- Guest Counsellor & Writer -
Welcome to an interview conducted with an interesting man from Australia - Nick Theophilou. Nick is a pioneer in, and a ground breaking social commentator in men's social and emotional health, having developed and facilitated many personal development programs for over twenty years, and implemented these across a wide range of not for profit, and business organisations He has also established a presence as a writer, public speaker and radio broadcaster, and specialises in counselling couples.
He believes people can be empowered and motivated to improve their lives, and has a demonstrated ability to guide his audience to successfully quality outcomes. He believes strongly in transperancy, and the development of open and trusting relationships, and that core values such as respect, honesty, loyalty, and being professional are major determinants in our behaviours and decisions.
Welcome, Nick. Tell us more ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY.
My professional life has had some weird byways, starting with my choice to study Accounting as my major at Swinburne College back in 1971. Waves of boredom were matched by my determination to finish, though when I did finish I was entirely unsuitable to the task. By 1984 I drifted into teaching and began to hit my straps, enjoying the challenge of delivering classes. I had a reputation for being hard but fair. It was a job I continued to do for the next 25 years.
By 1992 I was looking for something new. I volunteered as a radio technician, doing the late shift at a community radio station. I learnt fast. I had too. But it showed me that I was interested in more, and indeed could do more, than teaching Commerce in a high school.
At around this time, I went to an astrologer who showed me a newspaper article about workshops for men. She didn’t say much except, ‘“This could be good for you.’” And it was. I went to more meetings and found how good it felt to be supported by older men, good men. My partner at the time said, ‘You come home quieter after the group. Better.’”
Seeing that meetings lacked formal structure, I set about developing an eight- week program orienting men to being in a group together. Other programs followed: Fathers and Sons, Communications, Stress, a Train the Trainer for men wanting to set up their own group… the list went on.
To 2014, I started over fifty men’s groups. It’s given my life meaning, and I see it continues to be worthwhile. I see it in the men when, who, within twenty minutes sitting and listening to other men, visibly relax when realising other men have the same dilemmas and, similar stories.
Another new beginning was promoting men’s issues in media. I founded a radio program called “The Full Monty!” It focused on different aspects of men’s lives, which to that stage was seen as a strange indulgence, since ‘“There’s nothing wrong with them. They’ve got it all.”
How wrong they were. Many men stepped forward to do father- and- son weekends, general awareness groups, behaviour change programs. …. They thirsted to hear what other men’s lives were like, how they coped, what worked for them. When ‘it’ didn’t work they returned to sort out what had happened, and try again. This spoke volumes about men’s resolve to improve their own and their family’s lives.
But inside me another change was stirring. People had said for years that I should write, that I had a book in me. Having failed English, I couldn’t see how this was at all possible. But at the tender age of fifty, I put pen to paper. At first it was halting, fragmentary, and quite frankly, not good.
Eventually I managed to write a five- hundred word article on my relationship with my dad. And after forty-nine (yes, forty-nine) revisions it was submitted to ‘The Age’ newspaper in Melbourne. Responses were positive and I wrote several more; on male friendships, fathers and sons, and others ….including the one called “My Mother’s Voice,” which is the one I still like the best.
In the meantime, people were asking me what happened in a men’s group. The more I tried the less clear it became. So, over two years I produced a film about men called “Inside a Mens Group”. And it’s true; a picture is worth a thousand words. It showed a men’s group in ‘action’. Men were talking openly about what was important to them. In a sense, what was a mystery about men’s groups had been answered. Some people found it illuminating. Others found the whole idea dangerous. Still others just yawned. In either case, many libraries, schools, health services, and men’s groups bought a copy. Overall, the responses were positive, and I felt good knowing I could make a film people found useful.
In 2013 I set myself the task of writing a book, a long overdue project. Finally, after six rewrites I loaded it up on Amazon: 10 Stories about what men are Doing Well
Currently I have jobs as a writer, currently working on the three weeks my partner and I spent walking in Paris. I also work as a couples counsellor in private practice.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED IN YOUR CURRENT JOB?
I noticed that couples benefited from couples counselling because they had an independent observer (me) who give them feedback on how they were relating. It was much more beneficial than one to one counselling (which has it’s advantages) where you normally get one side of the story.
Writing takes up two hours a day, usually late morning.
3. WHAT’S INVOLVED IN YOUR JOB?
With Writing: discipline, memory, a willingness to rewrite
With Counselling: discipline, lots of listening, observing, commenting, guiding
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR WORK?
Writing allows me to enter another space inside which is quiet, just me, my thoughts, feelings and the page.
Being present to others’ lives. And Counselling is such a dynamic environment. Watching and listening to how people relate fascinates me. There is a flow to the communication, an ebb and flow I love to watch, and feedback to the clients in an effort to help them communicate better.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?
That sometimes I feel absolutely useless and no good at writing or counselling.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE?
A monk at one time, and a marauder in another.
7. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BE WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
My sense that writing and counselling are my calling.
8. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
That my daughter wants to continue to know me.
9. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
A book about three weeks Wendy (my partner) and I spent in Paris in 2010
10. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
11. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN YOUR WORK?
The silence, the achievement, the sense of maybe contributing to other peoples’ happiness.
12. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
Proust, he covers so much territory, and is such an interesting person who lived in a pivotal moment in history.
13. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A CLIENT?
Someone once said I was a good man.
14. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT?
“You’re a demon man.” This was said to me when I refused to give a donation to a Moonie.
15. OTHER THAN YOUR WORK, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Classical music, spend time with friends, working outside.
16. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Riding my bicycle at 6am, then oats, coffee, writing, counselling, seeing a friend, talking about Proust with Wendy, and reading Proust.
17. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
Homer, because he would connect me with my origins as a Greek, and I would fill him in on what happened in between.
18. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Do the right thing
19. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Writing, counselling, public speaking, radio broadcasting, keep good relations with my family, and not necessarily in that order.
20. WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO YOUR GRAVE?
1. In Search of Lost Time
2. The Bible
3. The Iliad
4. Pere Goriot
5. Pride and Prejudice
21. WHAT’S THE FUNNIEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?
Can’t help you there. Don’t remember.
22. WHO DO YOU ADMIRE MOST?
Anyone who comes up trumps against the odds.
23. WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST FRUSTRATIONS?
24. IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO CHANGE ONE THING IN THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
People who, without remorse, treat others shamefully.
25. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Not really. Just to say, “Thank you.”
Clancy's comment: Many thanks, Nick. Keep up the great work, and keep writing.
Today we mourn the passing of Australia's 21st Prime Minister at 98 years-of-age - Edward Gough Whitlam AC, QC.