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A Peer-Led Weekend of Self-Discovery

Events in Israel, Mexico, Poland, USA

Frequently Asked Questions

General

What is Journey Into Manhood?

Journey Into Manhood is a 48-hour immersion in intensive self-discovery and personal-growth work. It is designed specifically for men who are self-motivated to address unresolved issues around men and masculinity, especially around distress or internal conflict over experiencing homosexual attractions.

We create a highly supportive yet challenging environment for men to address underlying core issues that may have resulted in painful internal conflicts. Like not feeling “man enough.” Or not “one of the guys.” Or an unmet yearning for male attention, acceptance and affirmation.

It is not therapy. There is no “diagnosis,” no “treatment plan,” no counseling or advice-giving. It is, however, an intensive personal-growth workshop that is designed to touch deep emotions, raise self-understanding and build self-esteem, assertiveness and healthy personal boundaries.

Journey Into Manhood is an experiential weekend. You won’t just sit and listen. You’ll actively participate, connect and explore. We create opportunities for you to experience healing, growth and brotherhood, not just talk about them.

What is an “experiential” workshop or retreat?

Experiential workshops primarily use active participation methods — live, personal experience — rather than lectures, discussion or analysis as teaching methods. They use processes designed to enable self-discovery — to create “aha” moments of insight into one’s self, one’s behavior patterns, thinking patterns and feelings.

Scores of organizations and individuals offer “experiential weekend” retreats or workshops each year for personal growth and empowerment, self-discovery, emotional healing, spiritual enlightenment and more.

Examples of experiential processes at Journey Into Manhood may include:

  • Journaling
  • Guided imagery (visualization)
  • Meditation
  • Emotional processing (especially around, anger, grief or fear)
  • Shame release
  • Psychodrama (or a simplified form of it sometimes called “guts work”)
  • Inner-child work, including (optional, of course) inner-child holding by a “golden self” or a “golden father” figure of the individual’s choosing
  • Profound, introspective questions
  • Sentence stems
  • Body awareness and connection (breathing, posture)

These types of processes tend to elicit much more profound self-awareness and dramatic, even cathartic emotional shifts than typical didactic teaching or dialogue ever could.

A typical feature of experiential learning of any kind is that experiential processes are designed to be experienced, not revealed, discussed or analyzed before participation — or their impact is significantly diluted. Nevertheless, participants are repeatedly reminded that they can withdraw from any specific process at any time if it doesn’t feel helpful or authentic for them.

Does it work?

Journey Into Manhood has had a powerful, life-changing effect on hundreds of men since 2002. Nevertheless, as with any potential breakthrough experience, it is ultimately up to the individual to determine whether and how he will integrate the experience into his life — and thus how it may ultimately affect him.

Journey Into Manhood equips you with new understanding, the opportunity for emotional breakthroughs, new friends and meaningful support. But you must follow through to truly make it a turning point in your life.

In following up with past participants over the years, we’ve regularly heard men say that they often:

  • Feel more masculine, more confident and more secure in their identity as men.
  • Have more meaningful male friendships and more support.
  • Feel better about themselves overall.
  • Report a decrease in unwanted sexual behaviors and sometimes even a shift in the intensity or nature of their homosexual feelings.
  • Are less distressed over their same-sex attractions.
  • Feel more grounded as men in their relationships with women.
  • Are generally more at peace.

It is common for us to hear comments like these:

 

It has helped me emotionally. It has also saved my marriage. My SSA has significantly diminished over the past seven years.

Rick, Texas, USA

It opened my eyes to a whole new world of support and connection with others who share my same desire to live according to my faith’s values versus the world’s view of those with SSA.

Doug, Utah, USA

It was a life-changing experience. It has given me the opportunity to see myself as a man among men and to be confident in who I am as a man.

Nathan, Virginia, USA

It has given direction and focus behind my faith-based desire to live in accordance with my religious values and personal convictions. It has provided a framework for building meaningful friendships and meeting my needs for connection within a community of men. JiM has given me hope.

Seth, Maryland, USA

JiM was the single most transforming event of my life. I have found a home among those who understand me and whom I can understand. My sense of shame and isolation have almost vanished. I have learned that what I was always seeking and am now getting is healthy meaningful connections with other men.

Karl, Louisiana, USA

It’s been one of the biggest life-changing events in my life. It enabled me to stop acting out sexually, helped me immensely with my porn addiction and opened a new world of connection with men.

Jason, California, USA

My entire life has changed for the better. I am more authentic and comfortable with myself, my feelings, and who I am. I no longer live in fear. I experienced a reduction in SSA feelings and an increase in opposite-sex attractions as a result.

Blake, California, USA

What is “psychodrama” or “guts work,” and how does it help?

Journey Into Manhood offers participants an opportunity to individually process unresolved, underlying emotional issues that may be contributing to their distress over their same-sex attractions. This is through a simplified type of psychodrama that we call “guts work.”

Psychodrama is taught at major universities as a means of helping people break through negative patterns of behavior and thinking and to break through painful, unresolved emotions. “Guts work” is used on many different types of experiential weekends (including gay-affirming programs) as a simplified form of psychodrama, typically led by trained lay people (non-therapists).

At Journey Into Manhood, lead guts facilitators are highly experienced men who typically have facilitated or co-facilitated at least 100 Guts processes in the past and usually have participated in special guts training workshops. Some are licensed counselors; most are trained lay people. They have also been observed by other, more experienced facilitators and have been recognized as skilled and effective.

Guts work has been the most significant part of building my understanding of myself, freeing me from shame and building up my confidence as a man. What I like about “guts work” is that the man doing the work sets the agenda and the facilitator is there to follow the things that are coming up in the man. I’m still blown away by how powerful that work can be and the depth of insight into myself I can get through doing it. It’s incredibly beneficial.

Aaron, California

It changed my life, and I’ve seen it change others, too. It healed wounds. I’ve seen guys overcome hurts from the past and feel supported for the first time. It opened my eyes to things I did not know about myself, and for the first time in 20 years I can cry again and feel my feelings.

Britt, Wyoming

I have been a part of many psychodrama processes with a variety of men involved. I have seen men go through intense emotions and pain to come out of this work at peace and with a smile on their face. This work is never pushed onto the men involved. It is completely up to the individual man if they 1) want to even be a part of it or 2) what they want to work through during their guts work. This work has hugely benefited me, my wife, and dozens of men I know. It provides an outlet for emotion in a safe way that brings deeper peace.

Jerry, Alberta, Canada

Who runs the program?

The event is run by about 15 to 20 volunteers. Almost all are men who have been through the Journey Into Manhood program themselves in the past and, having benefited greatly, return as volunteers to “pay it forward” by serving others.

What makes you qualified to run a training or retreat like this?

Journey Into Manhood is a peer-led program that grows out of our personal, individual experience as men who have been through a journey of addressing incongruent same-sex attractions in ways that align with our faith, values, morals and beliefs.

The program was developed by Rich Wyler, ( who had personally experienced a significant transformation of his same-sex attractions) in consultation with several professional counselors. Before organizing the first Journey Into Manhood weekend in 2002, Rich had already accumulated some 600 hours of experience, training, and practice facilitating in-depth self-discovery work. 

Since then, some 40 licensed therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists from three countries — as well as many medical doctors and attorneys — have served on the volunteer team running the program and have personally affirmed its value for those who want what we offer.

The rest of the volunteers — about 15 to 20 men — typically have all been through the Journey Into Manhood program. They volunteer to return to “pay forward” the great benefit that they gained. Senior volunteer facilitators typically have between 10 and 20 prior workshop experiences and hands-on training with Journey Into Manhood, and most have attended and staffed other organizations’ experiential healing programs as well.

Who attends the program and why?

  • The minimum age of participants is usually 21 years old. Minors are not accepted.
  • The average age of attendees is about 36.
  • Men have attended from 49 U.S. states and from 47 countries.
  • A large majority are Christian, Jewish or Muslim. Others are of other faiths or are non-religious.
  • About 10% have previously been openly gay or in long-term gay relationships.
  • About 30% have never acted on their SSA in-person with another male.
  • About 50% have had secret affairs, multiple anonymous hook-ups or have lived a secret double life.
  • About 30% are married to women and want to hold their marriages and families together.
  • Fewer than 10% have never dealt with SSA at all. They are heterosexual men working through other internal conflicts and issues around men and masculinity.

Men attend because they are internally conflicted over their same-sex attractions or are dealing with confusing or painful emotions or unresolved wounds around men and masculinity. They want to resolve or at least diminish their sexual conflicts, experience self-acceptance, feel a sense of belonging with the wider world of men, and to heal emotional wounds around past relationships and painful past experiences.

Why so much secrecy? Why aren’t you more public about what happens at Journey Into Manhood?

Our program is not secret, but it is very private, and we are highly protective of our participants’ privacy and confidentiality.

We are also protective of the actual experiential processes we employ because — by their very nature — experiential learning is most beneficial when it is experienced, not explained, described or analyzed in advance.

Still, through our online descriptions (including this Q&A), our videos, our testimonials, and even the processes that we modeled for ABC Nightline in 2010, we give a clear indication of our approach, principles, and style. Anyone who reads and views these things, or who talks to a past participant, has a pretty good idea what to expect, generally.

We also regularly invite counselors, therapists and ministry leaders to participate as volunteers so they can experience our program firsthand.

 

Registration & Fees

What is your refund policy?

Our temporary Covid-19 policy is:

  • If you have a fever or sore throat, cough or any other upper respiratory symptoms, you must stay home. We will give you a full refund. If you have been around someone in the past 2 weeks who has or had the coronavirus, you must stay home. We will give you a full refund.
    • If you develop significant Covid-19-related fears or concerns and choose to withdraw, even at the last minute, we will give you full refund or transfer your registration fees to a later event.

    Otherwise, our regular refund policy is:

    • If you cancel 30 days or more before the Journey Into Manhood weekend: Your deposit and all registration fees are fully refundable. If we have already sent you a letter of instructions identifying the location of the event, etc., then we will issue the refund AFTER the conclusion of the event  by reversing the charge on your credit or debit card.
      • If you cancel MORE THAN 10 days but FEWER THAN 30 days before Journey Into Manhood: Your minimum required deposit ($250 in the U.S.) is NOT refundable; however, we will refund you any amount you have paid above that.
        • If you cancel 10 days OR FEWER before the Journey Into Manhood weekend: Your deposit and registration fees are NOT refundable.

        No other refunds apply, except on an exception basis approved by the executive director, Rich Wyler.

        Location, Time & Transportation

        When will I get detailed information on where the program will be held, travel instructions, and other details?

        After you have paid your deposit, or about 4 weeks before the event, we will send you an email with all the information you need.

        If you have questions in the meantime, or have not yet received the information, you can contact us at timsemler@brothersroad.org, or call 1-434-299-8696.

        Where exactly will the program be held?

        For security reasons, the location is CONFIDENTIAL for everyone except paid participants. Only those who have paid at least a full deposit will be sent information on the venue. However, the names of the nearest airports are on the online registration form when you pay your deposit.

        Each Journey Into Manhood event is held at a rented camp, conference center or retreat center usually within a 1- to 2-hour drive or train ride from a major airport. This type of facility gives us sufficient privacy and provides a “retreat” environment set apart from normal day-to-day life.

        Accommodations are not luxurious. Rooms are in a dorm setting typically with bunk beds, and in most locations you will need to bring your own sleeping bag or other bedding.

        Do I have to stay at the camp or retreat center? Can I stay off-site instead?

        The residential experience of being together as a community in focused personal-growth space for the full 50 hours is an essential part of the experience. If you choose to leave the premises, you will not be allowed to return.

        What time does it start? What time does it end?

        Normally, we start at 2:00 p.m. on Friday. Please do not arrive on site BEFORE 1:30 p.m.. Please do not arrive on site AFTER 2:00 p.m.. We normally end between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. on Sunday.

        Please make your travel arrangements to accommodate this schedule. If you are flying, please be sure to allow enough travel time between the airport and the location.

        *In Israel, the program usually runs Monday early afternoon through Wednesday later afternoon.

        Do you provide transportation assistance?

        We help to coordinate carpools among participants who may be flying into the same airport or driving from the same direction, but ultimately you are responsible to get yourself to the camp/retreat center and back.

        Preparation & Confidentiality

        Is there anything else I need to do to prepare?

        YES. After you register, and about 4 weeks before your JiM weekend, we will email you an instruction letter with links to the following:

        1. An online travel questionnaire to complete (to help us coordinate carpools, as needed).
        2. An online health and life-experience questionnaire.
        3. A link to electronically sign the Liability Release, Confidentiality & Other Agreements form. 

        What about confidentiality?

        Confidentiality is extremely important to create a safe place to do deep emotional healing work. All participants must sign a strict confidentiality agreement.

        This commitment to confidentiality is also reiterated verbally, in person, at the start and again at the end of the weekend.

        What will I need to bring with me?

        1. Legal identification, such as a driver’s license or passport. This is to help ensure that all participants are at least 21 years old and that no one is attending under false pretenses or signing release forms under a false identity.
        2. A sleeping bag and/or blankets and a pillow. (This is not always required. Some sites provide bedding, but not usually.)
        3. Your personal effects and appropriate indoor/outdoor clothing. Rain gear is often recommended.
        4. Necessary prescribed or over-the-counter medications. If you have a history of asthma, please be sure to bring an inhaler.
        5. A towel, soap, sunscreen, bug repellent, and any other personal-care items you may require.
        6. A refillable water bottle with your name on it.
        7. Earplugs (highly recommended, in case of snoring).

        What NOT to bring:

        • Please leave all electronic devices at home or in your car when you arrive, including watches, mobile phones and wireless handheld devices. We ask you not to use them at all during the program. (Exception: electronic devices required for your health, such as a CPAP nighttime breathing machine.)
        • Usually, the sites do not allow food in the residential rooms. If you bring food (such as kosher food), it must be kept in the site’s kitchen.
        • No alcoholic beverages, street drugs or illicit mood-altering substances of any kind.
        • Anything that may distract you or others from our healing purpose.

        During the Weekend

        Can I call home or work during the weekend?

        We ask you to agree not to make or receive phone calls during the weekend and in fact to leave your phone in your car throughout the entire workshop. This is to help everyone stay in the experience and focus on their personal work in the present, rather than to be distracted by what might be going on at home or work.

        We will provide you with an emergency number that you can give to family members who may need to contact you in case of emergency only.

        Possible exceptions for unusual circumstances can be discussed with the weekend leader once you arrive.

        What if I don’t want to participate in one of the processes?

        Your choices will be respected. We ask you to participate in every process, but no one will force you to do anything against your will. Anyone may choose to “pass” and not participate in a particular process. The staff may challenge you to consider the reasons behind your choice, but they will never force you or manipulate you into participating.

        What if I want to leave early, or want to leave for part of the time?

        The residential experience of being together as a community in focused personal-growth space for the full 50 hours is an essential part of the experience. We ask you to stay on site for the full program, from arrival on Friday afternoon to departure on Sunday late afternoon. If you choose to leave the premises, you will not be allowed to return.

        Of course, anyone can to leave the program altogether, at any time, for any reason. Certainly, no one is required to stay who does not wish to continue with the program.

        Personal Accommodations

        What if I have some physical limitations?

        Journey Into Manhood is not generally a very physically rigorous weekend for most participants. Most of our “work” is indoors. We have always been able to accommodate the physical limitations of participants, whether due to age, weight, physical fitness or some type of disability. Of course, each man is responsible to take care of himself physically and to communicate his physical limitations to the staff, as necessary.

        What if I have special dietary needs, or if I only eat kosher food?

        When you register, one of the questionnaires we ask is about any special dietary requirements. Our cooks are typically able to accommodate most common dietary restrictions. In unusual cases, you may need to bring and prepare your own food and keep it in the kitchen.

        Will my religious values be respected? Will my religious practices be accommodated?

        Yes. Although Journey Into Manhood is not a prayer- or worship-based retreat — nor is it a so-called “pray away the gay” program — we are a faith-affirming community. We welcome Christians of all denominations, Jews (orthodox, conservative, reform and non-observant), Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others. We are also respectful and welcoming of people who are agnostic or of no particular faith.

        We strive to create a spiritual framework for deep personal-growth work where the participant’s individual religious beliefs (or non-belief) are welcomed and may be incorporated into the individual work they may do, if the participant wishes.

        We teach the spiritual principal of “surrender” to God and his divine will, as part of a broader program of healing and growth. We never intentionally challenge anyone’s religious beliefs, or lack of belief, their morals or values. We do our best to work within a participant’s existing framework of spiritual beliefs and values.

        We also make sincere efforts to accommodate requirements of Jewish Sabbath observance. We often have at least one conservative or orthodox Jew on staff, and the senior non-Jewish staff men are also quite familiar with Jewish Sabbath requirements.

        Controversies

        Why is there so much online criticism of your organization and of Journey Into Manhood?

        First, notice who is doing the criticizing. It’s almost always activists, gay media, or others with preconceived prejudices.

        Since 2002, we know of fewer than 20 out of almost 3,000 participants — men who have actually experienced Journey Into Manhood first-hand — who have ever spoken out publicly against us. Otherwise, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. 

        And when participants do speak out about what positive experiences they’ve had, news media and opinion writers don’t want to hear it. They only want to hear from the critics. That makes it pretty tough for our voice to be heard — even though our experience is vastly more typical.

        In today’s polarized, us-versus-them world, it’s hard for some people to understand that there is a legitimate third path when it comes to dealing with same-sex attractions — neither suppressing and shaming nor indulging and celebrating, but discovering and addressing underlying issues and pain, from a place of self-acceptance and faith.

        If you want to know what those who have actually been through our programs have to say, visit our testimonials page.

        How do you respond to critics who say that you use questionable techniques that have not been scientifically proven to be effective?

        Why should we have to? We are a voluntary, peer-led, self-help program for adults to participate in if they so choose. Brothers on a Road Less Traveled is not a mental-health clinic. We are not a therapy group or an academic body or a research organization. We are a peer-support community.

        In our experience, our program is effective in powerful ways to a large number of attendees. In short, it works for us. We don’t need a scientific body to tell us what works for us. We know it because we’ve lived it. 

        What’s this I saw online about beating a parent “in effigy” (beating a punching bag that represents the parent)?

        No, we never beat anyone “in effigy.” That is a deliberate misrepresentation that some people have made up to try to mock or discredit us.

        What we DO offer participants are opportunities to feel, express and release long-buried emotions in a safe, structured environment, rather than to suppress or deny those feelings. We teach: “Any emotion fully felt will shift to another emotion, until it arrives at a state of peace or acceptance.”

        Here’s a simple example: Almost everyone has had the experience sometime in their life of having a good, hard cry — and then feeling much more peaceful or resigned afterwards. You may not have been happy, exactly, but your emotions probably shifted from deep grief to a place of acceptance and surrender.

        The same is true with anger, fear and other emotions. When they are expressed fully, the released emotion shifts to something else, and ultimately arrives at a place of peace and acceptance, or even joy.

        It’s not uncommon for some men to come to Journey Into Manhood with some powerful, pent-up anger that they’ve never been able to fully express or even access before. We create a safe place where they can do that, if they need to — perhaps by yelling, or by punching a punching bag, beating a pillow or wringing a towel. The anger is usually directed at a specific memory or internal message — perhaps a bullying, shaming, or abusive experience or series of experiences from the past that may have stayed with them for years.

        By accessing and releasing their anger in a safe, structured environment where no one can get hurt, men can reclaim a sense of personal power and experience a real-life victory over an old wound that had long left them feeling like a victim.

        Growing up, there were always jokes and other degrading comments about gays made around the house. I used the bat to beat down those false message that came from my family that contributed to me living in years of shame for having same-sex attractions. It helped me release the negative messages and shame.

        Aaron, California, USA

        Physical expression of my anger helped me to release negative energy and emotions in a structured and supportive environment. I felt a release and a peace afterward that I didn’t experience prior.

        Raul, Maryland, USA

        This was an important part of my working through my sexual abuse. Beating the punching bag was an outward expression of my internal work. So much rose to the surface. It helped me experience the bottled-up sadness that had I avoided before. Then it moved to anger, and then to joy because I felt resolved. I was even able to forgive my uncle.

        Karl, California, USA

        This was one of the most affirming experiences in my healing. I always was afraid to express my anger. I had just tried to turn it off. This process helped me to finally realize that there is a difference between healthy and unhealthy anger. I didn’t beat the bag because I wanted to harm someone. I beat the bag because I wanted to get my emotions out. Being able to express my authentic anger in a safe, healthy setting helped me to step into my joy fully.

        Stephan, Germany

        I heard there is nudity at Journey Into Manhood. Is that true?

        No. There is no nudity and there are no naked processes at Journey Into Manhood.

        I heard you use “therapeutic holding” at Journey Into Manhood. What is that, and why?

        The Journey Into Manhood program includes some inner-child healing work that can include optional holding of the “inner child” by someone of his choosing who represents either the individual’s mature, adult self or an ideal “golden father.”  

        Touch, including same-sex touch, is a basic human need, and people who have experienced touch deprivation or abusive touch are often at risk for sexualizing what, at its core, is a nonsexual need. We teach and model clear boundaries around inner-child holding to keep it safe and healing — for instance, within a circle of men who witness and support. Many have reported that these processes have helped de-eroticize or de-sexualize their same-sex attractions over time.

         

        My experience in the holding process was one of unconditional acceptance and healthy affirmation. I did not feel any homosexual attraction. On the contrary, I felt authentically seen and accepted, peaceful, and powerfully affirmed.

        Israel, Illinois

        This was an incredible experience, likely the most powerful exercise. I felt a great connection to the divine. It actually assisted decreasing SSA by having healthy touch and not sexualizing it with another man. Not all touch has to be sexual.

        L.P., Utah

        I knew about healthy holding before going to the JiM weekend, and it seemed to me such a wonderful idea from the very beginning. In modern Western societies, two men cannot hug, put their arms around each other or even hold hands, something so natural and fraternal in other cultures and countries like in India. When I have my needs met for healthy holding, my attraction is reduced dramatically. When I don’t have it, I am attracted to almost every man on the streets. It’s incredible. For me it was a great discovery to understand that all those times I went out looking for sex, I was merely seeking connection and platonic love and affection from another man. Having healthy holding in my life has made all the difference.

        Julio, Ontario, Canada

         

        I read online that you verbally assault the participants and call them names. Is that really true?

        Of course not. This is a deliberate distortion that some critics have made up in order to try to mock or discredit us. 

        During a psychodrama process, a participant may externalize some of the negative self-talk in his head in order to shut it down and overwrite it with new, positive self-talk. They are always HIS internalize messages, word for word (we never improvise them!), and the end result is that he ALWAYS over-rides them and shuts them down in the course of the role-play. Every process is designed to result in a victory for the participant.

        How does it make sense to put together a bunch of guys who all experience homosexual temptations? Shouldn’t they stay away from each other to avoid being triggered?

        Much of the work necessary to resolve unwanted same-sex attractions is counter-intuitive, and this is one significant example.

        One of the things we hear almost universally about the impact of Journey Into Manhood is how normalizing and de-shaming it feels to be in a roomful of men who are dealing with or have dealt with the same issue, and who share a common desire for healthy change.

        This kind of support and camaraderie may be one of the biggest factors contributing to the participants’ long-term success.

        We hear comments like:

        I walked in the room and immediately had 30 brothers who knew more about me in an instant than most people I’d known my whole life knew about me. I didn’t have to explain myself; they just got it. What a relief to not have that secret blocking me from really being seen and feeling accepted.

        It was such a relief to see that everyone here is so normal. Just everyday guys who didn’t fit any stereotypes. I felt the shame and embarrassment just fall away.

        I left the weekend with 30 brothers who share my journey, and can walk with me and support me in doing my work and reaching my goals. You can’t find that at church. You can’t find that in the gay world either.

        Other

        What if I have another question that wasn’t addressed here?

        Contact the administrator of Brothers on a Road Less Traveled, Tim, at timsemler@brothersroad.org or 1-434-299-8696.