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Men's experience of trauma at heart of CeDAR gender conference

June 10, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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The first time the Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation (CeDAR) hosted its annual gender conference and focused on women's issues, only a handful of men attended. Organizers don't expect the reverse to be true this fall when CeDAR's fourth annual Gender Matters conference delves into men's treatment topics.

“Seventy percent of people working in the field are women, but 70% of those going through services are men,” says Dan Griffin, who has written curricula for men's services and is a member of the working group that has designed this year's conference agenda.

When clinicians and other interested professionals gather at the Omni Hotel and Resort in Broomfield, Colo., Oct. 10-12 for the Gender Matters, Men Matter event, they will do so amid what organizers call a changing conversation about the needs of men in treatment. “We're hearing more about men, whether it's a coincidence or not,” says Griffin, co-author of the Helping Men Recover curriculum.

Griffin says the sponsoring treatment facility's description of its own services reflects the evolution in thinking, with its pronouncements of 12-Step, abstinence-based treatment giving way somewhat to the terms “gender-responsive and trauma-informed.”

CeDAR, affiliated with the University of Colorado Hospital, has become increasingly focused to the integration of trauma-related services into treatment, for both men and women, says executive director Steven Millette. “We're paying a great deal of attention to the environment in which care takes place, and how we manage patients to create safety and predictability in their experience,” Millette says.

The first two Gender Matters conferences focused on women's treatment, while last year's third annual event was more balanced to both sexes in the curriculum. The working group of about 30 active participants already is discussing how it might structure next year,'s conference, with the possibility of men and women co-presenting on topics, says Millette.

Agenda highlights

Topics to be addressed on the conference agenda will include passivity in men, the healing of generational wounds, and issues in men's recovery. A panel at the conference will articulate a framework for the development of trauma-informed care for men; Griffin believes this will be a groundbreaking presentation.

Millette says past experience with the conference has helped to shape a format in which each presenter functions as a keynote-level speaker (there are no concurrent breakout sessions in the agenda), with this functioning to build momentum as the event progresses. There also will be a heavy experiential component, with numerous opportunities for fellowship and networking that include a comedy performance and a golf outing.

“We also want to bring in the voice of the consumer, through art,” Millette explains. “We want to have facilities have their clients participate in producing art, whether it's visual or written such as poetry, that is about men with trauma and with addiction.”

Effect of trauma

Another member of the conference planning group, clinical leader and 2012 Addiction Professional Outstanding Clinicians Award honoree Rawland Glass, says trauma-informed care is beginning to take hold as a topic of emphasis in the private practice of behavioral healthcare as well.

“There's a lot of energy in the private-practice field around trauma, but the field doesn't know where to go,” says Glass. “You have less resources there.”

Griffin says it is critical to understand the effects of men's—and women's—trauma on the treatment experience, from both the client's and the provider's point of view. “We're a traumatized field working with traumatized clients and sending them to a traumatized recovery community,” he says. “Trauma is pervasive.”

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