Meanwhile, MensGroups, which runs men’s circles in London and online (for men to “get real”), has launched boys’ groups, hosting one-off talking circles for teen boys in schools, most recently at Wellington College, Berkshire. Similarly, the London-based social enterprise the Visionaries runs “Courageous Conversations” in schools for teenage boys and girls in separate circles.
All promise a safe space for teens to – woke alert – “feel heard”, without finger-wagging. “You can’t just clamp down and say [their behaviour] is wrong,” explains Conroy Harris, CEO of A Band of Brothers, a rehabilitative charity for young men. “Tell a kid not to put a bean up his nose and you’re in trouble.”
These circles are not intended to address serious mental health issues; they are for regular boys facing regular teenage concerns. In the case of MensGroups and the Visionaries, schools approach them to host circles, and sometimes on specific topics, such as harassment, consent, drugs, etc.
Thus far, Journeyman has set up groups wherever there has been parental demand and a willing supply of mentors; its growth is fuelled only by word of mouth and internet searches, and its leaders are keen to raise funds in order to go fully nationwide.
The circle itself is key – here, everyone is equal. As with men’s and women’s talking circles, these sessions are ritualised, with welcomes, check-ins and other “pre-flight checks” to ensure everything is safe for take-off into the juicy stuff. That either happens naturally, or is led by the facilitators. The boys readily volunteer “cool” topics: hating your parents, drugs, girls, etc. But the facilitators have ways of drawing out the harder stuff, such as sexuality and spirituality.
“That comes through modelling,” Harney explains. “Or we might say, ‘You know, we haven’t talked about X for a while.’” At Journeyman, the boys may have been meeting for months if not years, and have learnt to trust the safe space. They can also ask for a “walk and talk”, still in sight of the circle, but with a bit more privacy.
With MensGroups, the one-hour sessions dive in quickly with questions such as: “When did you last cry?” and, “What is your greatest fear right now?” (Warning: do not try this at home.) All participants are allowed to pass on any question, and often do.
They may well sit in silence for minutes – some might remain silent throughout, but they’ll have at least heard others sharing. The adults encourage the boys with their own admissions – once one or two boys open up, others find it easier to be vulnerable. Sessions are then carefully closed to bring everyone back to reality.
Some say the experience is life-changing. Three years ago, Archie Brooks, now 19, found himself in “a really bad situation” with alcohol. He couldn’t tell his parents for fear of “being judged”, so he tried AA, substance abuse therapy, art therapy… “Nothing worked until I started going to Journeyman,” he says.
Originally Appeared Here