life: adversity. There are so many challenges to face as a human and to be expected to face them all alone, with no need whatsoever for support is ridiculous.

So we’ve found that a lot of men just need support in the way of someone listening, empathizing and validating their feeling around whatever the situation is that they’re facing. And to receive perspective and guidance from other men in men’s support groups is exactly how a lot of them need to be supported.

This explains why so many men desire to discuss a variety of mens group topics.

Powerful men benefit from groups for support

Nobody wants to need support, but the reality is that we all could use some empathy, perspective, and guidance at times. This is true for men from all walks of life, including some of the most successful and powerful men of all time.

men's support group near meAnd while these guys wouldn’t call it a “support group” per se. Instead, they called them syndicates, think-tanks, brain-trusts, masterminds, circles, growth group and more.  Yet at their core, these were all men’s support groups.

men's support group topics

These great men would come together, sit in a circle and one-by-one each of the men would have the opportunity to share an issue or opportunity that they were facing. The group would then empathize, share perspective and offer advice on a wide range of personal and business topics.

Men’s support group topics?

Speaking of personal and business topics, what discussion themes actually get spoken about in men’s support groups? A lot of people are curious about what are some common men’s support group topics?

Honestly, no two meetings are ever the same. Men will talk about whatever is most pressing in their lives so the subject changes every week.

In general, though, there are some topics that get more frequently discussed, including:

  • Divorce & child custody
  • Communication in relationships
  • Career & purpose
  • Mental health
  • Work-life balance
  • Parenting & being a better dad
  • Health challenges
  • Grieving the loss of a loved one
  • Personal finances
  • How to control emotions as a man
  • Being a better man
  • Dating
  • And a lot more! Go here for our full list of men’s group topics.

And what’s interesting is that despite the wide-variation of topics, it’s incredible how many of the discussions apply to every guy in the room. This makes sense because at the end of the day everyone finds themselves in unique situations but at a high level most of these issues or opportunities being discussed still fall under the umbrella of health, wealth, relationships and so on. There are really no new challenges in life.

Who is in a support circle for men?

Men come to men’s groups from all walks of life. Some are wealthy, others are broke. Some are fit, some are out of shape. Some are single, other’s have big families. Our youngest guy has been 21 and our oldest is 89.

First I’ll say that when we put together a men’s group, we will choose men with shared goals and values.

For example, there are men’s divorce support groups that focus specifically on the recovery process of healing after a divorce.

But in the men’s support groups, even with different backgrounds and beliefs, all the guys in the men’s circle all share a special something, including:

  1. A strong urge to become a better man
  2. A desire to learn and grow: personal growth
  3. A genuine pull towards more community and friendships
  4. A naturally motivated interest in helping others: contribution

Even though these things are somewhat intangible – they can’t be measured – when it comes to your betterment as a man these traits are everything. This is the stuff that makes for an ideal teammate in a men’s support group.

Sometimes when a new guy enters into a support group for men, he can find certain guy’s personalities confronting. If you asked him, he might say that he doesn’t like “X”, guy. But then, without fail, because the other guy is so confronting, he is often the one that will lead to the most learning and growth. It’s in the different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives where a lot of the value lies in a men’s group.

So don’t judge a book by its cover. Give the guys a chance and you may be surprised how much you will learn from guys in a men’s support group, even the ones who at first put you off.

The many different kinds of men’s groups

Truth be told, there are so many different kinds of men’s groups out there. They come in all sizes and flavors. Many are focused on different goals, boast significantly different values and encourage different things.

Here are just a few of the wide variety of men’s circles, men’s group activities and ideas you can find out there:

  • Personal growth groups: Similar to MensGroup, there are many groups out there who meet just to talk about how to become a better man. This includes a broad range of life-topics.
  • Men’s divorce support groups: These groups focus on helping a guy recover from divorce and breakups. Divorced men’s support groups can be very helpful in coming to terms with the ending of a romantic relationship and child custody. 
  • Grief support groups: To help men learn how to grieve the loss of a father ones or any other kind of loss experienced.
  • Spirituality/religion support group: There are lots of church men’s groups out there and even the common, non-religious man’s groups are heavy in spiritual practices such as bowing, chanting and preying.
  • Domestic violence support group: Men are also victims of domestic violence however nobody wants to hear about it. So a men’s domestic violence support group can be incredibly helpful.
  • Academic discussion groups: Lots of men’s support groups focus on less of their internal experience and more on academic topics like “masculinity”.
  • Online men’s support groups: Some men live close to an in-person men’s group. The rest of us benefit from attending online men’s groups via video conferences and online discussions.
  • Depression support groups: It can be highly beneficial to talk with a supportive group of men when facing depression. 
  • Weekend Retreat support group: Many men’s organizations offer weekend retreats, in-fact most do. The retreats often involve a lot of masculine exercises and rituals designed to “shake” a man out of his rut.
  • Cancer support group: Especially prostate cancer. 
  • Paid vs. Free Men’s Circles: Some groups are free, others are paid, others charge thousands of dollars per year. Typically the more a group charges, the more committed the members are and the more structure you will find in the community and meetings (structure creates value).
  • Men’s rights support group: These groups discuss and lobby for a variety of men’s issues around the topic of men’s rights. 
  • Career and work support groups: Many men struggle to find their path with their career and purpose. These groups are for them.
  • Relationship/dating support groups: The large majority of men have all experienced confusion around dating and relationships. In these groups, men come together to learn about how to be in a healthy relationship.
  • Emotional support groups: Men’s groups that focus on emotions and building emotional intelligence

Depending only our goals and values, one of the above types of men’s groups may be a good fit for you. The only way to know which is best for your unique personality and station is to test a few out.

The best men’s support group formats

We often get asked about formats or best practices for men’s support groups.

how to start a men's support group

The reality is that despite the fact that all men’s groups are different, there are some best practices that apply when it comes to a men’s group’s format.

  1. Introductions: To start the meetings, men will make introductions.
  2. Intentions: Often the men will then go around the circle and explain why they’re there (we skip this in MensGroup for efficiency’s sake).
  3. Ritual: Most circles will then get into a ritual of some kind – chanting, bowing, jumping up and down – to shake the men out of their routine and to create a culture in the circle. (again, we skip this stuff in MensGroup for efficiency’s sake).
  4. Hot-Seats: In most men’s circles, the gold will be in the hot seats, where men have the opportunity to share and get feedback on whatever they want. Each man can take 20+ mins.
  5. Accountability: In some men’s support groups, the guys will go around the circle after the hot seats and state their accountability items so the other guys can hold them accountable.
  6. Closing statements: Each guy has the opportunity to share something that stood out for him and that he appreciated.
  7. Social follow-ups: At the end of the meeting, the males will usually hang around and follow up with some of the topics discussed during the meeting in a more casual way. Laughs will be had. Hands will be shaken. Guys say goodbye until the next meeting.

Of course, if you start a men’s group, you get to pick the format you feel will be most useful.

What to avoid in men’s support groups

So you do a Google search for men’s support groups near me. A number of groups will show up. Which ones do you avoid?

Obviously, there is benefit in talking about life in any kind of men’s support group, but we’ve learned over the years that there are some signs that a men’s group may not be as effective. Here is a funny clip from a popular TV show that illustrates common challenges with men’s support groups:

 

OK, seriously,  here is a list of some things you may want to steer clear of when selecting a supportive men’s group:

  • No moderation:  Straight up, folks can ramble. Men’s groups that don’t have a moderator/facilitator don’t last long because guys get frustrated with people rambling on and talking over one another.
  • Coach-centric groups:  While coaching can be highly beneficial for an individual, it can also be counter-productive in a group setting. It limits perspective by creating “group think” around the leader’s way of thinking. It also snuffs out the primary benefit of being in a men’s group: accessing the wisdom of the other men.
  • Victim mentality:  Sharing vulnerably and expressing emotions around a situation is healthy. However, some groups encourage men to continue complaining about their situation as though there is no way out of it.  Look for a group that is supportively challenging each other to take action and make change. This can result in toxic masculinity.
  • Free groups: Without financial commitment often there is wavering emotional or time commitment. We’ve found that free men’s groups end up having inconsistent attendance and less quality than groups that request a reasonable regular fee.
  • Telling men what to do: We’ve found – and psychological studies confirm – that when you tell someone what to do, chances are high they won’t listen or apply your advice. This way of offering guidance within a group can also lead to arguments from two men who are making counter-points. Instead, look for a group that applies the Gestalt Feedback protocol. This is basically instead of saying “you should do this”, you share from your own perspective: “here’s what I did and what I learned”. Let people jump to the conclusion themselves and they’re more likely to take action.
  • No shared values or goals: You must make sure that guys in your men’s group share your goals and values to some degree, otherwise you may be getting bad advice. For example, if you’re in a men’s group with guys that only care about money, when you care about lifestyle, their advice may not be relevant to your goals and values.

What makes a healthy group for men?

men's support groups

Now that you know how to avoid common men’s group pitfalls, it’s time to outline what makes a men’s group impactful for all of the guys involved:

  1. One-hundred percent private: Nobody wants to have their personal business, especially the sensitive matters, out there in the public eye. So confidentiality is the most important component for a men’s support groups online or in person.
  2. Transparency: When you are in a men’s group with guys that aren’t afraid to share everything, everyone grows more. Hiding details out of fear holds the group back from being able to give appropriate, impactful advice.
  3. Solution-oriented discussions: Venting is healthy. Getting off your chest is healthy. Complaining as though there is nothing you can do about a situation is a victim mentality. Instead, guys should be solution-oriented and taking action.
  4. Challenging each other: The best men’s group we’ve seen all encourage healthy challenges from a place of respect and support. It supports men’s work on themselves. If a guy is talking nonsense, it benefits him and everyone else in the group if the guys feel safe to be able to speak up with a counterpoint or a reflection that the guy may not like.
  5. Openness to feedback: Straight-up, a lot of people don’t want feedback. They say they do but when it is brought to them they close off, shut down or get upset. The best men’s groups have members that are open to all feedback.
  6. Showing up: The most impactful men’s groups have all of their members commit to showing up on time and fully present.

And now that you know what to look for in a men’s support group. It’s time to find a men’s group for your support and growth.

How to start and run a successful men’s support group

Right off the bat, I’m going to shoot your straight. It’s a lot more difficult to start a men’s support group and make it successful than it is to join an existing group. 

That being said, if you are keen to start your own support group meetup for you and your guy friends, here’s how we recommend doing that:

  1. Write down the purpose of your men’s support group.
  2. Make a list of the guys you want in your group
  3. Pick a frequency: weekly, bi-weekly, monthly
  4. Choose a platform like Zoom to host your meeting on. 
  5. Set a date. We use Doodle to align people’s schedules. 
  6. Learn how to facilitate a men’s support group meeting
  7. Start your first meeting. Welcome the guys and start casual banter. 
  8. First, you will go around the circle for introductions. 
  9. Then you can go around the group again for life updates
  10. Lastly, you’ll spend the rest of your meeting deep-diving into the men’s support group topics that are most relevant. 

We can’t stress enough how important it is that you invest in learning how to facilitate a men’s group. When you start your men’s support group, facilitation skills will help you support the men in your group when they need it!

How to find a men’s support group

There are so many different men’s groups out there that the real way to find your supportive group of guys is to just start trying a few of them.

men's support group

Here are a few avenues you may want to consider when looking for a men’s support group:

  • Meetup Groups:  Here you will find a number of men’s support groups organized in cities all around the globe, especially North America.
  • Local men’s support groups: There are likely more men’s groups near you than you think. Just type in “men’s support groups near me” or or ”men’s support group New York” and see what comes up. There will be a number of groups that you can sit in on and see if it’s a good fit for your current situation.
  • Men’s Groups Online:  Many men are too busy to commute to a local meeting or fly to attend a retreat weekend. Lots of men don’t want to deal with the non-sense found in most men’s groups like mankind project or evryman and would prefer a format that allows them to get right down to talking about their lives. If that is something you are interested in, we hold men’s support groups online via video conference.

We hope you found this guide to men’s support groups useful and that you will find the supportive group of guys you’re looking for!

Sources: 

1. The Effectiveness Of An Online Support Group - US Library Of Medecine
2. Support Groups: Make Connections. Get Help. - Mayo Clinic
3. The effectiveness of support groups - Emerald Journal

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