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Men’s behaviour change programs – what to expect (and how to make the most of it)

Help for men to stop using domestic or family violence most often comes in the form of a program – a kind of cross between counselling and education. In Queensland they are are known as Intervention Programs, and across Australia as men’s behaviour change programs (MBCPs). 

Here’s a few point to give you the heads up about what to expect, and some ideas on how to make good use of the opportunity. Every program is a little different, but these points apply to most.

Simple version

  • Men’s behaviour change programs for DFV are usually done as a group.
  • You’ll need to do a couple of individual assessment sessions first.
  • Don’t see it as punishment, because it’s not. Everyone there wants you to have better relationships and a happier life.
  • See it as an opportunity, because that’s what it is. You can use it to turn things around and make your life and the lives of people around you better.
  • The length of the program will be between 16 and 27 sessions. Each program is different, but they have lots of similarities.
  • That’s a fair bit of your time. Don’t just do it to tick the box – why waste your time? Make some goals about what you want out of it – so you leave thinking “I’m glad I did that – it was actually worthwhile”.
  • The program will involve
    • learning more about yourself, and how you work on the inside
    • understanding more about what your partner or family members need from you, and how it’s been for them
    • identifying the thoughts, beliefs and emotional processes that take you into violence and abuse
    • learning alternatives – better ways of being in relationships and handling difficult situations
    • creating a plan to keep yourself and the people close to you safe, and feeling respected, into the future
  • In a group, you’ll have company – people in a similar situation who knows how it feels. One of the things group participants say the appreciate most often is having the other men in the group – knowing you’re not alone, having the support of others, learning from other people’s stories.
  • Program staff are non-judgemental, which means it’s a safe place to talk about what needs to be talked about and people can be honest.
  • DFV is about relationships, so someone in the program (not your counsellor or group facilitator) will make contact with whoever was affected by your abusive behaviour.  That means partner, ex-partner or affected family members will get a call to offer them support and give them someone to talk to. It’s a requirement of our Professional Practice Standards.
  • Lots of men go only because they have to, then they find out it’s actually a good thing, and it helps in ways they never thought of.
  • Front up and give it a fair go – it’s a vote of confidence in your ability as a man to handle difficult situations. If you’ve got the willingness, you’ll find the support.

 

Detailed version

How programs are organised

  • Programs are usually done as a group. That’s been shown to be the most effective format.
  • Some places may offer individual sessions in some situations, or in remote areas where numbers are small.
  • Your first contact with the organisation will involve providing your contact details and a bit of info about your situation – it won’t go into detail.
  • In some larger cities there might be a waiting list – make contact as soon as you can so you don’t wait longer than necessary.

Initial interviews

  • You’ll need to attend an assessment interview – usually over 2 sessions. These are individual sessions where your counsellor gets to understand what your situation is all about, and you also get to find out anything you need to know about the program.
  • These sessions are also a good time to get clear about what you need from the program.
  • By the end of the assessment sessions, the counsellor will decide whether you’re suitable for the program – most men are.

How the program is structured

  • Apart from the assessment interview sessions, there will often be a small number of individual review sessions at different points in the progam, as well as an individual exit interview at the end.
  • The length of the program will be between 16 and 27 sessions. Each program is different, but they have lots of similarities.
  • The program will involve
    • learning more about yourself, and how you work on the inside
    • understanding more about what your partner or family members need from you, and how it’s been for them
    • identifying the thoughts, beliefs and emotional processes that take you into violence and abuse
    • learning alternatives – better ways of being in relationships and handling difficult situations
    • creating a plan to keep yourself and the people close to you safe, and feeling respected, into the future

Partners and affected family members

  • DFV is about relationships, so someone in the program (not your counsellor or group facilitator) will make contact with whoever was affected by your abusive behaviour.
  • That means partner, ex-partner or affected family members will get a call to offer them support and give them someone to talk to. It’s a requirement of our Professional Practice Standards.
  • It’s up to that person how much they want to make engage with that contact.

Make the program work for you

  • Programs are an opportunity to turn things around and make your life and the lives of people around you better. The results can be priceless.
  • Don’t see it as punishment, because it’s not. Everyone there wants you to have better relationships and a happier life.
  • Are you really happy with the way things are in your life? Make some goals for how you’d like your life and your relationships to be – goals to do with healthy relationships and family wellbeing. Then use the program to help you achieve that.
  • Focus on your behaviour and the changes you need to make. Even if you have major issues with what your partner, ex-partner (or whoever) does, the program isn’t about changing them. Trying to change anyone else doesn’t work. If you don’t like the idea of having to look at yourself, be honest about it, and get some help with it.
  • It will take a bit of effort to make the changes you need to make. Don’t expect praise or thanks from the people you’ve hurt. If you get it that’s great, but there are no special prizes or golden awards for stopping your abuse – that’s ordinary behaviour.
  • What you can get is a better quality of life, and better relationships. That means different things for different people – better relationships with your children, better relationship with your partner, less dramas as a separated parent, or a better relationship with a new partner. For some men it can mean less stress, even handling things better at work, or just being able to live with yourself knowing you’ve done the best you can. All those things are priceless.
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