You have two or three friends or acquaintances who want to start a men's group. What issues do you need to address? Five points to consider:
* Goals. What themes are group members interested in covering? Will these be action-oriented (child support, for instance) or will they involve broader issues (power, success, intimacy)?
* Agenda. Will the group have a set topic each week, or will it react to what is on members' minds? Whatever the approach, the group should devise a specific format.
* Confidentiality. "This is a crucial issue," says Samuel Osherson, a research psychologist at Harvard University who has written extensively on male issues. "If I talk about what is really on my mind, can I trust it will not get beyond this room?" Osherson notes that although this issue needs to be addressed at the planning stage, it frequently has to be readdressed at subsequent points in the group's evolution.
* Membership. What kind of expectations do founders have about new members? Diverse backgrounds may create a richer group dynamic; homogeneity may create a safer environment that encourages greater intimacy.
* Frequency of meetings. "The more often the group meets," observes Osherson, "the more intensity there will be." A norm, he suggests, is one meeting a week.
The National Congress for Men directory, a nationwide listing of men's groups with an emphasis on issues relating to divorced fathers, can be obtained for $7 from Peter Cyr, 68 Deering St., Portland, Maine 04101. Men's groups are also listed in the National Organization for Changing Men's quarterly magazine, Changing Men, available at $12 a year from 306 N. Brooks St., Madison, Wisc. 53715.
One Washington-based group with a general expertise on male issues is Free Men (Dan Logan, 543-2322).