Gender is a social construct, meaning gender roles are informed by society. Since men and women face different gender expectations, it is likely that their experiences of addiction may differ. This emphasizes the need for gender-informed therapies. Women-focused treatment, specifically, arose out of the 1970s women’s movement in a push for women to receive treatment that takes into account the differences in men’s and women’s addiction.
What Is Women-Focused Treatment?
Women-focused treatment is gender-specific, offering individual therapies to women that are based on and address their trauma-based and substance use disorder (SUD) needs. It prioritizes the global and individual experiences of women by recognizing that they differ from men’s experiences. This treatment offers support via women-only and women-led therapies.
Why Is Women-Focused Treatment Necessary?
Women-focused treatment makes space for women because they are less likely to obtain treatment than men. Often, women are or feel less free to participate in treatment because their social role prioritizes their care for others.
Women also have less access to resources that facilitate care. Those who enter care are often concerned with having food, transportation, housing, and other household needs met while in treatment. This creates distractions from the healing process, leading to less success in recovery.
The Journal of Addictive Diseases states, “A convergence of evidence suggests that women with substance use disorders are more likely than men to face multiple barriers affecting access and entry to substance abuse treatment.”
Additionally, an all-female setting makes treatment more effective for women. A woman who feels less supported in her environment is less likely to recover from SUD. Creating a compassionate, supportive environment is the goal of women-focused treatment, thereby increasing the odds of lasting recovery for women raised in Western society.
Finally, trauma affects men and women differently. Women are more likely to face trauma and develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to men. The statistics speak for themselves; In 2019, it was found that nine percent of rape and sexual assault victims are males and 91% are women. In the McGill Journal of Medicine, it was reported that 94% of women who are sexually assaulted experience symptoms of PTSD within two weeks of the incident.
Benefits of Women-Focused Treatment
Since men and women have different hormones, they cope with stress differently. Women tend to reach outward for support with stress, seeking community for healing. Without a social network on which to rely, women are more susceptible to the effects of stress. Creating a women-centered environment allows women who are dealing with substance abuse and other traumas to connect and support one another in a way that men are less likely to need or create. This is attributed partially to the fact that men who enter treatment have higher self-esteem than women.
In fact, the treatments women most respond to are those which focus on self-empowerment. Programs such as art and music therapy are forms of self-expression and prioritize inner strength. This works to grow self-esteem so that women are more able to locate and make use of resources within their community for recovery.
Single-gender treatment can also be beneficial by addressing social roles in a gender-specific manner, such as caretaking and intimate partner roles, working to construct new dynamics that support recovery. In relationships in which women are disempowered — and women are more likely to experience these both in the intimate and professional spheres — the dynamic can serve to inhibit recovery, making treatment less impactful. Learning coping skills for facing these moments of disempowerment allow women to retain their power and give them a better chance at recovery success.
Women-Focused Treatment at WCRC
West Coast Recovery Center (WCRC) offers gender-responsive programming for both women and men. Because standard treatment models are built on data about and for men, WCRC offers self-determined therapies that acknowledge both biological sex and social constructs of gender.
Each treatment approach is personalized according to the needs of the individual, and both traditional and nontraditional models of therapy are used. WCRC therapies include relational, strengths-based, trauma-informed, culturally competent, and holistic approaches, which include the following:
- Art therapy: Art therapy is a form of self-expression through creative, artistic means such as painting, drawing, or sculpting.
- Music therapy: This is creative self-expression through sound, such as drumming, playing guitar, or singing.
- Group therapy: Group therapy is a facilitated session in a group setting where participants are able to connect and create community with individuals on similar journeys.
- Individual therapy: This includes working one-on-one therapy with a medical health professional, during which you work together to determine coping mechanisms for the root causes of SUD
- Medication-assisted therapy (MAT): This therapeutic medical intervention helps ease cravings and facilitates detox. It is often used in conjunction with psychotherapy.
- Nature therapy: Nature therapy is a mindfulness-based therapy during which participants are outdoors enjoying activities like surfing, swimming, hiking, gardening, or sailing.
West Coast Recovery Centers (WCRC) offers women-focused treatment as part of a holistic program designed to meet each individual where they are in their recovery process. Women-focused treatment addresses trauma experienced by women, offering gender-specific tools for recovery. Since women are more likely than men to experience trauma and experience stress differently than men, women-focused treatment allows for an environment that feels safer to women in articulating and understanding their needs. Untreated trauma can contribute to substance use disorders, so addressing concerns in a space that prioritizes the female experience is essential. If you are a woman who needs help attaining sobriety and managing stressors in order to reach recovery, contact WCRC today at (760) 492-6509.