Our model for helping men process experiences of violence

Väkivaltaa Kokeneet Miehet has developed a model for helping men who have suffered from violence. The model includes five counseling sessions and ten sessions of peer group meetings.

Model for individual counseling sessions

Trust is key

We believe trust forms the basis for a fruitful relationship between counselor and client. When the client can talk freely about his experiences of violence, often after years of keeping them hidden, and the counselor meets him with compassion, the result is trust.

The client and counselor set goals for the counseling together

It is crucial to agree on concrete goals to which both parties can commit. In short-term counseling the focus is on one or two problems that need to be addressed. Helping the client gain new perspectives on his situation is also important for enabling him to find new ways to act.

Individual counseling follows a five-step model

First session: Identifying forms of violence

  • Building a relationship between client and counselor
  • Setting goals
  • Conceptualizing the problem
  • Psychoeducation on the effects of stress
  • Client is able to identify forms of violence and protect himself and his family

Second session: Activating self-observation

  • Specifying goals
  • Finding and practicing appropriate ways to regulate anxiety
  • Client is able to recognize the onset of a stress response

Third session: Recognizing client’s sense of agency

  • Identifying and regulating emotions
  • Identifying unhealthy behavioral patterns, finding new patterns and practicing their implementation
  • Client acquires a realistic sense of the things he can and cannot influence

Fourth session: Strengthening client’s sense of agency

  • Reshaping thoughts, emotions and behavioral patterns
  • Client acquires a stronger sense of assertiveness and self-worth

Fifth session: Conclusion

  • How have goals been met?
  • Creating a plan for moving forward
  • Scheduling a follow-up session
  • Client can seek help, if experiences of violence or symptoms recur

Model for peer support

Väkivaltaa Kokeneet Miehet organizes guided peer groups that allow men to share their experiences, knowledge, and advice with other men. With the support of peers, men can process and accept the difficulties they have faced and navigate a way forward.

In peer groups, men process their experiences of violence openly and without fear of being judged or belittled in a confidential and equal setting. Listening to the experiences of others and sharing their own feelings help make sense of their own situation. A peer group can give rise to insights and new ways to handle difficult situations.

The purpose of the group is to:

  • allow men to experience support and acceptance from their peers in an equal and confidential setting,
  • help them view themselves, other people, and the world in a more positive light,
  • help them take responsibility for their own wellbeing,
  • provide tools for processing feelings,
  • adjust unproductive patterns of behavior and thinking.

Rules for the group:

  • Respect the experiences of others.
  • Avoid discussing the group or its members outside the group.
  • Remember that all members are equal.
  • Attend every meeting.
  • If you are unable to attend a meeting, inform the group leader of your absence.
  • Participate in discussions actively.
  • Stay on topic.
  • If you experience a strong sense of anxiety, you may take a 10-minute break.
  • Keeping in contact with other members between meetings is not advisable.
  • Do not attend a meeting while intoxicated.
  • Turn your phone off.


The first meetings are dedicated to examining the participants’ experiences of violence. Then we will consider the effects of violence, the feelings it generates and how to process feelings and thoughts. During the sixth meeting, we will delve into multi-generational patterns of behavior that may not work to our advantage. Next, we will explore how to protect ourselves from violence by learning to be more assertive and aware of our limits. The final sessions are dedicated to clarifying our values and hopes for the future. The last meeting is reserved for more informal activities planned by the members of the group.  

  1. Launching the group – How to recognize psychological, physical and sexual violence.
  2. Experiences of violence – You can share your experiences of violence and hear the experiences of other group members.
  3. Effects of violence – Learn about the body’s stress response.
  4. Recognizing emotions and thoughts – Get to know your emotions. They are a great servant but a bad master.
  5. Differentiating between emotions and thoughts – How to process emotions and thoughts more skillfully.
  6. What led me here? – What kind of violence have I experienced over the course of my life? How does violence affect a child?
  7. Assertiveness and self-esteem – How do I take care of my own needs?
  8. Values and resources – Values make life worth living.
  9. What have I learned about myself? – What has attending the group taught me about myself? What kind of support do I still need?
  10. Closing – An informal gathering planned by the group.

Format for group session

Each session starts with a check-in activity, where each member gives a short account of what is on his mind and how he is feeling. This allows the participants to feel in tune with themselves and the rest of the group. Next, the group will review an exercise from the previous session, which, along with a short introduction from the counselor, will help participants orient themselves to the day’s theme. The sessions will close with the introduction of a new exercise and another check-in activity.

  • What are you feeling or thinking right now?
  • Reviewing exercise from previous session
  • Counselor’s introduction to the day’s theme
  • Discussion
  • A new exercise
  • What are you feeling or thinking right now?
  • 90 minutes in total