Men’s Support Systems are Vital

Al Heystek

Putting the terms “men” and “support” together may still be considered an oxymoron. The ideas that “men don’t ask for directions,” or “men don’t ask for help” continue to describe a reality for many men. It is not uncommon for the concept of support to be understood as “giving support” to someone else.

At Fountain Hill Center, so many men share their support stories: assisting family members with a project, helping friends move or even just giving their neighbors a ride. When the discussion moves to the man asking for help, the notion of support can become quite the obstacle.

man truck -- CC Image courtesy of Raymondo166 on Flickr

The biggest single obstacle I often see with men is isolation, a product of pride, independence and fear of vulnerability.

Most men can readily claim that they have acquaintances and some friends, but few are able to acknowledge they have an “inner circle”. An inner circle is at least one very close and trusted friend, with whom you can be open and vulnerable.

Our human struggles are made lighter by the power of support. Through it, we are able to express the pain, fear, disappointment or even the joy of our lives. It gives us the opportunity to hear the perspective of someone else; this external perspective may tweak our own perspective or attitude. And most of all we can know we are not alone in our struggles. All this can be empowering and help build one’s confidence.

mustache men -- CC Image courtesy of mariacasa on Flickr

Counseling can assist with this process of becoming more comfortable in seeking out and developing a support system. At the same time, it is each of our individual responsibility to build that support system for ourselves, but with support…as the saying in the 12 step community goes, “you alone can do it, but you don’t have to do it alone.”

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Al Heystek, MA, LPC, MDiv

Al is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has worked professionally with men’s issues since 1994. He has been a therapist with the Men’s Resource Center at Fountain Hill since 2002. Prior to that Al worked for OAR, Inc. in Holland, Michigan as a therapist in both outpatient and residential men’s chemical dependency programs. Al also worked for Gateway Foundation, an Outpatient Treatment center in Chicago and prior to that was on a ministerial team for 10 years in an urban ministry in Chicago.  Al is also an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.
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