Young men need tailored treatment for depression: Orygen research

Young men need tailored treatment for depression: Orygen research

12 February 2020

Young men who have an unsatisfactory psychotherapy experience are less likely to seek help for mental ill-health in future, Orygen research has found, highlighting the need for better tailored treatment.

Orygen analysis of an online survey of 133 Canadian men with moderate to severe depression found almost half (48 per cent) believed psychotherapy may not be effective and 29 per cent said they would not tell their physician about their distress in future.

A quarter (25 per cent) of survey respondents said they were dissatisfied with the psychotherapy they had received previously. The findings are published online ahead of print in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine.

Lead researcher, Orygen research fellow Dr Zac Seidler said the findings highlighted the importance of developing psychotherapy that was tailored to young men; the hardest demographic to engage in treatment.

“Their dissatisfaction with the treatment leads to them disengaging and not coming back. They're not sticking around because, in many ways, the system is not tailored to men's needs,” he said.

“It takes so much money, time and effort to get a young man through the door and into therapy so we can’t let them slip through the cracks.”

The research found that greater dissatisfaction with previous therapy was associated with greater doubts about the effectiveness of treatment, which in turn was linked to an increased reluctance to disclose future distress to a health professional.

Dr Seidler said therapy could be more satisfactory if it placed greater emphasis on men’s strengths.

“We’re seeing a need for more action-orientated and skills-based work, adapting language to be more relevant to males, and clarifying goals,” he said.

“I spend a lot of time going for walks or throwing balls at a wall with my clients. We need to break away from this idea that therapy is sitting across from each other eye-to-eye – it takes time to get men to open up and if you need to do something more active to get there, so be it.”

There was also a need to improve the setting of expectations around therapy, Dr Seidler said.

“It may be beneficial for general practitioners (GPs) to provide some education about the therapy referral and consultation process. This could include saying something to the effect of ‘it’s really important to keep in mind that there are a range of therapies and therapists, and most men try a few before settling on one that feels like a good fit’,” he said.

“That way GPs can encourage young men not to lose hope if a psychotherapy approach doesn’t work out.”