The world’s first program aims to transform mental health care for men

Headshot of Dr. Zac Seidler.

Headshot of Dr. Zac Seidler.

Doctor Zac Seidler

Every day in Canada, about nine men die by suicide. Men make up 75% of all suicides in the country. More men than ever are seeking help for their mental health issues, yet traditional counseling methods often fail.

Dr. Zac Seidler, a member of UBC’s Reducing Male Suicide Research Excellence Group, hopes to change that. Dr Seidler, with funding from global men’s health charity Movember, has created Men in Mind, a new form of man-centred therapy intended to improve the way men in crisis engage and respond to treatment.

We spoke to Dr. Seidler about this new approach.

What is Men in Mind and who is it for?

Men in Mind is the world’s first online program that trains mental health professionals on how to interact and respond to men in therapy. It’s a five-module, eight-hour training that walks counselors through a “101” of how men present themselves in therapy. It teaches therapists how to connect with men, meet them where they are, and create a treatment environment that will benefit them in the long run.

Men in Mind was originally meant to help practitioners feel more confident and competent when working with men. After the clinical trials, we feel pretty resolute now that it does. Practitioners who have taken part in the program come away with a clear understanding of what men need in therapy and how to tune and adapt their approach to meet that goal.

What motivated you to develop the training program?

As a doctoral student working with nursing professor Dr. John Oliffe in UBC’s Men’s Health Research Program, I began with the question: Why aren’t men seeking help? The common narrative was that men just don’t seek support when they’re in trouble. However, what became abundantly clear early on was that in many cases this was actually a pretty dangerous and incorrect narrative. In fact, many men were starting treatment but weren’t getting the kind of therapy they needed. They encountered environments that were fundamentally foreign to them.

A key statistic that drove this work was that 45% of the men we interviewed dropped out of therapy early because they couldn’t connect with their counselor. Our research showed that men were willing to pursue therapy if they could find a counselor they could connect with.

At the same time, we began to understand that doctors were facing challenges engaging and connecting with men in the way they wanted. We realized that rather than expecting men to adjust to clinical environments that didn’t meet their needs, it made more sense to adjust the environment and physicians.

Why do men in therapy require a unique approach?

Depression, for example, manifests very differently for men than for women. While depressed women are more likely to display common symptoms such as sadness, despair and not wanting to interact with anyone, many men express depression in ways such as irritability, anger, risk taking, substance abuse, all behaviors directly related to the socialization process. of the masculinity they learn. growing up. Many men’s responses to depression are externalized, while women’s are typically internalized.

Training counselors to see these behaviors as a cry for help can ensure men don’t slip through the cracks. Anger management has been the go-to treatment for men suffering from depression, but it’s often not the answer.

How will this training benefit men in long-term therapy?

Men in Mind trains therapists to take an approach that accepts rather than challenges men’s responses to mental health issues. Therapy focuses on contextualization and empathy rather than shame. Practitioners adopt a transparent and collaborative approach that places man as an “expert” in his own life and respects him as such.

Ultimately, we want to make sure men know they are being heard. Many have had a very bad experience with treatment and it is not their fault. Now it’s up to us researchers to work with men and reduce the negative experiences men are having. My long-term goal is to integrate this training into curriculum planning for all institutions working with mental health professionals.

Related event:

Digital Interventions for Men’s Mental Health, with Dr. Zac Seidler
June 15, 5.30-7.30 pm
AMS Nest
Register here

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