To begin this series of blog entries I would like to make the argument as to why gender responsive services for men are necessary – and long overdue. In ensuing entries, I will explore specific issues that men deal with that impact their treatment experience and their long-term recovery. According to SAMHSA, men are consistently seventy-percent of the treatment admissions each year; it would benefit all involved to ensure that they are receiving the best and most appropriate services available.
It would be reasonable to assume that men’s issues are adequately addressed in alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment. However, that is simply not the case. While addiction treatment has historically focused on men and a man’s perspective it has also not recognized the full array of problems that men have – in their addictions or recovery processes. It is now time for us to improve the model so that it can help even more men achieve long-term quality recovery. As I have begun talking about this concept around the country the most common response I get from men and women is: “It is about time.” I agree.
The primary question is: If we did not assume we knew what men needed, what would we discover are their true needs? Modern treatment has not been a failure by any means. In reviewing men’s treatment and through interviews with various professionals in the field and consumers of these services, I have come to some conclusions. First, there are very few programs that have created services within the context of a man’s experience. This means that all staff have been hired and the program and all services have been created with an understanding of the realities of men’s lives that addresses and responds to our challenges and strengths. The following are just some of the core issues that men deal with that I will be addressing over the coming months:
· When men get sober we have one primary vehicle for our recovery: relationships. Yet, the full scope of men’s relational needs and competencies are rarely addressed.
· Men are not raised to have emotional awareness yet it is expected in treatment and recovery. Grief, in particular, is fundamental to a man’s recovery, especially his spiritual growth.
· According to SAMHSA, over 75% of men and women entering treatment report some history of abuse. We need to do a better job addressing the impact of abuse and trauma and helping men to feel safe discussing the entirety of their experiences with these issues (i.e., as survivors and also perpetrators.)
· Most treatment programs ignore any social context and/or the consequences of political, social, and economic power.
· While we turn a lot of traditional masculinity on its head in treatment and recovery (talking about feelings, asking for help, etc.,) we rarely provide direction in helping men to establish a healthy sense of self outside of normative masculine expectations.