Closing the Gender Gap in Treatment for Addiction
This entry was posted in Women and tagged , on by .

For more than 85 years, there have been mainstream treatments for addiction in America, but they have traditionally been designed for men. Until the last 30 years, all of the research was done using men. Even today, many treatment programs are still created with men in mind, despite many claiming to be for mixed genders.

Women have very specific needs in their treatment plans and face many barriers to treatment that men do not. This gender gap is still vast, despite many studies and advances in addiction recovery for women. For women to find appropriate care, it is important to seek care specifically designed for their needs.

How Do Women’s Treatment Needs Differ From Men’s?

Women’s needs in treatment for addiction are quite different from men’s. In addition to the fact that men and women use substances differently and their bodies are different, women have many different needs, including:

  • Reproductive issues such as pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Hormone-related health issues
  • Access to childcare during treatment
  • The need for parenting classes
  • Benefit from a collaborative approach to therapy
  • Greater financial disparity due to a lack of equity in the workplace
  • Less access to healthcare
  • Much higher instances of abuse, sexual assault
  • It could be triggered by males due to male-on-female violence
  • Higher rates of trauma and PTSD
  • More likely to have depression, anxiety, eating disorders

The Need for Trauma-Informed Care for Women

Due to the high rates of trauma, abuse, intimate partner violence (IPV), and sexual assault, women need access to trauma-informed care in their residential programs. Trauma and abuse can create increased anxiety, depression, and triggers in women that can interfere with their treatment process or even worsen their symptoms. By offering true trauma-informed care for women, facilities offer treatment that encompasses the five basic principles:

  • Feeling safe in the environment and with staff
  • Having choices in their treatment
  • Collaboration with providers for their care
  • Experiencing trustworthiness from providers
  • Being empowered by their experiences

Women who have experienced trauma, sexual assault, abuse, or violence at the hands of men could be triggered by being in a co-ed facility. They could also struggle to open up or be vulnerable with male peers due to their traumatic experiences. For these women, true trauma-informed care is a female-specific program where they can feel safe with the other people in their residential program.

Co-occurring Disorders Amongst Women

Specific types of co-occurring disorders are more common for women than men. Many of these mental health disorders are underlying causes of substance abuse, and others are the result of extended substance use. These disorders include:

Because these co-occurring disorders are so common amongst the female population in addiction, they need programs that are designed to address these disorders simultaneously along with their substance use disorders. Women need programs that are tailored to meet their specific needs. For example, a “one-size-fits-all” program will not adequately meet the needs of women with an eating disorder.

The Prevalence of Discrimination and Stigma Toward Women

Many women face greater cultural and societal stigma and discrimination for having substance use disorders or seeking treatment. Because they are taught they need to be mothers and nurturers, they are shamed for their substance use when that same behavior is acceptable for men. Women are also more likely to miss out on career advancements or lose their jobs altogether when they take time off for treatment because of discrimination in the workplace.

This discrimination and stigma can lead to or reinforce shame within a woman. As she believes the stigma, her own judgment and comparisons with others can impact her self-esteem. Shame is a significant factor for women with addiction, and a program that offers to heal needs to be able to focus on this and address it properly. Women need a treatment program that can teach them that they are enough.

Why Is a Women-Only Program the Best Choice?

Because typical co-ed programs are geared toward men, women can function well in men’s-only or co-ed programs. However, women have more specific needs that are not met in a co-ed program. A women-only treatment program for addiction is the best choice for many women to meet these needs.

Treatment is a deeply personal, emotional time when you need the best care. In order to close the gender gap in treatment, you need to know that you are safe in order to access the services that you need. You need a program that was created for you based on research on your gender. If you are a woman, that is a women-only program.

Closing the gender gap in treatment for addiction requires programs that truly address the needs of women. Because women have very specific and differing needs from men, a one-size-fits-all treatment program does not meet their needs. Women need access to trauma-informed care that addresses commonly occurring co-occurring disorders for women and also addresses the shame, stigma, and discrimination women face. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women is a residential program uniquely designed for women to address all of those needs and more. We offer truly individualized treatment plans at our Costa Mesa, California facility, which is a calm, peaceful, healing refuge for women with substance use disorders. We offer both evidence-based and complementary therapies, and our nutritionist works with patients with co-occurring eating disorders. What specific needs do you have for treatment? Call The Ho Tai Way at (714) 581-3974 today.