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Women-Only Rehab Programs

Women often face unique challenges when struggling with addiction, and may respond better to specialized drug and alcohol addiction rehab.

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Women oftentimes face unique struggles when dealing with addiction, yet also face distinct barriers to receiving treatment.1,2 According to a report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women are often more likely than men to face multiple barriers and might be less likely to seek substance use treatment.1. 2This may be at least partly due to a woman’s unique needs and concerns when it comes to addiction and treatment, such as relationship and family needs, societally established gender roles, sexual identity, pregnancy and parenting, interpersonal violence, and history of trauma. Co-occurring disorders such as anxiety disorders, traumatic stress reactions and PTSD, eating disorders, and depression often appear more commonly in women, too.2

Although more research is needed to definitively state if gender-specific rehab for women is more beneficial, studies tend to support same-sex groups as being more beneficial than mixed-gender groups for women.2  taking into account modern research and treatment methodologies along with the unique concerns of women, these programs may be able to help some women achieve recovery.3 Understanding how women’s rehab programs work, what they entail, and how to find them at a nearby location can help you or a loved one find treatment.

Women and Addiction

Substance use can affect women in different ways than it does men. Some research indicates that gender and biological differences can impact a variety of issues related to addiction, such as:3

  • Risk factors.
  • Relapse potential.
  • Biological effects of addiction.
  • Psychological issues.
  • Treatment engagement.
  • Retention rates.

One of the key factors is that female bodies often are affected by and process substances differently from men.3 Women may experience different brain changes than men when they use substances.4 Women also often progress faster from their initial substance use to the development of addiction.3 Therefore, they tend to develop substance use disorders (SUDs) faster than men.

Social and relationship issues can also impact women and addiction. For example, relationships often play a more important role in many women’s lives than men. 3 Family history may have a more significant impact on the initiation of a woman’s substance use. Women who have alcohol use disorders are more likely to report having relatives with substance use problems or other dysfunctional family patterns.3

Women are often more likely to use substances if they are victims of domestic violence or go through a divorce, lose custody of their kids, or lose a partner.4 Women who use substances are more likely to have a romantic partner who uses substances and who may inject substances and be more likely to share needles with them, possibly as a form of intimacy.3 Finally, women who use certain substances might be more likely to develop certain co-occurring mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or panic attacks, which can affect the course of their addiction.4

Co-Occurring Disorders in Women

Many women who struggle with a substance use disorder (SUD), the clinical term for addiction, may also struggle with a co-occurring mental health disorder.3 The term co-occurring disorder means that a person has a mental health condition and a SUD at the same time.3

Research indicates that, in general, women with SUDs more often meet the criteria for:3

  • Depressive symptoms.
  • Agoraphobia with or without panic attacks.
  • Posttraumatic stress.
  • Eating disorders.

Women also experience trauma and violence more than men, all of which can impact the course of addiction and recovery.3

Why Women May Avoid Going To Rehab

There is a wide range of socioeconomic and medical factors that may act as barriers that keep women from seeking treatment. Reports indicate that women tend to face more obstacles when seeking treatment, have a lower economic status, have a higher rate of trauma and violence, and suffer from higher levels of societal stigma due to substance use.3 They are also often less likely than men to be able to pay out-of-pocket for treatment.3

Significant relationships in a woman’s life, including romantic relationships and other adult family members, can substantially impact a woman when it comes to seeking treatment, support for recovery, and potential for relapse.3 Pregnancy, parenting, and caring for children can play a role in addiction and recovery issues as well. On the one hand, women may be more likely to engage in treatment as a way of protecting their unborn child or children, but many pregnant women resume using substances once their child is born.3

Women are also more likely to be custodial parents. Consequently, they may require more assistance when it comes to transportation, affordable and safe housing, onsite child care, and other services for their children during drug rehab for women.3 They can also suffer from a lack of family or interpersonal support and are more likely to be impacted by these concerns than men who seek treatment.3

Specialized Rehab Women-Only Programs

Specialized treatment exists because many women benefit from a unique approach that considers both their individual needs and gender-specific concerns.3  They often require a more supportive, strengths-based, and trauma-informed approach that focuses on building trusting relationships with counselors and others in treatment and that takes into account their biological needs and social and cultural roles.3

Some common treatment types of treatment settings for women’s treatment programs may include:

  • Detox. Medical detox is often the first step in the recovery process. It helps you safely and comfortably withdraw from substances so you can become medically stable. It is considered an important first step to prepare you for further treatment.5
  • Inpatient Rehab. You live onsite at an addiction treatment center for women and receive 24/7 support and care. You receive services depending on your unique needs. Your treatment will be designed to address not only your addiction but may also treat any co-occurring disorders you may also have. Inpatient rehab is well-suited for people with more severe addictions and/or serious co-occurring disorders or those who lack supportive family, friends, or safe work/home environments.5
  • Outpatient Rehab. You live at home and travel to a treatment center on a regular schedule. You participate in different forms of individual and group therapy with other women and receive different services based on your needs. Outpatient rehab can be beneficial for people with reliable transportation, adequate social support, and stable home environments.5
  • Aftercare, or continuing care. Since recovery is a lifelong process, many women benefit from ongoing forms of support to help them stay sober and avoid relapse. Aftercare can include different types of continuing treatment, such as individual counseling, telehealth services (such as regular phone check-ins with a counselor), or mutual support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA).3, 6

During treatment at a rehab facility for women, you may receive different types of therapies and services, such as:

  • Individual psychotherapy. You work one-on-one with a counselor to set goals and work through issues related to the addiction, often using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) principles.6, 7 You might also participate in different individual therapies, such as motivational enhancement therapy (MET), to help increase your motivation to change.8
  • Group therapy. You receive different types of therapies in group settings, such as psychoeducation, skills development, or group sessions based on CBT principles. You may also receive supportive therapies where you can talk about difficult issues with other women in treatment.9 This can include topics which can be more challenging to talk about when men are present, such as violence or relationship issues.3
  • MAT, or medications for addiction treatment. This approach involves a combination of medication and behavioral therapies to treat addiction to certain substances, such as alcohol or opioids.10
  • Community support services. This might include different forms of support, such as transportation, childcare services, vocational training, or educational services.3
  • Trauma-informed treatment services. Women who are victims of violence, whether interpersonal, sexual, or other types of trauma may benefit from trauma-informed treatment and therapy services.3 Trauma-informed treatment services seek to take into account the role that violence and trauma may play in the development of a substance use disorder, and how addressing trauma can lead to a stronger recovery.3

Pregnancy and Substance Use

Pregnant women who use alcohol or drugs can suffer from many effects that can impact reproduction, pregnancy, and childbirth.2 Programs designed for pregnant women or new mothers can help them find recovery by providing different types of supports, such as parenting skills programs or educational programs about the effects of alcohol, drug, and tobacco use on pregnant women and their fetuses.2, 3

This may help pregnant women become motivated to enter and remain in recovery.2 They can also benefit from a safe and supportive environment to talk about stress or anxiety related to their pregnancy.3 Other treatment pregnant women may receive can include methadone or buprenorphine maintenance if they are addicted to opioids, which can help improve fetal outcomes.2, 11

How to Find Rehab Centers for Women

If you are struggling with substance use and are interested in finding a drug rehab center for women, you can start by talking to your doctor to discuss your situation and possibly receive a referral. You can also search treatment facilities across the country using SAMHSA’s Treatment Locator.

Addiction helplines can also be a useful resource to help you learn more about the treatment process and find rehabs for women. If you are interested in learning more about rehab, please call American Addiction Centers’ free and confidential helpline at any time of day or night. Our caring admissions navigators can answer your questions and provide more information about addiction treatment for women.