Gender is an important piece of the addiction recovery puzzle. Women are in need of different kinds of treatment tools that support their journey in unique ways. What works for men in treatment does not always work for women. When considering how to support a loved one who is struggling, it helps to know what needs need to be met and how to offer the best help for their healing journey.
The goal of gender-responsive treatment is to identify key variables that help women feel supported in rehab and beyond. The differences start with early risk factors in childhood and as teens. Some of the key things to look for in a gender-responsive treatment plan:
- Addressing women’s specific needs
- Understanding the caregiver roles women embody in their lives
- Recognition of social and cultural roles and expectations women take on
- Using an integrated and holistic approach that taps into women’s mind, body, and spirit
- Incorporating a gender-responsive treatment environment
Women often don’t turn to drugs or alcohol as a means of coping with work stress. Sometimes they do, but more often they are responding to long-term stress they have felt in their minds and bodies from abuse, neglect, and pain they have experienced in the past. A gender-responsive program will be sensitive to these needs and address them accordingly.
Treating the Whole Woman
A woman is a complex array of emotions, physical feelings, and spirituality. Just as men are complex in their unique ways, women have their own way of being that needs tending. Relationships and past stress often precipitate substance abuse for women. They may be introduced to substance use by a boyfriend or family member. Genetics is a risk factor with parental use increasing the possibility the children may develop an addiction. Women generally are not the only ones using substances in their partnership. They may partner with someone who is also drinking and using drugs. Women can be put at risk of contracting diseases from shared needles or be at greater risk of abuse and harm from partners when abuse is present. This may also endanger children. This unique environment makes it more important to help women identify where they are at risk, what is happening, and how to support their journey of healing when they do ask for help.
Physiology of Substance Abuse
Women often develop substance use disorders more quickly than men. Included in this is a compounding effect of aging, developmental issues, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. The physiological effect of alcohol and drug use is limited but women metabolize alcohol differently. They also suffer more complications and severe problems from alcohol use than men. This includes:
- Infectious diseases
- Reproductive consequences
- Liver damage
- Breast and other cancers
The reality of drug and substance abuse for women is that they will struggle with the physiological responses long after they stop using drugs or drinking. They need specialized care to manage their health, nutrition, and other factors to help them navigate their healing. Screening is key for women to identify risk factors, past abuse, anxiety, and mood disorders, and self-harm, eating disorders, past abuse or trauma, and interpersonal violence that is present. Assessment should explore women’s strengths, coping styles, and support networks. In both screening and assessment, counselors should value the ways women respond to the process emotionally and physiologically.
Treating Her Needs
The best way to treat a woman’s needs is to offer gender-specific and time-tested therapy that looks at the whole woman. This means offering childcare, integrated approaches to therapy, helping them with educational attainment, and supporting their treatment of mental health and addictions like gambling, sex, or eating disorders. Women may have been involved in the criminal justice system and need help with that when they leave rehab. Their goals of self-supporting themselves and their children may also need to be addressed to help them stay out of poverty and empower them a continuum of care includes intensive treatment, women-only services in some cases, and long-range planning for aftercare that includes a holistic perspective like how to care for children or others they help.
Casa Capri offers trauma-informed care for women struggling with addiction. We are a safe place to land with other women, to be vulnerable, and to provide hope for the journey of rehab. Our small, intimate setting provides the best place for women to find healing for mind, body, and spirit. We are holistic in our approach and believe women can be more empowered to heal when in community with other women. If you are ready to be free of drugs, call Casa Capri today: 844-593-8020
Melissa Holmes Goodmon, Founder & CEO of Casa Capri Recovery, obtained her BA in Psychology and is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor (LAADC) specializing in women’s core issues. She is recognized as a leader in the field of mental health and substance abuse recovery where she has been an advocate since 2006.