Jeff Howard: Lean Into Discomfort and Other Lessons from Men’s Groups
Jeff Howard: Lean Into Discomfort and Other Lessons from Men’s Groups
This week’s guest is Jeff Howard, a somatic psychotherapist based out of Boulder, Colorado with a practice called Three Leaves Counseling. Somatic therapy is a body-centered therapy that looks at the connection of mind and body and uses a combination of talk and physical therapy for holistic healing. Jeff is also a popular men’s group facilitator, writer, musician, and father who values honesty, humility, and growth. Jeff is fascinated by people and the reasons that we behave the way we do, and it’s that fascination that inspires and challenges him to work in counseling, lead men’s groups, lean into discomfort, and take continual risks to be more vulnerable and alive, while actively working to find ways for more of himself to be in the world.
Listen on to find out what led Jeff to get started with men’s groups in the first place and learn what exactly happens in these mysterious bi-weekly meetings. They’ll talk about why having a manageable dose of anxiety and discomfort can actually benefit us all, the importance of using “I” statements, and finally, for those wanting to create your own group, you’ll hear details about what it takes to create one that’s effective, intentional, and valuable for everybody involved.
What we cover:
- How his therapy practice went from 65% women in Seattle to 95% men when he moved to Boulder, CO
- The many different narratives that we live
- The magic of slowing down and taking risks
- Why having a container with a specific intention of connection grants us permission to connect deeply
- Whether or not men change in their relationships when they join men’s groups
- How manageable doses of anxiety and discomfort push us to be more of ourselves
- The habitual nature of lazy language and leaky connections
- The ground rules for groups
- Our responsibility to check in and respond
- Finding assertiveness, curiosity, and ambivalence without being a jerk
- The typical agenda of Jeff’s men’s groups, The Men’s Fire:
- Starts with ceremonial singing bowls
- Everybody takes three deep breaths together
- Check-ins around the stretch for the week
- Reflection time about each other’s stretch
- Authentic relating work
- Individual sharing about the week’s topic
- Reflection time about the shares
- Check out — takeaways from the night, what’s alive, what you’re taking home, your stretch for the next week, and choose someone to meet with one on one before the next group session
- Ends with ceremonial singing bowls
There’s a lot we can learn from Jeff Howard’s work with men’s groups — the beauty in gathering in groups, with the space and the intention to connect, the magic in slowing down, and the growth in leaning into discomfort and a little bit of anxiety. We hope this episode inspires you to go out and start your own social groups. If you have any questions for Jeff, reach out to him through his website ThreeLeavesCounseling.com, and keep an eye out for Jeff to launch the Whole Man Collective later this summer!
Social Wellness Challenge
Do one thing that makes you uncomfortable!
At the same time, take one thing off the table that you do a lot and feel really comfortable doing. You don’t have to substitute the comfortable thing for the uncomfortable thing, but the challenge would be to really pay attention to your experience.
Ask yourself what patterns have you leaning towards going to the same coffee shop always, or eating this breakfast always, or only reaching out to this friend around these topics. Do a different thing, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a different experience.
Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man by Sam Keen
American poet, Robert Bly
Psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author Esther Perel
Sue Heilbronner, previous Wellness 3.0 guest who insists that telling the truth won’t hurt people
Allison Armstrong — author of The Queen’s Code and founder of UnderstandMen.com
Reuvain Bacal — Jeff’s colleague
Owen Marcus — Jeff’s colleague who came up with the idea of the “stretch” and co-created Evryman
ManKind Project — A men’s community for the 21st century
This Week’s Guest
Jeff Howard is a somatic psychotherapist based out of Boulder Colorado with his own practice, Three Leaves Counseling. Somatic therapy is a body-centered therapy that looks at the connection of mind and body and uses a combination of talk and physical therapy for holistic healing. In addition, Jeff is a men’s group facilitator, writer, musician, and father, who values honesty, humility, and growth.
Jeff believes that, as humans, we are incredibly resilient and mutable and we possess the potent skill to accept—sometimes with a little help–what is, and work within that frame. Our conditioned state—that came through our upbringing, and the small and large traumas we experienced– is often one that is trained to reject what is and, in so doing, impedes on our ability to have better, fuller, richer lives.
He is fascinated by people and the reasons that we behave the way we do and it is that fascination that inspires and challenges him to work in counseling, soul-guiding, leading men’s groups, and taking continual risks to be more vulnerable and alive while actively working to find ways for more of himself to be in the world.
It feels like our obsession culturally with feeling good is a problem, and being in community is not about feeling good, exclusively. It’s actually about being relational, and I don’t feel good all the time. I’m pissed sometimes, I’m short sometimes, I’m really quiet sometimes, and if I’m by myself, well, nobody gets that, nobody sees that. There’s no depth there, there’s no realness.
So social wellness in my world has to do with, “How do we help people stay more relational more of the time?
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