Men in Mind under the microscope
A recent user experience study of the Men in Mind e-learning training program for psychotherapists working with men, reported improved confidence among participants in engaging a range of help-seeking men.
Men in Mind was developed by Dr Zac Seidler and funded by global men’s health charity Movember. The randomised controlled trial was fully funded by the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund, Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission.
In an outcomes paper published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research 587 practitioners provided both quantitative and qualitative feedback on the program, which was created to upskill mental health practitioners to engage and respond effectively with men in psychotherapy.
“Men seeking help for depression often receive insufficiently engaging services that can exacerbate shame or feelings of alienation in the therapy environment, leading to high rates of premature dropout,” state the authors (Seidler, Ruben Benakovic, Michael J Wilson, Justine Fletcher, John L Oliffe, Jesse Owen and Simon M Rice).
“This mismatch is also reflected in suicidal men who seek help, with treatment often neglecting men’s agency and autonomy, thereby not meeting their needs and directly affecting their efforts and desire to seek further support.
“However, with this intended increase in male help seekers, comparable efforts are needed to ensure that practitioners working with men in therapy are equipped to sensitize their treatment to better reach, respond, and retain men in all their diversities. Indeed, this is even more critical in the case of suicidal men, where practitioners may only have a short window of opportunity to effectively engage their male clients.”
The RCT examined the efficacy of Men in Mind in improving practitioners’ clinical competencies related to engaging with and responding to male clients in therapy. Participants were Australian-based mental health practitioners currently delivering psychotherapy to male clients.
They progressed through the Men in Mind program’s five modules including:
(1) “Rebranding Masculinity”— which offers in-depth understandings of men’s gender socialization, masculinities, and connections between masculine norms and men’s mental health; (2) “Your Gender, Your Practice, Your Rules”—lobbying practitioners to reflect on their gender socialization and how this might impact on their engagement of male clients;
(3) “The Hook: Engagement and Motivation”—details strategies for engaging and motivating male clients, alongside tools for assisting men experiencing difficulty identifying or articulating their emotions;
(4) “The Depressed Man”—aims to equip practitioners with the tools to identify externalizing profiles of male depression, particularly responding to anger and irritability; and finally,
(5) “The Suicidal Man: Saving Those Thousand Lives”—shares connections between masculine socialization and men’s suicide, highlighting warning signs and tools for therapeutically engaging suicidal men.
“Findings across the qualitative feedback items highlighted the current strengths of Men in Mind, particularly in terms of the value of video vignettes of skills in action, improved insight into the connections between traditional masculinity and the therapy environment, and the engaging learning experience provided,” state the authors.
“Suggested improvements largely reflect the need to expand the training material with more inclusivity, diversity, and equity-tailored content, along with necessary improvements to the provided learning aids and novel content areas to include in future iterations.
“Encouragingly, participants reported improved confidence in assisting men struggling with emotional communication and suicidal men.”
Summarising the main takeaways of the study, Dr Seidler said on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter):
- Aiming to inform the future roll-out of Men in Mind, along with other practitioner training interventions in men’s health, we sought qualitative, quantitative, and goal-related feedback from almost 400 practitioners on their experience using the Men in Mind program.
- The Positives: Practitioners valued the video role-plays that the program provided, the content that provided insight into masculinity x therapy. Practitioners also strongly agreed that their practice improved and that they felt more equipped to work with men.
- The Improvements: Practitioners want more men’s mental health content, especially on specific groups within men (e.g., gender/sexual diversity, cultural), and even MORE video role play content that shows them real world examples of how to engage men in practice.
- Our takeaways: Programs that upskill practitioners on men’s health are both wanted by practitioners, AND genuinely help them. High levels of engagement + positive feedback provide optimism for the potential for practitioner interventions to address health inequities