The Council is a strengths-based group approach to promote boys' and young men's safe and healthy passage through pre-teen and adolescent years. The Council meets a core developmental need in boys for strong, positive relationships. In this structured environment, boys and young men gain the vital opportunity to address masculine definitions and behaviors and build their capacities to find their innate value and create good lives - individually and collectively!
The Council aims to promote boys’ natural strengths, and to increase their options about being male in today’s world. The Council challenges myths about how to be a “real boy” or “real man”.
It engages boys in activities, dialogue, and self-expression to question stereotypical concepts and to increase boys’ emotional, social, and cultural literacy by promoting valuable relationships with peers and adult facilitators.
In a safe and action-oriented context, boys can identify the positive and not-so-positive definitions about being male today. They are invited to define the “male box” that shapes and constricts their growth. The Council lets boys examine the messages that define being male, and gives boys new and different options for self-expression and team experiences, promoting skill building and safe, healthy, positive, strong and diverse identities.
The Council gender-specific approach engages boys, acknowledging and incorporating male propensities while also offering stress reducing activities along with thoughtful exploration of common attitudes, conditions, and behaviors.
Complete Set of Curricula
The Complete Set now includes our new guide: Journey of the Great Warrior! The set also comes with the Facilitator Manual and all three original Activity Guides —
fully developed male-responsive curricula to engage, challenge, celebrate, develop, and unite boys. Read more
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This manual outlines the facilitator skills and tools needed to implement the strengths-based Council program within their organizational settings and is a potent tool that is full of practical, useful information presented in our workshop. Read more
New Mexico teens speak out on their Council experience:
"I would recommend boys council to other people because it's a way to just get rid of stress, and help with dealing with any pain. Just keeping them in the right track." - Participant. Thank you to Facilitators Dre & Josh Duran for sharing!
How The Council Works Each week, a group of six to ten boys of similar age and development meet with one or two facilitators for 1.5 to 2 hours. These meetings are held for ten weeks or more, depending on the capacity of the setting.
The group format includes warm up activities, a “council” type check in opportunity, experiential activities that address relevant topics, and a reflection and group dialogue component. The focused activities may include group challenges, games, skits or role plays, arts, and so on. Topics may address:
the male “box”
safe expression of
defining power from multiple perspectives
influences of mentors
and role models
becoming allies with girls and women
mentoring and making a difference with others
making safe and healthy decisions for themselves
finding and living with value in difficult times
To participate, boys need only have the interest, make a commitment to attend the meetings, and agree to follow the council agreements. These agreements are developed by the group itself and typically include: no put-downs or interruptions, offer experiences - not advice; keep the focus on yourself and your experience; and keep what’s said in the group confidential. Facilitators explain the legal and ethical limits to confidentiality in order to safeguard the boys’ well-being. Boys are free to participate at their own pace. Participants can express a range of ideas and emotions with peers and can expect respect and high regard from one another.
Rather than attempting to “instill values”, the model strengthens boys’ inherent preference to live according to good and diverse prosocial values. Councils provide resiliency and youth development practices and concepts: youth are knowledgeable, wise, and helpful to each other when facilitators are courteous and respectful, share responsibility and leadership, and demonstrate belief in their abilities to rise to the challenges in group and in life.
When boys have an opportunity to express ideas, identify and normalize a full range of emotions, and make decisions in a safe, nonjudgmental community, their resiliency is strengthened.
Where It Works The Council groups are well-suited in all settings where boys live and gather: schools, after school programs, community youth groups and projects, juvenile justice settings, recreational programs, foster care services, mentoring projects, faith organizations, outdoor and adventure learning, camps, mental health programs.
"The state of American manhood is not a healthy one. The economy of the United States has continued to produce new jobs between 1950 and 2000, but these have not been the traditional male jobs. They have been jobs in private sector service providing industries. The best paying jobs require not strength but skills acquired in higher education. About 25 -30 % of men seem to get this message because they earn college degrees. The remaining men do not appear to understand this clear message from the labor market. The traditional jobs are gone or dying out and unlikely to return. The first great challenge in preparing boys for manhood is to convey this message and engage boys in learning."
Studies have found that boys use humor to help them cope with stress (Rose, Rudolph, 2006). They create better defined dominance hierarchies, seem to prefer larger group activities over dyadic ones, choose more competitive games, have larger social networks of friends, and may be especially likely to adopt goals of cooperating with group members to accomplish competitive tasks, i.e., winning games. They are more likely than girls to maintain privacy, seek status-oriented goals, promote their self-interest, and control social situations.
There can be both benefits and costs to these tendencies. Responses can be adaptive for boys if they are not taken to extremes. Boys who can compete, or cooperate with a team toward a common goal, yet who can also tone down their competitive aims when relating with a good friend may have more social-emotional success than boys whose responses are more rigidly or extremely wired for aggression. When boys are under stress, the aggression enhancing hormone testosterone is released.
On the positive side, boys' rates of violent crime including homicide, substance use, driving after drinking, and unintentional injuries have steadily decreased since peak rates over the past two decades.
Why do boys and young men need The Council program?
Boys need a gender-specific group program to have a safe, protected, and focused place to address an array of harsh realities and to create healthy options for growing up male today. Findings of recent studies tell us that boys are not faring well in areas of education, mental health, health care access, bullying, violence, or substance abuse in this new millennia.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report on School Crime and Safety, 46% of males, and 26% of females reported they had been in physical fights.
Bullying was reported as more prevalent among males than females and occurred with greater frequency among middle school-aged youth than high school-aged youth. For males, both physical and verbal bullying was common, while for females, verbal bullying and rumors were more common. (Bullying Behaviors Among US Youth, Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001)
Bullying occurred most frequently in sixth through eighth grade, with little variation between urban, suburban, town, and rural areas; suburban youth were 2-3 percent less likely to bully others. Males were both more likely to bully others and more likely to be victims of bullying than were females. In addition, males were more likely to say they had been bullied physically (being hit, slapped, or pushed), while females more frequently said they were bullied verbally and psychologically (through sexual comments or rumors). April 24, 2001 (National Institutes of Health)
Adolescent males are almost three times as likely as same age females to have ADHD, and more likely to have a learning disability.
Males are three to seven times more likely than females to be in juvenile justice residential placement.
Unintentional injury, homicide, and suicide rates are higher for males than females. American Indians/Alaskan Natives and Whites have the highest suicide rates, although these rates have fallen since a peak in the early 1990s.
Older teen males report higher levels of substance abuse, especially binge drinking, than their female peers. More than one in four young men ages 18 -25 report dependence or substance abuse.
Males ages 10 - 24 are over five times more likely to die of homicide than same-age females. Violence disproportionately affects the lives of young men, especially black young men.
Black males ages 10 - 24 have a homicide rate almost four times higher than the overall rate for all same age males, accounting for over half (56%) of all male homicides in this age group.
Over one-quarter of male students report carrying a weapon and one tenth report carrying a gun in the past 30 days.
With the exception of sexual assault and rape, males ages 12 - 24 have the highest victimization rates for violence, robbery and assault, compared to females of the same age range.
More males than females ages 10 - 24 report outpatient visits for mental health disorders.
Sexually transmitted diseases affect black youth — male and female — moreso than other ethnicities. Over 73% of older adolescent males (18 - 19 years) report having unprotected sex during the past year.
Lack of health insurance is a barrier to health and dental care for 12 - 14% of both male and female adolescents, and much higher rates for 18 - 25 year olds.