Peer support groups show promise in helping men facing mental health problems

Q: You’ve said that men will go to therapy but they tend to only stay with it for a session or two. Why?

A: The literature is clear that men stop going to psychotherapy after one or two visits. For a number of reasons, it hasn’t served them well. Sitting down for 50 minutes of talking is counterintuitive for most men. These guys never got Emotion 101. Guys need the cover of the group.

Q: So you provided that cover while still requiring that they see a therapist. And they were good with that?

A: These are all men who have already participated in Face It support groups. Many have been coming to us for years and have built friendships. But we’re not a therapy organization. I wanted them to also go to therapy and have it be more effective. We kind of promised these guys that we could help them in a new way. I sent out an e-mail about this new program and it was like I was selling tickets to the seventh game of the World Series.

Q: In other words, they’re hungry for professional help, but in a way they can best receive it.

A: The men who come in this door are starved to get better. They’re experiencing depression, anxiety, a lot of hospitalizations and suicide attempts. They’re 40, 50, 60 years old, finally revealing secrets they’ve carried their whole lives, including sexual and physical abuse. They’ve been medicating with alcohol, drugs, gambling. Many no longer have relationships with their partners or kids. They’re alone.

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