This week, we speak with Australia Counselling member Harley Conyer of Menstuff.com.au who specialises in providing counselling, therapy and coaching for men in Sydney and via Skype and phone.
Tell us a bit about your practice- where it is, who you work with and the services you offer.
Men are one of the most underserved demographic groups as far as counseling and therapy are concerned. This is largely due to the social paradigm which often exists that men don’t need help as they are meant to be self-sufficient.
Menstuff was set up with the purpose of making counselling and life coaching accessible for men. My practice targets men and specialises in working with men, men’s health issues and supporting men to achieve their potential in all areas of their life.
At the moment Menstuff operates in Sydney – both in Chatswood and Surry Hills. However, we are hoping to broaden this footprint to provide a greater level of geographic accessibility. We also offer phone and skype services to clients across Australia (including regional Australia) as well as overseas.
How did you become interested in counselling and working as a psychotherapist?
For many years I struggled with my own deep questions about who I really was. This took me on a journey into myself with the help of some amazing counsellors and therapists. I know what it’s like to feel the darkness, the pain and confusion, the stress and the guilt, the shame and the sadness, and not even understanding why all these feelings were there or what they were really about. At times I felt totally sure about who I was and at other times I had no idea whatsoever. And the question of who I am continues to be relevant each day.
I understand the impact that this journey and the decisions we make can have on those we care about and, in fact, all of those in our lives. And I know there is no ‘one answer’ or ‘right way’. Each choice that we encounter has its benefits and its challenges. I respect that we each have to make the choices that seem right to us. And, perhaps at some point in the future, choose to make a different choice … or not.
How do you believe people change and what supports long-lasting change?
Often there is confusion in our society about manhood. What makes a real man? Am I a true man? The vast majority of men today don’t have the benefit of having male mentors, elders or well-balanced role models to support them in their journey to manhood.
In many societies throughout history men were initiated into manhood through rites of passage which were facilitated by the elders in the community. In many cases we learn about manhood from ‘glamorous’ role models or from our peers. My involvement in men’s work is driven by the desire to re-instil these crucial and powerful transitions into our society. Our sense of manhood, or lack thereof, is very much a part of our journey to understand who we really are.
From my experience, most change or transformation work is firstly about gaining clarity of the distinctions between who really are and who we think we are/the roles we play/the masks we wear. Building this awareness is usually the first step. Of course, once we are aware of something, we then have the potential to work with it – this is where some of the key aspects of change are confronted – letting go of what may be familiar and the fears about change that we may carry – and taking steps towards a new way of being, a change that could be either fairly small and simple or very complex and significant.
Tell us about your approach and why you believe the way you work is effective in helping people change.
My work with clients is not about steering them along a certain path or taking them through a set program. It is about working with each client from the place where they currently find themselves. I don’t try and tell them what is right for them, but the journey of working together is about them discovering this for themselves.
Sometimes our sessions involve talking about our stuff. Other times we use body-oriented processes to get in touch at a different level. Other times we might use visualisations or role plays to tap into our deeper understandings. Sometimes all of the above.
Having been through my own journey of deep transformation, my clients recognize my capacity to be within them in the depths of their experience, without fear or judgement. This helps to build a deep sense of trust, which then allows – over time – more vulnerable aspects of the client’s personality or experiences to emerge into a safe space. Creating this safe space is a core part of any effective counselling engagement.
Tell us what a client can expect to experience in an initial counselling session with you.
The first session is a time for you and your counsellor to get to know each other. Usually the counsellor will ask you to talk about why you are there and what you are hoping to achieve from your investment. You will also have an opportunity to ask any questions that you might have about the process and address any concerns. No question is stupid, and as much time as necessary will be taken to ensure that you get the information you require and start to feel comfortable with your counsellor. By the end of an initial session it is usually clear as to what the work together might entail. Sometimes this might take more than one session.
On a personal note, tell us something that you’re passionate about or love to do in your spare time
I’m passionate about human transformation and the relationship between ourselves and our environment. While it technically might be work, I’ve started to develop a number of individual and group transformational programs working in the Australian Bush and using nature as our healer and guide. I recognize that it’s something that I love to do for myself, and so one day I figured I could share these kinds of experiences with others.
When I’m not doing transformation work, however, I love spending time with my kids, being in the bush or on the beach, catching up with friends and family and a regular massage (and good quality chocolate) is something that I can’t live without.