Although everyone’s experience with addiction and treatment are different, people share certain similarities depending on their age, gender, sex and race.
These differences must often be addressed during treatment to ensure their individualized plan addresses those particular needs. Gender differences, for example, come into play throughout the entire recovery process and must be addressed in order to ensure treatment is effective. Some treatment methods that work for men do not work for women, and these differences must be acknowledged in order to better support sobriety.
At Sober College San Diego we offer sober living for both men and women however, each apartment is designated for either one or the other. This seperation allows apartments to be a safe and comfortable place for women to recover. Having men as part of the Sober College San Diego program does create the platform for women in recovery to learn to build healthy friendships with the opposite sex while still giving them the space and individual attention to adress their female needs.
Gender-Specific Needs in Treatment
Although men and women may share similar experiences, treatment for women should address important issues through a female perspective. While men can be impacted by the same things as women, the level at which they affect a person’s life may differ, and women’s experiences with family, support systems, social and economic differences, gender, and culture can make certain issues affect them more deeply than others.
Context is important during treatment, since gender differences play a critical role in the development of substance abuse and its impact over time. These include:
- The influence of relationships: Women begin abusing drugs more often due to the influence of a friend, boyfriend, or family member. This is particularly true for women who are in relationships with a partner who abuses drugs or alcohol. Substances can serve as a way to connect or communicate with their loved one. In fact, many women in rehab cite a lack of close, meaningful relationship—or failed relationships—as a primary influence on the development of addiction. Those who live in a chaotic, violent, or stressful home environment are more prone to using substances as way to escape.
- A history of trauma or abuse: Many women who abuse substances have experienced emotional, physical, or sexual trauma. If they have not been a victim themselves, they have often witnessed violence against others. Women who have experienced abuse feel isolated and use substances as a means of coping with negative emotions and experiences. Using substances, however, further perpetuates negative relationships with others, causing women to fall deeper into abusive behaviors. Women often process these traumas differently than men and will use substances to self-medicate for stress, anxiety, and other psychological disorders.
- Biological differences: Women are biologically different than men, meaning drugs and alcohol affect them more dramatically. Women tend to have slower metabolisms than men, allowing addiction to develop more easily and the negative consequences of abuse to be more readily apparent. Women often develop addictions over a shorter time period and do not require the same duration of use nor quantity before they exhibit negative consequences. This often leads to the development of body issues, lowered self-esteem, and feelings of worthlessness that can perpetuate abusive behaviors.
- Gender Performance Expectations: Whether its due to cultural differences, social stigmas, or personal values, women tend to experience harsher criticism when it comes to addiction. Women face a number of challenges when accessing treatment, including the stigmas surrounding substance abuse, custody concerns regarding children, and a lack of resources for women-specific needs. Women often face greater levels of scrutiny regarding substance abuse due to societal expectations for female behavior. Many women may attempt to disguise substance abuse and isolate themselves due to the anxiety caused by these expectations. This often worsens addiction, leading many women to rely more heavily on drugs and alcohol to escape stressors.
For women, negative relationships, mental health, and stress are the most influential factors in the development of substance abuse, and their biological differences cause drugs and alcohol to take a more dramatic toll on their overall health and dependency. In substance abuse treatment, therapies are largely male-dominated and women-specific topics can be difficult to discuss, particularly in mixed groups. This is why it is important to provide women with the opportunity to recover together through gender-specific therapies and housing.
One of the most critical components of recovery is the establishment of healthy, meaningful relationships with others. Many women in recovery feel as though their relationships with other women are negative. In women-specific treatment, clients are given the ability to freely discuss pertinent issues in a safe environment, free from stigmas and social pressures that may otherwise cause them to shut down. Women are able to engage in meaningful conversation and develop healthy relationships through discussion and support. With female-only housing, women are able to continue developing their relationships with one another, develop confidence in themselves, and improve their ability to relate to others.
Sober living provides clients with structure while allowing them the chance to experience independent living. For those who have completed treatment but are in need of continued support, sober living can serve as a valuable transitional step. Women in recovery can live together in a safe, sober environment while attending classes or working. The home is managed by a house manager and residents are assigned responsibilities to assist with the upkeep of the household. In addition, clients are expected to contribute to housing costs by paying for groceries or utilities.
While clients in sober living homes are able to experience more independent living, the home provides structure by establishing curfews, expectations, and rules regarding sobriety. Residents continue to engage in group and individual therapy sessions in order to address stressors, triggers, and other obstacles clients face in the real world. This provides residents with a safe environment in which to maintain sobriety with the support of other sober peers.
Gender-specific treatment and housing is vital to successful sobriety. Gender-specific experiences play a significant role in the development of addiction and substance abuse patterns. In order to provide women with the most effective treatment, therapy and housing that caters to women-specific needs provides them with the resources they need to achieve and maintain sobriety. Regardless of individual experience, the establishment of a strong, sober, female network can help women overcome the unique challenges they face in recovery.