Substance abuse, along with mental health disorders, will affect each gender differently. There are studies that show treatment has a better success rate when programs are tailored to gender-specific needs. These programs can remove some of the barriers and distractions that can arise from being around members of the opposite sex. It allows clients to feel more focused and comfortable and recover around peers of the same gender, allowing them to relate over experiences that are specific to gender.
Barriers to seeking addiction treatment are usually gender-specific. Women and men can have different feelings when it comes to treatment, how the disorder affects the body and the stigma that is associated with treatment and substance abuse. Women are more likely to feel guilty for seeking addiction help and those feelings can create a bigger barrier to treatment. Women are also more likely to have experienced trauma leading to substance abuse or mental health disorders. Due to this, women need to undergo trauma-informed care. By choosing a gender-specific treatment, it gives a setting that is supportive, sensitive, and non-discriminatory. Women may be more unlikely to develop drug and alcohol problems but when they do, the process is usually quicker. Women tend to enter treatment programs with more severe medical, social, behavioral, and psychological problems. This has implications on the needs of treatment.
There is a difference when it comes to gender and sex in regard to substance abuse. For example, men have an enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the liver and stomach and due to this, men don’t absorb as much alcohol in the bloodstream. This means a man’s alcohol concentration will likely be lower than a woman’s.
Addiction recovery requires that you be vulnerable. Many women find it easier to be vulnerable and speak more candidly about the issue they are facing while in the presence of members of the same sex. There is no need to put up a façade to cover up feelings when you are with other women.
An honest discussion about life’s highs and lows will help women understand they aren’t alone in the experience. Gender-specific addiction treatment reduces the shame and judgment and leads to more understanding and compassion. Many people will feel uncomfortable discussing traumatic and painful life experiences in a mixed group. It’s easier to feel comfortable around people that are similar to you. Feeling safe and comfortable in addiction recovery is important since true healing will only happen if you make yourself vulnerable and share your experiences.
The main benefit of addiction treatment is that it allows people to focus solely on getting better. When there are other genders then there are distractions, such as romantic ones. Although a romantic relationship can serve as a welcome distraction from what you are going through, it can actually be a distraction that takes the focus off of what you really there for. When women are with women, it reduces the need to keep up with appearances and feel the need to impress the opposite sex. For many, the gender-specific addiction treatment gives one less distraction so the focus is on just healing.
Both women and men face pressures related to work, family, self-esteem, and relationships but those pressures can be different. With gender-specific addiction treatment, clients are surrounded by others who know from personal experience and what it is like to experience addiction as a woman, along with dealing with cultural and societal pressures. Clients are able to focus on a woman’s experience instead of having to split focus. For example, in women’s specific treatment, topics can include pregnancy, motherhood battles, and past trauma.
Without a safe environment, treatment won’t be as successful. If a woman has suffered trauma caused by a man then they will not feel comfortable sharing in groups with men. Mothers who have an addiction will benefit from sharing expenses with other mothers since women are usually the caretakers of the family and home. It can be hard to be away from children but with the support of others like them, women are able to share in these experiences.
With gender-specific treatment, women can bond over shared experiences. There is also the opportunity to bond over new ones. Having a strong peer network is important for maintaining sobriety and preventing relapse after treatment. Gender-Specific treatment can incorporate activities that strengthen necessary connections outside of traditional group therapy.
Importance of Women’s Treatment Programs
Since women in addiction treatment are more likely to have experienced physical or sexual abuse, there is power in women recovering together. Women in treatment are less likely to have a high school diploma or employment. Women are also more likely to have to deal with childcare and the complications of drug or alcohol use during pregnancy.
If you or a loved one you know are struggling with addiction, reach out to us at Anchored Tides Recovery.