Gender Specific Treatment

The Importance of Women-Only Treatment Centers


In the areas of substance abuse treatment and addressing the needs of certain populations regarding substance abuse treatment, gender has been a factor under increasing scrutiny and study.   There has been narrowing of the gap in rates of substance abuse between men and women.  Women also are more likely to be initiated into substance abuse patterns due to intimate relationships and women progress faster from initiation of drug use to addictive patterns of drug use among other factors.
Despite the trends that are being noted by health professionals, many drug treatment programs have been designed for males.  In addition, the treatment approaches in these programs are based on studies done in male populations.  The importance of instituting gender specific treatment approaches for women is important in order to take into account the special needs and considerations that are unique to them.

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Specific Issues For Women Regarding Drug Treatment

As stated above, the majority of drug treatment centers base their approaches on studies done in male populations. Male clients are more likely to display denial of their drug problems than women and with that in mind, treatment centers often take an aggressive and disciplinary approach.  However, women who are addicted to drugs and alcohol are more inward in regards to their denial and experience a greater degrees of guilt and shame.  Confrontational approaches such as punishments that may be effective in male populations would not be effective for women.

There are also other considerations to take into account.  For example, women may not enter drug treatment because of financial concerns, especially concerning child care and finding appropriate arrangements.  Also, women tend to hide their addictions due to fear, guilt and the stigma of being a female addict.  Finally, women are more likely to be in a relationship in which their partner is also an active substance abuser.

When it comes to rehab why is it best for women to stick with women and men to stick with men?

An important factor regarding gender specific treatment is understanding how women view addiction.  Instead of punishment approaches taken with traditional and male-oriented treatment facilities, gender specific treatment for women focus more on the underlying environmental factors that led to substance abuse.  Being with other women who are going through similar situations fosters a sense of comfort and familiarity when discussing sensitive or deeply personal issues.

Women also are more likely to have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault and gender specific programs focus more on group settings where, again, women can feel safety and security in addressing those traumatic life experiences.  Gender specific treatment can also focus on dual-diagnosis.  Women experience higher levels of depression and anxiety and also experience greater degrees of hostility, anger and interpersonal conflict.

In gender specific treatment settings for women, there is more emphasis on topics such as parenting and child care as well as issues such as eating disorders, negative body image and self-esteem.  Also, there may be a greater fostering of camaraderie and support in women-only treatment centers that can lead to greater completion and long-term recovery outcomes in regards to gender specific treatment for women.