The importance of paternal involvement in a child’s life is well documented. Fathers play an important role in a child’s physical, cognitive, social and behavioral development. Despite the well-known importance of fathers, there are few resources and little support available for men in this role.
Fraternity of Fathers (FOF) is a 10-week group and research project that aims to support fathers with young children. This group is specifically tailored for dads and utilizes adventure therapy principals to deliver attachment-theory based content in a fun, interactive, connected format. Fathers in the community gather together in weekly sessions to discuss the experience of being a father, how individual experiences impact how fathers parent and new ways to think about and understand kids’ behavior and development. This is a closed group, meaning the fathers who begin the group move through the 10 weeks together without the introduction of new members. This format provides the opportunity for meaningful connections to be made and bonds to be formed with a consistent group of parents without interruption. Individual sessions are conducted half-way through the group so fathers have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a group facilitator to explore how they feel the group is going for them personally and also to discuss any additional supports they may need.
The Fraternity of Fathers approach is effective as an entry to treatment, and in qualitative assessments fathers reported an increase in patience and frustration tolerance after participating in the FOF intervention. In addition, this approach appears to increase mental health awareness and literacy, decrease stigma and other barriers, and facilitate a willingness to access other mental health services as evidence by data indicating that half of the FOF participants requested a mental/behavioral health referral for themselves or their spouse. Among the things most valued by fathers who complete the group is a sense of social support and connection to other dads, and the opportunity develop greater personal insight regarding what it means to be a father and parent a young child.