“Don’t cry, don’t be vulnerable, don’t ask for help.” Those are the “rules” most men learn growing up. But according to Rick Dauer, LADC, clinical director at River Ridge Treatment Centers (Burnsville, Minn.), it’s those rules that often serve to “normalize the difficulty” of their recovery.
“Early recovery asks men to do things completely antithetical to how they were raised,” explained Dauer, who gave a presentation along with Dan Griffin (Griffin Recovery Enterprises), at the 2011 National Conference on Addiction Disorders (NCAD), titled "Helping Men Recover: Gender-Responsive Treatment for Men."
For the past two years, River Ridge has been running pilot programs based on a curriculum written by Dauer, Griffin, and Dr. Stephanie Covington, that are both “gender responsive and trauma informed,” focusing on how traumas become a contributing factor to substance abuse and, later, a barrier to recovery.
“We’re looking at addiction and treatment through the lens of male socialization,” he said. “For a lot of men, the path to manhood is filled with traumatic events. But they are raised to not only tolerate violence and abuse, but almost to expect it.”
As a result, men in recovery often have a history full of trauma (combat, violent crime, sexual abuse, or “environmental trauma” such as long-term emotional or verbal abuse)—it just goes unrecognized.
While focused on the “real differences” in how men and women experience trauma and heal from it,” Dauer stressed that the program is not designed to treat trauma. It’s a trauma-informed program for treating addiction.
That means “universal precautions” are used, assuming that each client has experienced some kind of trauma. Creating an “environment of safety, trust, and collaboration has been absolutely critical,” Dauer noted.
The program has been introduced in over 20 treatment centers. A second version designed specifically for criminal justice settings (prisons, jails and drug courts), has also made its way into correctional facilities.
“Over the last decade, men’s trauma has been largely overlooked [in substance abuse],” Dauer noted. “The prevalence is extraordinarily high, and not addressing it puts men at a much higher risk for relapse.”