How Essentially Men has helped my family and clients
By Verity Thom
Essentially Men is an organisation which I have had much to do with, both personally and professionally, over the last 20 years. My husband, Nic, was at the inaugural meeting when Rex McCann called for support for his work with men and has attended various of the EM programmes over the years.
Nic and my son attended the Pathways To Manhood programme 4 years ago and the following year my son attended again, this time as a Firekeeper (trainee youth leader).
I love what I’ve seen EM offer these two most important men in my life and I treasure greatly how it’s enriched our family relationships. I’ve watched them both blossoming as they’ve increased their sense of belonging with each other and other men. I’ve become a zealous promoter of Pathways whenever I hear of any young men who are unhappy or troubled and who don't seem to have a strong connection with their father to help guide them through the turbulent teen years.
I believe often it is the fathers not just the sons who suffer if they don't have a good connection with their boys. It certainly helped me to get "off the bridge" (to quote Celia Lashley) when I was part of the graduation ceremony for my son at the end of both his Pathways camps. It helped me as a mother really 'get' that my son was transitioning into manhood and that my role needed to radically change at this time.
It was a relief in a way to know that his father was entering a critical and intensive time of his fathering of our son as he entered manhood and that now was the time for me to step back and ease up on the mothering a bit.
As their father-son relationship deepened I felt a sense of ease and rightness that bought with it peace and contentment. Pathways and the transition it facilitated for all of us helped Nic and I gain a clear focus on this new parenting phase and bought us into strong alignment as a parenting team.
The homecoming ceremonies I attended at Pathway camps were two of the most moving experiences of my life. They were both very powerful ceremonies and I was so proud of my men I thought I was going to burst. I read a poem at Ryan's first ceremony that I had written about this transition in our relationship that we were going through. At the next ceremony I assisted with the karanga and it's power took my breath away as did the proud beauty of this wonderful group of men. The personal gratitude and appreciation I have for EM runs deep.
On a professional level I have been referring men to EM groups as an adjunct to my couple therapy for many years now. It has been a joy to watch the flourishing of the men I have referred to EM and I do find the work of the EM groups compliments my work with men in relationship therapy.
A deep, robust and self-aware connection with another relies so much on a robust and deep connection with self. In particular, if a man I am working with has had a distant, rocky or absent relationship with their own father and there has been no other significant relationship with an older male or other good men in their life, EM has had a lot to offer.
There is something very profound for many men about finding a place of deep connection and support amongst a group of men. EM has assisted many of my clients who have a personal sense of unacceptability experience a breakthrough into self-acceptance and love. Other men I refer have a very unclear sense of who they are and not much self-awareness. Others are rigid and defended and have benefitted from the type of strong challenge that men can offer men so well.
Many of my male clients return from EM more solid in their sense of themselves and self-worth which enhances the couple therapy I am doing and allows a growth for the couple. A solidness of self can translate into increased steadiness when relating under pressure about tricky things with their partner. It can also assist with tolerating the vulnerability of openness which is so essential for robust intimacy of all types.
Most of my male clients have been either very or extremely hesitant about attending an EM course when I have suggested it and consistently they return from their EM group and thank me for firmly nudging them to attend, often telling me it is one of the most worthwhile things they have ever done.
Verity Thom is an Auckland psychologist and sex therapist at CoupleWork a private practice with her husband and fellow psychologist, Nic Beets. Verity also works as a consultant on all aspects of business relationships including brand, customer and organisation.