A new breed of counselling is coming to Toronto.
Called Spunk, the project's double-entendre title -- “resilience and semen,” the website proclaims -- is meant to shake up the two-front war against risky sex and drug addiction.
The six-week program for dudes who like dudes (gay, bi, queer or trans, HIV-positive or -negative) employs research conducted in 2009 by a coalition of AIDS and addiction centres. Spunk is their baby.
Spunk “plays with the idea of ambivalence,” says Busch.
"We didn't set out to get guys clean and sober and be forever abstinent," says Adam Busch of the group's first meeting.
Once a week for six weeks, the guys get together and take a scalpel to their drug use and sex lives. From there, ACT hopes that -- if they need it -- they can make their own change. It’s called motivational interviewing, a technique designed to speak directly to the issue without resorting to the “spiritual or quasi-religious”overtones of Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, says Busch. It’s about increasing people’s self-awareness. Busch says that some of these guys opened up in a way they would never do otherwise – not even with their partners or dealers.
In the harm reduction community, there’s very little that orients itself toward the gay community, never mind groups like AA and NA that require members to be completely clean. “For guys who haven’t hit rock bottom,” Busch says, “there really isn’t something for them to go to.”
Spunk runs in two sessions: one in the spring and one in the fall. The spring session is exclusively for men 30 and older, while the fall is for younger guys. Busch points out that the younger group tends to be less educated about HIV – a failure he chalks up to the school system – and tends to be less concerned, or “pre-contemplative,” about their drug use. Busch says the fall session will also provide for some “good old-fashioned gay mentoring.”
“The group’s intention wasn’t to be a miracle, necessarily,” Busch says. “We didn’t set out to get guys clean and sober and be forever abstinent.” Busch’s bluntness is insightful. He admits there are attractive aspects to the party-and-play lifestyle. Being able to talk to the group at that level is important.
“When people are not allowed to talk about it and the supply is still there,” Busch says, “it’s dangerous.”
The first session garnered praise from the participants, some of whom made real changes in their life because of it. “Everyone showed a shift in how they thought of their substance abuse,” Busch says. The unanimous consensus was that the non-judgmental space the group establishes is very effective.
Busch says the buzz in Toronto’s queer community and in harm-reduction circles is very positive, especially regarding the idea of a uniquely gay perspective. “The harm-reduction sector tends to be very heteronormative,” he says.
The group is opening up recruitment for its fall session, and Busch encourages any under-30 guys who are interested to apply.
For more information, contact Adam Busch at 416-340-8484 x235.