Gender matters. The social, emotional, physical and psychological differences between men and women create different risk factors for the development of substance use disorders, and lead each to treatment for different reasons and with different goals in mind. Women are more likely to enter treatment if they do not need to leave their children behind, for example, and if they are able to remain in treatment with their children, they are more likely to stay. The social value placed by women on relationships (which appears to have a physiological basis as well as a social one) renders attention to relationships a critical component of treatment.
Programs that have tailored their assessments, treatment plans and services to the gender-specific needs of women have the opportunity to be designated as women’s gender specific treatment programs. Requirements to provide women’s gender-specific treatment include groups and education aimed at dealing with relationships, parenting, women’s health, treatment services delivered at times that are convenient for women with child-rearing responsibility or for women who work and take care of children. Case management is a critical component of service delivery, and outreach is necessary to assist women in attending treatment. Specific services such as child care, transportation, primary health care for women and their children, issue-specific treatment such as counseling for domestic violence or mental health treatment for trauma or childhood sexual abuse are also made available.
The most recent addition to the field of women’s gender specific treatment is the Family Centered Treatment for Women model, described in Family-Centered Treatment for Women with Substance Use Disorders: History, Key Elements and Challenges. As described in this document, treatment centers on the family as a whole, rather than singling out individual family members for intervention and then including family members wherever possible. Here, children are treated together with their parents when they can be and when the program model allows, and the family’s treatment plan includes services for each individual family member in addition to the services provided to the family as a whole.
1. About Women’s Gender - Specific Treatment For Substance Use Disorders.
2. Women's Services: Contact List.
3. Colorado’s Protocol: Improving Services to Families
Strategies for Substance Abuse Treatment, Child Welfare, and Dependency Court: A Guide for Counties, Service Providers and Judicial Districts in Colorado.