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The Theory of Men's Trauma

February 9, 2011
by Dan Griffin
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The third and final theory making up the framework for men’s treatment that we have developed is the emerging theory of men’s trauma. I am most definitely not an expert, per se, in this area. In fact, as I have mentioned in previous entries – this is meant to be a conversation and an opportunity for experts to come together and share their experience. Up until this time it has been more of a monologue – primarily as I have been trying to delineate the perspective from which we wrote the curriculum and from which I am speaking. But the time has come to get the conversation going. My good friend, Dr Larry Anderson, an expert in treating trauma disorders, is going to be our first guest blogger for the next blog entry and provide a much more in-depth explanation and exploration of the phenomenon of trauma. When Rick Dauer (one of the co-authors of Helping Men Recover) and I present on this topic there are several key points that we hit on:

· You cannot treat addiction without treating trauma. Trauma should be an expectation that is ruled out rather than an exception.

· There is a gendered phenomenon to trauma. That is, men and women experience trauma, respond to trauma, and display the symptoms of trauma differently.

· The socialization process for most men in our society is inherently traumatic.

· Because men tend to externalize the effects of trauma much of what we see as violent acting out, aggressive behavior, and antisocial personality traits could be the symptoms of untreated trauma.

· The acknowledgment of trauma, to many men, is tantamount to admitting that one is not or has not been a “real man.”

· We need male-specific services to help men heal the effects of trauma.

The concept and treatment of trauma have had an indelible impact on my life. I have the life I have today because of the work I have done the past five years in the area of trauma – that is both personal work as well as academic learning. There are few things that are revolutionizing our field and how we view and treat addiction more than our continually unfolding understanding of trauma. Having the best information, particularly from a clinical standpoint is always critical to provide the best treatment which is precisely why Dr. Anderson will be our guest blogger next month.

We would also love to hear from you and how you are seeing men’s trauma manifesting in the lives of your clients and what strategies you are using to support them.

Read more of Dan’s writings on men, addiction, and recovery at: Please also check out our “sister” blog by my colleague, Carol Ackley, here on the Addiction Professionals website.



Approximately three years ago I began a brief group to address volunteer clients for past abuse. It has evolved from a patented program by Ernie Larsen, Hazelton called Abused Boys, Wounded Men to a, basically, grief based group. Design is for three weeks of six two-hour sessions with extension allowed if the group asks for it. It is set up to be for a limit of six men but usually has about nine members. The details of topics involve a guided process to face and address past abuse issues. The ultimate goal is to be able to forgive perpetrators, society and God for what is hoped to be past issues and commit to engaging present circumstances more freely.
What I have discovered from evaluation feedback from clients is that, for those that were able to realize recovery, the biggest complaint is that the program is too short. Once intimacy is established, the assignments and process time for same need to be rushed somewhat to complete by the sixth session.
I am one of four counsellors at a year-long, non-profit, in-patient treatment center for men over 18, Our House Addiction Recovery Ctr., Edmonton, AB. Our current capacity is 56 men. There is an abundance of treatment-wise "last gaspers" in treatment here. Luckily, the managers each carry a small client load. It is evident that underfunded counselling programs are abundant, especially in non-profit areas.
The request I can foreword is that more funding sources recognize the importance of this work. That ongoing recovery is better served by resolution of traumatic pasts and how a regular client load stretches ability to provide quality treatment.

I would like to look at Quit Smoking,Drinking,Gambling e-book but I get the error message Page not Available DNS flaeidCan you send the above directly please?Warm regards, ~Allan~

Thanks so much to Dan Griffin for bringing mens issues in addiction - and mens trauma in particular - to the forefront. Your concepts and conclusions about mens issues are borne out both in my personal recovery as well as in my experience working in the field. As the owner of a long term mens addiction treatment center - we focus on chronic relapsers - I have found the correlation between trauma and addiction in our men to be evident more often than not. The question I have is not whether to treat trauma, but when... Do we establish a firm foundation in sobriety first, and then engage the patient in the painful and regressive work as a "stage two" recovery issue? Or do we treat trauma resolution right up front, as a primary issue? So assuming trauma is a factor that will need to be addressed, do we treat it as an obstacle to near term sobriety or as an inevitable trigger to relapse down the road? And here's the rub... Guess wrong and we do our patient no favors either by addressing his trauma too soon, nor by opening up and "going deep" in a treatment
protocol that lacks the time or resources to responsibly finish the work they have started. My mantra with mens trauma is proceed, but with great caution.

I've been clean for a year now, I'm in a program caleld drug court where i'm drug tested weekly. The program is about over now so i'm worried. I have stayed clean for3 and 4 years at a time, but the meth always takes over again. I am a miserable man looking for an answer.Don

Bob P - thank you for your comments. I can say that our curriculum is 18 two hour sessions - 36 hours - and that is placed within a standard addiction treatment program. Our curriculum recommends 12 to 15 but could be done with more. We know that this works takes time and we wanted to hit on all areas (see my previous blogs). I might even suggest that Earnie's curriculum (may he rest in peace) could go well WITH our curriculum - thereby increasing the number of sessions and time. Thank you for the work you do on the front lines. If you want to learn more about our curriculum and training opportunities you can go to

Jaywalker (Bob) - thank you for your kind words. I will answer your question how we answer it in our trainings (based upon the guidance of our clinical psychologist working with the men in the pilot groups.) In short, yes - start right away. Why? Because the men are dealing with the effects and pain of the trauma NOW so we need to support them NOW. What does that look like? Well, our curriculum is trauma-informed - which means it helps the men to begin to identify the impact of trauma and some basic skills to deal with it. Most importantly, the men are referred to the appropriate services that can help them in greater depth. We recommend EMDR as one strategy that has proven to be very effective. The idea that addiction has to be dealt with first before mental health issues, trauma, domestic violence issues, etc. (most of which are directly related to trauma) may prove to be one of the most misguided tenets we have had in the field despite the good intentions behind it.

Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin, MA, is an internationally recognized author and thought leader on...

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