Recovery for many is the beginning of a long journey that winds through an individual’s darkest moments; many studies have affirmed that over 70% of those in addiction treatment have experienced physical, psychological, or sexual abuse.
Because of the overwhelming prevalence of trauma in those seeking treatment, the field of addiction studies has recently encouraged more personalized and gender-specific programs to better assist individuals with whatever unique problems they may have encountered throughout their lifetime.
Gender-specific addiction treatment, at its most basic level, is the acknowledgment that there are cultural differences between women and men regarding substance abuse.
Gender Differences in Addiction and Substance Abuse
Gender is a strong predictor of one’s likelihood of relapse and substance of choice.
Some common distinctions with gender and addiction are:
- Men are more likely to report abusing alcohol while women more often abuse prescription medications.
- Men commonly begin abusing illicit substances at a younger age while women often begin drinking before men do.
- The symptoms of withdrawals present themselves differently between men and women. Each requires different methods to address different issues in their addictions.
A key issue that anyone entering recovery must come to terms is the reason they began using in the first place. Again, there is a clear difference between women and men that has been demonstrated by many studies. Although this may seem common sense, most recovery facilities of recent history have utilized somewhat of a “one-size-fits-all” approach to recovery.
Gender Differences in Rehab Treatment
Regardless of one’s gender, it is important for anyone seeking treatment to feel safe addressing deep-seated traumas and difficult emotions.
At Oregon Trail Recovery, our team will work with patients to determine where they feel most comfortable, to set them up in a treatment program most beneficial to their recovery journey.
Men’s Substance Abuse Treatment Environment
For men, it is often difficult to express emotions surrounding past romantic interests, personal doubts concerning masculinity, and to admit weakness in front of women. The phrase “in a perfect world” is often batted around concerning men’s ability to demonstrate vulnerability but in recovery, we are all well aware that there is no such thing as a perfect world. So in lieu of that hypothetical space, it can be surmised that men entering treatment would receive the best care if they were to have their recovery tailored to their specific gender.
Although many would have a tough time admitting it, most men are seeking a safe space for their internal exploration. In order to do so, men need a strong fellowship that will encourage this exploration. For most men, that forceful nudge can only come from another man.
From my perspective, it seems extremely difficult for a man to be explicitly vulnerable around women. I do not think this is a conscious decision; for hundreds of years, Western Society has encouraged men to be stone-faced protectors of women. This carries with it an addiction stigma for men. So when men enter into treatment, are tossed into an unfamiliar space accompanied by a lot of stress, it makes sense that some men fall back into old habits of imagining themselves as a savior of women, one who must put the needs of the female before his own. This leads men to “showing out” while in the presence of women and lose interest regarding self-exploration.
A Men’s Drug Rehab Program could help provide that safe space for self-exploration and recovery.
Substance Abuse Treatment for Women
Women who seek treatment for substance abuse issues often have troubled histories in regards to security, whether it be physical, psychological, or financial. Due to this history and the fact that often women have their security violated by men, it is important that women entering recovery can do so in a manner in which they feel safe.
In my experience, I have witnessed women avoid certain topics in order to make men feel more comfortable. During group sessions, I have witnessed women tiptoe around important traumatizing matters as well as play down their significance. Examples of this are women who have been physically abused by their husbands will say, “He roughed me up a bit”, women who have been sexually assaulted while intoxicated will say, “Yeah it’s not right but I didn’t exactly help myself by being in the state”, and women who were raised by emotionally abusive fathers will say, “He only yelled at me when I deserved it.”
As a man, I recognize my limitation in regard to helping women work through these issues. I too may be why some women cannot express themselves freely in the manner that best reflects their reality. I still do my best to guide female clients towards becoming more comfortable with speaking about their trauma with people and in a setting that they are comfortable with.
A specific Women’s Drug Rehab Program can offer that safe, comfortable, and supportive atmosphere in which to heal.
Finding the Right Program
Although gender-specific treatment is preferred it is not yet the norm; due to limited resources of facilities, men and women are often housed together or at the very least attend group meetings together. In these facilities and groups, it is crucial to have experienced staff that is astute enough to notice when someone is feeling uncomfortable and forthright in their mannerisms and speech to convey the importance of respecting people’s boundaries.
Until the recovery field’s infrastructure has time to catch up to what research shows to be best practices, it is primarily on counselors and house managers to ensure that those entering recovery receive gender-specific treatment. Nonetheless, once in recovery, it is important for folks to seek out a therapist of the same gender, or at the very least, one who allows the person in treatment to feel free to speak their mind all the time.
Finding the Right Program
At Oregon Trail Recovery, our priority is to provide a safe and open environment for patients to get the help they need. To ensure our patients feel comfortable during their journey to recovery, we offer both co-ed and gender-specific rehab programs for men and women.