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by Jonathan Basla

Jul 5, 2024

The Gift of a Gay Men’s Therapy Group

You may be surprised by what you discover about yourself and others to understand better what it means to be you.


Gay men can have various different relationships with one another. They can be romantic, platonic, sexual, platonic and sexual, etc. However, what I have found in my work with clients (and lived experience), there can be a gap in vulnerability and intimacy with gay men. Now, this could be a result of our childhoods. Most young boys, regardless of sexuality, are taught to suppress their emotions. Without experiences or spaces to change this behavior, it can be challenging to open up to other men in a non-romantic way. Even within romantic relationships, there may be blocks in place to share other emotions beyond happiness, desire, or sexual excitement. Enter a gay men’s therapy group. In this blog, I will discuss the importance and benefits of group therapy, specifically for gay men. 



A Gay Space without Substances


Something I hear my gay clients share time and time again: where can I go that is a safe, queer space that is not rooted in drinking or drugs? This does not undermine the importance of gay bars, and yet, the loud music can get in the way of connecting with others, whether friends or meeting new people. Additionally, substance use alters your state of being and can disconnect you from your authentic self. How can we be grounded in our emotions and body with a chemical imbalance in our brain? Yes, alcohol and drugs can elicit a temporary sense of euphoria or closeness. However, how much of that connection is then remembered the next day?


Additionally, it is not uncommon for gay men to experience social anxiety in gay bars and clubs. With the high beauty and body standards in the gay community, it is easy to feel like an outsider in these spaces. This can make it difficult to engage in new conversations, as well as even be connected with yourself. Overthinking, self-criticism, and comparisons can run rampant. Clients have also shared that the lack of diversity in these spaces can feel polarizing and limit the opportunity for a sense of closeness. 



It is Different than Talking with Your Friends


“But Jonathan, I have a group of gay male friends.” A gay men’s therapy group is not a replacement for your existing relationships. However, ask yourself: do you talk more about content rather than how you feel? Most of our friendships are rooted in circumstances: shared interests, colleagues, school, etc. These circumstances can lend us to talk on the surface, even when it is about vulnerable topics. For example, you can share details of your sex life with your friends, your number of partners, or a casual hook-up. Have you ever discussed with your friends your relationship to sex, though? In a gay men’s group, you have the opportunity to slow down and connect with yourself in a different way while also hearing the perspectives of other gay men. 


Since it is a therapeutic space, what you share is also confined to that space. Your feelings or intentions can be left alone or brought up again, but you hold the power. Even though our friends often have the best intentions, sometimes they ask questions or bring up topics we do not want to discuss. Whether it be too tender at the moment or for any other reason, in a gay men’s group, you have total consent to discuss or not discuss whatever you want. While I recognize you can do this with friends, sometimes it can be hard to say no. The facilitator in a group is there to hold space for everyone and also check in when they notice non-verbal shifts. 



Consistency 


There is a reason New York City is called the city that never sleeps. Between work or school, chores, commuting (although working from home has changed this aspect for many), exercise, and more, finding time to connect with yourself and your emotions, let alone others, can feel like a never-ending math equation. A gay men’s group sets aside an hour and a half each week to show up in any way you want to and be human. You do not have to coordinate schedules with six other people, you do not have to deal with rescheduling, and you do not have to participate in a way that you do not want to. All you have to do is be yourself and be open to connection in the here and now. 



What You Will Find in a Gay Men’s Therapy Group


  • Undoing aloneness. Even with the richest social lives, we may be disconnected from feeling our emotions. Here is a space to practice something different. Notice what is coming up in real time and share it. And share it with people you only see in this context. 


  • The relationship with a group facilitator is different from that with an individual or couple’s therapist. While yes, you are still “doing” therapy, the facilitator has a different relationship with you because their relationship exists with other members right in front of you. As a gay man, I often feel like I am both sitting with my group and outside my group, which my clients have also expressed sensing. This unique phenomenon cannot exist with a group of friends. 


  • Practice speaking your truth in a group setting. Many of us struggle with talking in group settings, whether about vulnerabilities or starting a conversation. Group therapy allows you the opportunity to practice sharing how you feel or what you think with multiple people. That sensation of having many eyes on you can hold some people from speaking up; a group challenges this with the hope that you will carry this out into the world.


  • Conflict! The more people I meet in my life, the more I find that so many are averse to conflict. This often manifests in others suppressing themselves, censoring their authentic self, or masking. When conflict arises in group therapy, this is an opportunity to practice rupture and repair. Conflict is bound to arise in any dynamic at some point, if not often. Let’s normalize conflict together in a healthier way. 


Do you want to talk about things that impact gay men? Do you find yourself struggling to share with others how you feel? Do you want to experience a new type of closeness? Join a gay men’s therapy group. You may be surprised by what you discover about yourself and others to understand better what it means to be you. 


For more information on Jonathan Basla’s gay men’s group, click here.



Mental Health, Relationships

by Jonathan Basla

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