MENDS Counsellor Manual: A Structured Approach to Assisting Men in Relationship Crisis


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From the Foreword by Steve Biddulph

“The largest and most unacknowledged mental health risk in Australia today is among recently separated and divorced men. No group of comparable size is at higher risk for suicide, or for violence, depression or addictions. Their ex-partners and children are also harmed if these men do not manage to stabilise their lives and react with care and insight to the changed alignment of their lives. First launched in 1996, the MENDS concept developed by Owen Pershouse and Daryl Sturgess has been an impressive success, turning a time of crisis into one of significant personal growth, in men who often would have been doomed to repeating unhappy patterns of dysfunctional relating. Over 1200 men have completed the program, and its measurable outcomes in reduced conflict, positive cooperation in raising children, and healed and restored lives, are impressive and uplifting. Thirty years ago, as a beginning family psychologist, I came, like most others to this area, from the starting point of the needs of women and children. It was inviting, and easy, to see men as the villain, and to fall into a blame game around marriage breakdown and its often dangerous and traumatic aftermath for the entire family. We simply did not know how to help beyond the blunt instruments and financial catastrophe of the law. It soon became painfully clear though that a lack of emotional literacy, and the sheer isolation of men from each other at a level of deep conversation or thinking about their lives, and a lack of support mechanisms or education about family matters, set them up for woeful relationships to women whether they were in or out of marriage. This co-dependency was almost the norm in the marriages of the 20th century, and was the key reason for their failure rate of almost 50%. Owen and Daryl brought impressive experience in working with men, into a very masculine answer to this problem: a highly structured, well researched, and very comprehensive program that used an educational rather than a pathologising model to which men could aspire with their self-esteem intact. The result was a level of acceptance and utilisation by a traditionally almost impossible-to-reach target population, and outcomes to gladden the hearts of everyone involved. Men who are calmer, kinder, happier, able to get on with their lives, and form future relationships on a completely different basis of awareness and cooperation. The MENDS program has evolved, and probably will continue to evolve, but it stands now as a very mature and usable tool for the helping professions, a program of world standard in addressing one of the most serious social issues of our time. This book is a milestone in making it available to a wider group of professionals, for whom the difficult work has been done, and the collective wisdom of decades of practice is available for direct application.”


CD contents

Session 1 materials

  • HO-1.1 Program Structure
  • HO-1.2 Program Elements and Relationship
  • HO-1.3 What Can the Program Do For Me
  • HO-1.4 Program Agreement
  • Client Starter Pack materials
  • SP-1 Welcome Aboard
  • SP-2 Why Do So Much Assessment
  • SP-3 Reconnecting With Your Self
  • SP-4 Reconnecting With Children
  • SP-5 Reconnecting With Others
  • SP-6 Statutory Needs Questionnaire
  • SP-7 Health Issues Questionnaire
  • SP-8 Men’s Issues Questionnaire
  • SP-9 A Consumer’s Guide to Engaging a Family Law Practitioner
  • SP-10 Graduate Testimonials

Session 2 materials

  • HO-2.1 Client Sessional Summary Report
  • HO-2.2 Rules for Effective Counselling Sessions
  • HO-2.3 ‘I’ Statements: Taking Responsibility for Feelings
  • HO-2.4 Structured Autobiography
  • HO-2.5 Crisis Containment Strategies

Session 3 materials

  • HO-3.1 Reconnecting With Self
  • HO-3.2 Options in Response to Crises
  • HO-3.3 Hostile Alienation Self-Talk
  • HO-3.4 The Hostile Alienation Experience
  • WS-3.1 Reconnecting With Myself

Session 4 materials

  • HO-4.1 Health Issues
  • HO-4.2 Health Issues Do’s & Don’ts
  • WS-4.1 Stress Inventory Worksheet
  • WS-4.2 Stress Management Plan

Session 6 materials

  • HO-6.1 3D Model: Understanding Children’s Coping
  • HO-6.2 Children’s Experience of Separation
  • HO-6.3 Contact: Understanding the Basics
  • HO-6.4 Contact Guidelines
  • HO-6.5 Contact Planning Sheet

Session 7 materials

  • HO-7.1 Social Support Snapshot
  • HO-7.2 Triggers, Moves and Critical Decisions
  • HO-7.3 Child Support at a Glance

Session 9 materials

  • HO-9.1 Relationship Styles
  • HO-9.2 Traps to Trusting Again (Again)
  • HO-9.3 Postseparation Pathways
  • HO-9.4 Established Risk Factors for Relationship Breakdown
  • HO-9.5 Journalling for Change
  • WS-9.1 Unhelpful Styles of Relationship
  • WS-9.2 The Four Keys to Rebuilding

Session 10 materials

  • HO-10.1 Why Get Involved in a Peer-Support Group?
  • HO-10.2 Quality Checking Prospective Peer-Support Groups
  • HO-10.3 Questions and Ideas

Session 11 materials

  • HO-11.1 Letter From Future-ME

Session 12 materials

  • HO-12.1 Counselling Program Evaluation
  • HO-12.2 Certificate of Attendance
  • OR-12.1 Counsellor Program Summary Report

Author Bio:

Owen Pershouse is a clinical and forensic psychologist in private practice. He is also a Regulation 7 Officer under the Family Law Act, and testifies as an expert witness in difficult/contested family law matters, particularly those involving allegations of, or actual abuse of children. His practice encompasses consultancy arrangements with various government and criminal justice jurisdictions around Australia, including private providers of custodial services. Owen combines expertise in program development for violent men, substance abusers, sexual offenders, as well as one-on-one assessment and treatment for a variety of psychological presentations. He is the principal architect of the MENDS (Men Exploring New Directional Strategies) program for separated/divorced men and an executive member of the national organising body for that program.