Can a Gender Responsive Treatment Program Aid in Recovery?

Rehab centers often offer gender-responsive treatment programs for detox, residential treatment, outpatient treatment and aftercare. For many patients, dividing patients by gender is an easy way to create a safer, more harmonious environment that’s better suited to lasting recovery. Others, however, don’t understand or appreciate how it can be beneficial. It’s time to explore the merits of gender-responsive treatment programs, how they can benefit men or women and how they can ultimately aid in addiction recovery.

Understanding the Role of Gender-Specific Treatment

There are several objectives at play when it comes to rehab and addiction treatment. For men and women alike, the goal goes beyond simply abstaining from drugs and alcohol for a determined period of time. The ultimate objectives include gathering the desire to abstain, the confidence to make independent and healthy choices, the tools to uncover and work through underlying trauma and the support for aftercare and continuing education.

Some of these objectives can’t be easily met in a treatment program filled with individuals of both sexes. Women, for instance, may struggle to reveal instances of sexual assault and personal trauma if there are men in attendance at a group counseling session. Men may wish to recount their stories of hitting rock bottom, but they may not want to offend or alienate women in their treatment programs. By separating the sexes, many patients may find it easier, in the long run, to achieve their rehab goals.

How Gender-Specific Treatment Can Benefit Women

Although there are gender-specific treatment options for both sexes, there’s a far greater emphasis on programs that are designated for women only. Women who are battling an addiction often find it easier to thrive in an environment where their needs, concerns and ideals are the focus. Of course, there’s often a significant overlap between the needs of women and men, and women are a diverse group. Overall, however, women can benefit from gender-specific treatment in a number of ways.

Women in the throes of an addiction may be at risk for feeling intimidated or overpowered by men, particularly men in a position of authority. When in a gender-specific treatment program, women may feel more at ease. When they are at ease, patients can thrive and make true progress for rehabilitation.

Women may also have a greater need to belong to a group environment, to reintegrate into social situations and to become a part of their family or friend groups. An all-women setting may be the best way for women to relearn social cues, establish healthy personalities and discuss conflicts in a healthy and productive way.

It’s also important to take into consideration the issue of sexual assault. Many women who struggle with an addiction to drugs or alcohol have a history of trauma in their past, and this is frequently sexual in nature. By recovering in a secure, safe environment away from men, women may be able to achieve confidence and sobriety without experiencing PTSD in the presence of male patients.

How Gender-Specific Treatment Can Benefit Men

Men can also benefit in a number of ways to a gender-specific treatment program. The curriculum, counseling and scheduling can focus on the key issues that males encounter during recovery, and it can place an emphasis on healthy masculinity that helps society.

Some men in recovery struggle with reclaiming their masculinity. Since addiction can drain financial and emotional resources as well as lead to lying and broken relationships, men may feel that they don’t possess power or authority. A men-only treatment program can develop the confidence of male patients, encouraging them to feel proud of their accomplishments and strive to be healthy male role models in society.

Sexual Addiction and Rehab

It’s not uncommon for men and women in a drug or alcohol treatment facility to begin exhibiting signs of a sex addiction during rehab. Unfortunately, this is simply replacing one dangerous addiction with another. Destructive, compulsive behavior, such as engaging in a sexual act with a stranger or an inappropriate partner, can stimulate the brain’s reward system in the same way that drugs can.

Recovery from addiction should ideally be recovery from all addictions. To that end, it can be beneficial to separate the sexes so that there are fewer temptations in rehab. In addition, gender-specific programs can eliminate possibilities of unwanted sexual advances or other threatening situations that could challenge or setback recovery for patients.

Facilities Geared Toward a Particular Gender

Amenities are more than just the icing on the cake of an excellent rehab center. They can also be integral in the physical recovery, fitness and development of patients. By creating gender-specific treatment facilities, treatment providers can better tailor the amenities and facilities for a specific group of patients.

In a women’s facility, that could mean space to do yoga in an outdoor setting, or a crafts room where women can tackle projects and feel good about learning new skills and making things for their loved ones. In a men’s facility, that might mean being geared toward group sports or weight lifting, and finding healthy ways to minimize the anger and aggression that can sometimes arise during the initial stages of sobriety. Men and women alike may be more likely to utilize the onsite amenities if they can be assured that the opposite sex won’t be participating, judging or lingering in close proximity.

Determining the Success of Men and Women-Only Rehab

Ultimately, research can only determine the success of gender-responsive treatment based on the remission and relapse rates of participants. Overall, relapse rates are highest when participants aren’t willing to make the necessary changes. By creating a safe environment that caters to the individual needs of patients by gender, there may be an increase in the desire to succeed. As a result, men and women who attend gender-responsive treatment programs may see greater success rates and higher rates of long-term sobriety.

Choosing to attend rehab is definitely better than continuing to abuse drugs or alcohol. For the best results, however, gender-responsive treatment holds a lot of promise for men and women alike.