Guest Post by Gary J. Freeman
Listen. Connect. Get personal. Challenge. Encourage.
Peer counseling and mentoring provide private space for honest and intimate conversations between men. When coaching men regarding thoughts and feelings about their partner's pregnancy, peer counseling appointments are essential.
These suggestions have helped me be more effective and I hope they can also help your center team members who serve male clients in the pregnancy center.
1. Seek First to Understand
Keep in mind that even being at the center - yet alone dealing with an unplanned pregnancy - is probably a scary thing for that young man in your consultation room. Even if he is trying not to show you that he is afraid, he could be panicking inside. Keep the conversation light and allow the client to take it to where he needs to go in terms of the baby and the understanding of his true role in the pregnancy process. Ask open-ended questions that invite him to explain his expectations, hopes, concerns, and challenges. Refuse to assume that the pregnancy is not impacting him emotionally. Personalities differ but while our culture may discourage men from being emotionally expressive, every man has the potential for a rich and expressive emotional life (just like King David or the Apostle Peter in the Scriptures).
2. Keep the Conversation on His Terms.
Conversation with your client may be wide-ranging. You are aware of information that is important to informed pregnancy decision making. He may need help developing awareness of his own motivations. It is important to remain focused on the issues he brings up as crucial as well as the facts that will impact his heart. Even when attempting to explain the different types of abortions and related details, keep the heart of the client in mind. Most male clients might not understand the procedures that could end the life of their child. They are often unaware of what could happen to the woman they love. When sharing these facts, keep a tone of grace, and be aware of how the information might be impacting him. Ask questions about what he knows and how he thinks an abortion might impact his relationship with his partner. Be honest with him about abortion risks and the relational risks of the path he may be on. Depend on God to give you grace and wisdom in communicating about these sensitive topics.
3. Don't Focus on the Paperwork
If there is paperwork that is needed to be filled out for the session, try not to seem to “mechanical” in getting that information. I would suggest memorizing the questions that need to be answered. When you sit down with the client, relax your posture, look at him, and be very intentional about making eye contact. Put the clipboard or the folder face down and don’t pick it up unless you have to. Show him your authentic desire to invest in getting to know him and where he is at mentally and emotionally.
Working with men as a peer counselor and mentor is an enormous privilege. Your faith will grow as you see God at work through you and in the lives of your clients and their partners.
Gary J. Freeman is Fatherhood Outreach Coordinator at Gateway, a Care Net affiliate in Raleigh, North Carolina.
An expanded version of this post originally appeared on the private affiliate portion of this site.