The Council – For Boys and Young Men

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 for Boys and Young Men

The Council for Boys and Young Men

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:

  • competition
  • the male “box”
  • bullying
  • valuing diversity
  • safe expression of
  • defining power from multiple perspectives
  • influences of mentors
    and role models
  • rejecting violence
  • 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.

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)


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 concluding statement in the September, 2006 article, The State of American Manhood, in the publication Postsecondary Education Opportunity states:

“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.