New art therapy class for men planned for Cork town


ART psychotherapist Patrick Byrne wants to start a conversation that will lead to freeing men to talk about their feelings and emotions.

He plans to facilitate group therapy for men from May 21 at Ballincollig Family Centre.

The weekly sessions, which will last six weeks, will provide a safe space for men to open up. Patrick says you don’t need to know anything about art to participate in the meeting. He will encourage men to express themselves through art.

“You don’t have to be a painter to join the group,” says Patrick.

The art will be symbolic. If you think about it, all our memories are in the form of images. This way you can draw your emotions, taking them out of yourself so you can look at them. I will gently guide the men to do this.

“Not everyone would like to talk about their feelings and emotions. But they might feel more confident putting something in writing.”

What happens if someone unleashes something very traumatic in the group session?

“My training allows me to face that. I’m working with some people who have had suicidal ideations. So I work at that level.

“In group therapy, it’s about where the person wants to go. If I feel like they’re not safe, I’ll make sure they are. It is my duty of care and responsibility.”

Patrick realizes that he has the challenge of persuading men to join art psychotherapy sessions.

Artistic psychotherapist, Patrick Byrne.

“Men don’t normally attend events like this. It’s generational. Men wouldn’t be so emotional because we were never encouraged to be, for several reasons. Those of us who are emotional are considered a little out of the ordinary. “Many men are afraid of being emotional.”

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While some people would say that the rigid stance toward life’s ups and downs has changed, Patrick disagrees.

“Things haven’t changed for everyone, and that includes women. When talking to women, they say that (the changes) are not widespread. Not everyone goes to support groups or takes care of their mental health. This is just the beginning.

If men get together for group therapy, I may consider continuing it and going a little deeper. Lately, I have been promoting the idea through conversations and reaching out to service providers, individual counselors, and therapists to spread the word.

“I’m asking that we start a conversation so that men feel attracted and encouraged to join the group. In the past I did group therapy.

“The way it works is that all aspects of therapy within the group will be private and confidential in accordance with the ethics of counseling.”

Patrick, who describes himself as “very fluid” in the way he works with people, is open to all possibilities.

“I might be working with people who are very shy, so I don’t expect them to be too open in the first session.

“It’s about giving space to men, using art therapy as a modality, another type of narrative. “It’s about building trust.”

Patrick can, to some extent, predict what will happen in group therapy sessions.

“Someone will open up about their relationship with their partner,” he says. Limits will be established. The initial session will consist of making the men feel comfortable and free to talk and perhaps draw.

In the second session, a topic will be introduced and explored.

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Patrick, who is constantly researching, has also asked women what they think of his plan.

“Everyone says, ‘it’s about time.’ They say it was time for men to know how to communicate. One woman told me that she goes to various groups and wonders where all the men are. Another woman said that some men think anger is okay as an emotion. But it’s not good”.

Are Irish men particularly emotionally repressed?

“I think it is widespread. Maybe there is repression because we are an island nation. If you think about the hegemony of Church and State, we have a very patriarchal society.

So it’s about deconstructing that and reconstructing a narrative where men can open up.

“It should be easier for them to talk to a male therapist. “We have our own language.”

Patrick, 61, is accredited by the Irish Association of Creative Art Therapists.

I have a lot of life experience in this. In my own training, I had to do 90 personal therapy sessions. I had to look at myself before I could help others look at themselves.

According to Patrick, restricting emotional expression can affect men in the following ways:

  • A greater sense of isolation/sense of loss.
  • Less support available from loved ones.
  • Health problems from carrying chronic tension in the body and other poor coping strategies.
  • Relationship difficulties due to inability to communicate.
  • Overt consumption of alcohol and drugs.
  • Psychological concerns such as anxiety and depression, sometimes leading to suicidal ideation.

To join group therapy sessions for men, contact Ballincollig Family Centre. Telephone: 021 4876295.

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