Childhood maltreatment takes many forms, including physical neglect, emotional abuse, physical violence, and sexual abuse. Men and women who experienced childhood abuse may struggle with the negative consequences of the maltreatment for years, even decades. Victims of such abuses are at increased risk for a host of psychological problems, including aggression, anger, rage, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Male survivors are more likely than female survivors to contemplate suicide, while females are more likely to experience posttraumatic stress (PTSD). Additionally, women tend to seek and complete treatment more than men.
There are many reasons men are less likely to get help for the symptoms of abuse—fear of being perceived as weak, for instance, or in cases where they were abused by a male, fear of having their sexual orientation questioned. Thus, interventions designed to address the needs of male abuse survivors are desperately needed. In an effort to examine the effectiveness of one such program, Jennifer L. Hopton of the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa recently evaluated the symptom trajectories of 114 men in the Men & Healing program over the course of four years. This unique approach is based on three stages of healing, stabilization of symptoms, understanding and developing narrative related to the trauma, and reintegration. The method was created to address problems specific to men and masculinity. Hopton assessed the men at the beginning of the program and every 10 weeks throughout the duration of the study period.
The results revealed that a large number of the men—as many as 38%—had significant reductions in symptoms of depression and PTSD. This finding provides support for the approach used in Men & Healing, specifically one designed to integrate trauma processing, education, and skill acquisition. Hopton noted that when she compared the participants who completed the therapy to those who did not, completers had experienced lower rates of childhood abuse and had lower levels of adult substance use than noncompleters. Because of this, she believes it is important to conduct additional work aimed at how to better reach noncompleters. “Future research examining predictors of treatment engagement and success would help direct clinicians’ efforts to engage clients who are likely to have difﬁculty with the treatment,” Hopton said.
Hopton, J. L., Huta, V. (2012). Evaluation of an intervention designed for men who were abused in childhood and are experiencing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychology of Men & Masculinity. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029705
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