Men seeking help for depression, anxiety choose talk therapy over meds

Societal assumptions challenged with 70 per cent of help-seeking men opting for psychotherapy.

The pervasive belief that men dislike talking about their feelings and admitting difficulties is being challenged by the results of a study looking at the treatment preferences of men with depression and anxiety who seek out, or show some interest in, mental health services.

The study “Treatment preferences among men attending outpatient psychiatric services” was published earlier this year in the Journal of Mental Health and was co-authored by Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute researcher and Richmond Hospital clinical psychologist, Dr. Ingrid Sochting.

“There is a pervasive belief that men do not like psychotherapy; a belief that appears to have taken on a life on its own,” write the authors.

“One implication of such a ‘fact’ is that male referrals to psychotherapy dwindle amid preoccupation with developing alternative methods to deliver psychological treatment to men.”

Contrary to this belief, the study found that 70 per cent of help-seeking men indicated a preference for psychotherapy compared to only 27 per cent preferring medication treatment.

“Our robust findings suggest that accepting this conjecture and disregarding psychotherapy as a legitimate, viable treatment option for men is akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater,” state the authors. “…psychotherapy should not only be considered a reasonable treatment option for [help-seeking] men… it is likely to be particularly favored by a vast majority of such men.”

Ninety-one percent of help-seeking men prefer individual therapy

The study also found that men are reluctant to become dependent on medications to treat mental health issues because of costs and possible side effects and that the vast majority of help-seeking men – 91 per cent– prefer individual therapy to group therapy.

“Men’s preference for individual therapy over group therapy, as suggested by our findings… may be reflective of men’s presumption that individual therapy might allow them to preserve key practices of masculinity such as independence and autonomy, and minimize exposing vulnerability,” according to the authors.

Group therapists are aware of how women outnumber men in almost all kinds of groups. In groups for depression, there may be only one or two men with the rest being women, including the group therapists. It is understandable that men are reluctant to seek group therapy where they may feel marginalized, which is why many group therapists consider it a priority to make groups more attractive for men.


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