The Men’s Resource Center of West Michigan provides the tools and support men need to better navigate and succeed in today’s world, helping prepare them to function in whatever situation they find themselves as fathers, workers, friends, intimate partners, or neighbors. Our men’s support groups promote physical and mental wellness through innovative and traditional treatments. We provide a thorough 1:1 intake assessment to match counseling needs with individual and/or group counseling and therapy services.
Innovative Therapy Treatments
In this Revealing Men podcast, Randy Flood, co-founder and Director of the Men’s Resource Center, and somatic therapist, Ken Porter take some time to discuss the different types of therapy offered by the Men’s Resource Center, focusing on the importance of integrating innovative therapies such as Experiential Reclamation Therapy (ERT) and Somatic Therapy into treatment. ERT – a process of resocialization and experiential therapy – is a specialized therapy model created by Charlie Donaldson and Flood to help men reclaim and develop their emotional and relational selves. Somatic therapy is body-centered healing, specifically focused on integrating mind, body, and emotion. A somatic perspective helps men access their emotions and understand how those emotions are kept under control. It is most often recommended following cognitive behavioral therapy and alongside ERT.
What follows are excerpts from Flood and Porter’s conversation as to why these innovative therapies matter. You can listen to their complete conversation about men’s psychotherapy groups on the Revealing Men podcast. In addition, this Sanford House article by Flood describes how Experiential Reclamation Therapy can help treat addiction.
Why are Emotions Necessary?
Porter: Emotions are here to serve us and to guide us and to inform us and to help us connect with other people. To me, it’s more of a strengthening process to develop that emotional intelligence. It gives you more strength and it gives you more power, meaning that you have the ability to actually effect change in your life.
Flood: Sometimes you’ll hear guys who think that emotions get in the way of clear thinking. How do you respond to that?
Porter: Emotions are basically telling us where we are in relation to getting our needs met. So if we feel what we call a negative emotion like fear, anger, sadness, that’s basically telling us there’s a need that’s not getting met. If we feel a positive emotion like happiness or contentment, it’s basically data, feedback, telling us “hey – there’s a need that is getting met here.” So, that’s the kind of information that everybody needs in order to live a fulfilling life.
What Happens When Emotions Are Suppressed?
Flood: If men are taught that emotions aren’t good resources and they just get in the way, then there’s a socialization process that pummels it out of them.
Porter: Emotions always show up in the body in some form or another. They generally show up as a physical sensation somewhere. And they also generally show up as some kind of an impulse to move or to act. …So, when we have been socialized to not feel our feelings, the only way we can really do that is by suppressing something in our body.
Flood: What about expelling it? What about all this tension? How does it teach men to depend on what we have termed as “externalization?”
Porter: That’s the other side of the coin. And both ways are ways of actually avoiding feeling the feeling. Expelling it is just getting rid of it as quickly as possible and suppressing it is trying to get rid of it maybe more slowly.
What Does the Somatic Process Look Like?
Porter: So part of what I do with men is, first of all, teach them, I guess redirect them, out of their constant, habitual thinking, thinking, thinking, talking, talking, talking into “o.k., let’s take a pause from the stream of thought. Let’s drop in and see what’s happening in your body right now.” Some men take to that more quickly; some men it takes quite a while for them to start to realize, “oh, there is actually value in this.” But once they have their first experience of realizing, “Oh, now I get it.” At that point, we can begin to help guide them.
Flood: What you are trying to have them do scares the hell out of them.
Porter: I think a big part of the fear, the terror that men can feel when they’re invited to do this kind of work, to do this kind of exploration, is that they’re being asked to leave behind what they know. They’ve developed this whole arsenal of tools that are based on keeping things under control and this is asking them to put those tools down and pick up these new tools. It’s scary.
Does Reclaiming Emotion Make Men Weak?
Flood: I think people who are listening might think oh gosh, you’re emasculating these men, you’re making them weak. You and I both know that we work with construction workers who come in here with dirty boots, we work with attorneys who are trial attorneys, and athletes … And they come in here and show us a form of courage that’s really remarkable in terms of getting into these really tender places. But that doesn’t mean they don’t walk out of the office and drive away and go do the same work that they do every day. They’re still able to perform. And so, it doesn’t weaken them.
Porter: I see it as making them more complete person; a more well-rounded person. It’s not taking something away – it’s not taking strength away or taking power away – it’s adding in things that have been discarded out of necessity. So, you know, some of the main things it’s adding in are relational, like the ability to connect with a partner or a friend, a loved one, or even a co-worker. To connect in a real way. That’s a life skill that just needs to be reclaimed.
What Does “Experiential” Mean?
Flood: Hence the name “experiential reclamation therapy.” What makes it experiential and why does it need to be experiential?
Porter: There’s a couple of ways that men – or anybody – keep emotions at check or at bay. One of them is to act it out or suppress it and the other is to intellectualize it…. So, experiential means … you have an intellectual thought, there’s an emotion that goes with it. When you can locate that emotion in your body and feel it, and feel the impulse that that emotion is driving you to do – like, that’s an experience…. It’s a different use of the mind. Instead of the mind being in an analytical or problem-solving mode, the mind is shifting into an observational mode; it’s just observing. And that’s a stretch for a lot of men. It’s like something they haven’t spent a lot of time doing. Just self-reflecting. Just noticing. Just being aware.
Do These Therapies Work For Anyone?
Flood: I just wondered what you would say to someone who’s really skeptical or saying “I don’t know if this is for me,” or if this is going to be helpful.
Porter: One thing I would say is that you can’t really know until you try it. Because it is experiential. There is kind of an old school approach to working with men that’s like “we’re going to be warriors and we’re going to push you to your limit, and we’re going to break down your defenses, and that’s not the approach that I’m coming from. … It’s not an attack on the construct that you’ve built, it’s mostly really just an embracing of everything that’s there.
Contact the Men’s Resource Center of West Michigan for more information about our in-person counseling and therapy programs.