Working with men remotely: key insights

As the COVID -19 crisis continues to develop, the Men’s Referral Service is maintaining delivery. Over the past two weeks, our telephone counsellors have demonstrated great flexibility by working from home with ready access to supervision and support.

A Men’s Referral Service Team Leader recently provided key tips for those who are contacting a man to talk about family violence to people working in the sector. It’s important to acknowledge the ‘elephant in the room’ – the dramatic changes that have happened in the world and how this has impacted the people you come in contact with. The man on the other end of the line could be facing:

  • Financial stress
  • Loss of work
  • Anxiety
  • No sport to attend
  • Working from home with partner and children
  • Not being able to see their regular supports
  • Not being able to be with family and friends
  • Not being able to do the things they’d normally do for relaxation, for example, have a beer with their mates in the pub or go to the footy.

Risk assessment and safety planning are vital. If you can’t see him, you need to listen very carefully: listen for background noise etc.

When you’re on the phone, questions to ask the man should include:

  • ‘Where are you?’ ‘Is it safe for us to talk?’ ‘Can you move to a space where your children and/or partner don’t overhear our conversation?’
  • ‘Are you currently working from home?’ ‘How are you finding being at home?’
  • ‘Talk me through how you’re feeling … (For example, ask him how he’s feeling physically i.e. where do you feel anxiety in your body?’ ‘What are the signs?’ ‘Can you tune into them so you will know when you’re escalating and can remove yourself safely from the family.’
  • ‘Is it currently safe enough for you and your partner to discuss what her needs might be?’ ‘Can she leave you to look after the children and have regular breaks if/when she needs them?’

Talk to him about taking time out, for example, ‘Is it possible for you and your partner to discuss your concerns in advance?’ Also ask, ‘Is it safe to do this?’

Suggest to the man that they make some rules:

  • If he needs to leave to maintain safety tell him to let her know.
  • Advise him to say how long he’ll be and let her know when he can come back.

We’re all in this together

Talking to a man on the phone, it can be helpful to acknowledge that this is something that is impacting all of us – but not necessarily equally. No one size fits all and everyone will choose their own reaction.