What is gender-specific programming?
How addiction affects genders differently.
Benefits Of Gender-Specific Programming
Males and females use drugs differently and face different impediments while in addiction healing. Gender-specific programming addresses these differences and allows the genders to recover in safe and supportive environments.
Effective Treatment for this varied population should contain individualized programs to effectively address symptom severity and skills deficiency, treatment interventions in phases, individualized service plans, and various treatment approaches and linkages. Confidentially problems, parallel treatments, funding limitations, and a lack of gender-specific research are barriers to providing effective Treatment to the co-occurring disorders population. Despite obstacles to the Dual Diagnosis Program, treatment facilitators plan to keep the program going and considering additional treatment options and solutions to provide a wide range of gender-specific treatment options to the co-occurring disorders population.
What is gender-specific programming?
Gender-specific addiction programming refers to those alcohol and drugs abuse treatments designed to treat men and women separately specifically. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), there are fundamental biological, social and cultural differences between men and women in substance addictions. Gender differences exist in dependence rates, substance choice, and how the brain responds to substance abuse. Studies also demonstrate that women and men have different reasons for substance abuse in the first place and other circumstances that result in relapse. Gender-specific programming is sensitive to all of these issues and addresses each of the sexes' requirements in comfortable and supportive environments.
How addiction affects both genders differently.
Both men and women experience substance abuse differently. National data shows that gender is an essential factor to consider when examining substance abuse patterns, including overall prevalence rates and substance preference.
For example, men are more likely than women to report alcohol and marijuana abuse, whereas women are more likely than men to report non-medical use of prescription drugs.
Men and women also differ in terms of why they started using drugs or alcohol in the first place. Men tend to begin engaging in substance abuse because of the assumed benefits they hope to gain from it, such as better concentration, increased sociability, and even improved sex drive/performance. For women, substance abuse is typically associated with abusive relationships, stress or traumatic experiences. Women often turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to self-medicate and escape hurtful or depressing emotions caused by victimization or abuse. A good percentage of women who use drugs or alcohol also have a history of family substance abuse and may start using because their spouse or partner is doing the same.
Another significant discrepancy between men and women abuse is that women often begin using abuse substances at lower doses than men, and their drug use also escalates more quickly into addiction. Women tend to enter Treatment sooner after becoming substance dependent than men, but they present with more co-occurring psychological distress, particularly with more anxiety and mood disorders. Men and women may also have very different feelings about seeking Treatment for drug or alcohol abuse. These differences are substantial and can require specific treatment types to help men and women maintain long-term sobriety after rehabilitation.
In correctional facilities, women reported more significant lifetime major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorder, and borderline personality disorder; men were more likely than women to meet antisocial personality disorder standards. Additionally, female offenders were found to have a higher degree of internalizing disorders than male offenders, but there were no gender differences in the degree of externalizing disorders. The study concluded that women offenders newly admitted to a prison substance abuse program present with a greater psychiatric vulnerability and a different pattern of psychiatric problems than their male counterparts.
Benefits Of Gender-Specific Programming
In addition to differences in substance use, men and women also have different expectations and goals from addiction treatment. Gender-specific programs offer multiple benefits for each gender, and some of these include:
• Specialized treatment for gender-unique physiological, emotional, and relational problems.
• High satisfaction as gender-specific Treatment encourages a sense of trust and bonding among fellow same-sex customers.
• Minimized sexual tension and distractions between male and female patients.
• Supportive gender-sensitive therapy groups that motivate open communication about social and cultural pressures that result in substance abuse and addiction.
Women have their own particular needs separate from men when it comes to pursuing Treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, making women-specific programs a good option for some. Women can communicate with one another regarding motherhood, workplace dynamics, relationships, and family life in a safe and supportive environment.
Women entering Treatment due to addiction after a traumatic event may mainly take advantage of gender-specific programs. Women who have experienced verbal, physical, or sexual assault at the hands of a man/men may not feel safe discussing these events in group therapy, including male patients. Abuse usually involves a women's sense of self-worth and value, and female patients may not feel comfortable communicating these issues in a group with men. Mothers who are suffering from addiction can also take advantage of gender-specific programs. It can be challenging to be away from children during Treatment, but with the support of other women and professionals, female clients can talk about what it means to have lived with addiction while trying to care for their children.
In gender-specific Treatment, women receive unconditional love and support while recovering from addiction. Women can empower one another and build a robust support system in women-specific Treatment that gives them the life skills they need to lead a successful life after they recover.
Men have their own unique needs for addiction treatment, which usually has to do with male cultural roles and stereotypes. Most men frequently feel wary of entering Treatment out of fear of being judged or viewed as weak, and gender-specific programs can help male clients feel more comfortable and accepted. Men also typically require more time than women to open up and voice their struggles or feelings. Therefore, specific therapeutic methods tend to be more helpful to men than women. For example, men react better to treatment methods that address particular thought patterns and behaviours rather than introspection. Gender-specific programs for men cater to men's physiological, psychological, and emotional needs.
Male sexual abuse is another significant issue that gender-specific treatment addresses often overlooked in traditional treatment settings. Sexual abuse is a compassionate issue for men that can be handled more openly and honestly in a single-gender setting. Men-specific treatment programs provide an understanding environment for men to build friendships and develop a lasting recovery support network.
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One of the newest buzzwords in mental health and substance abuse these days is “gender-specific” programming. Most people are talking about our research, programs, training, and therapy for women based on a deeper understanding of women. In the past, it has been assumed that “one size fits all.” One approach was to design all programs for men and women and ignore differences. Another potentially more destructive strategy has been to base research and Treatment on findings of work with men only and not attempt to understand if they also apply to women.
Gender differences: Men and women suffer mental disorders simultaneously; however, the types of conditions differ. Men are more likely to have substance use and antisocial personality disorders. Women are more likely to have anxiety, affective, and somatization disorders.
There are also gender discrepancies in physiological responses to alcohol. Women develop adverse health consequences from the use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs over shorter periods and with lower intake than men. This manifestation results in women entering substance abuse treatment generally the same ages as men, but with more concise histories of substance abuse and more severe effects.
More than men, women minimize their drinking's harmfulness and tend to be supported in their drinking by their spouses. Because of the humiliation attached to female alcoholism, the female alcoholic is likely to seek help from health care professionals rather than from substance abuse programs.
Although men have a greater risk of exposure to many traumatic events, the prevalence of PTSD is higher in women than men in some studies; a difference accounted for women's greater likelihood of developing PTSD after experiencing traumatic events. For example, witnessing violent events that occur to others led to significantly higher rates of PTSD in exposed women than exposed men.
Although men are more often in physically dangerous situations, women are at higher risk as children and adults to be personal violence targets. In a prospective study of female rape victims, 94% of the women met symptom criteria for PTSD within two weeks following the assault. Over time, rates of PTSD decreased, but 47% continued to meet PTSD criteria three months post-rape.
There is some evidence that the link between PTSD and substance abuse may be more vital among women than men:
• Women using alcohol are more likely to be sexually victimized than men.
• Women in outpatient drug abuse treatment are significantly more likely than male participants to report sexual and physical abuse history.
Implications for Treatment Considering the sociocultural context, A traumatic event overpowers one's ability to cope. In working with any group that is generally or often powerless, it is vital to consider their roles, pressures, and even stereotypes reflected in our society.
For women and female children, traumatic events can feed into one's sense of powerlessness, including:
• Physical powerlessness
• Emotional dependence
• Economic dependence
The issue or concept of empowerment is more than a cliche in working with survivors of trauma. Some of the most healing work is around becoming stronger, physically stronger, financially independent, more in control of painful emotions, and building a positive image of oneself as a woman.
It also means it is vital that we look at the role of power in the treatment settings we work in.
• Issues in individual therapy–including male therapist–the female client.
• Issues in substance abuse treatment settings and models emphasize one's powerlessness over substances.
• Issues in mental health or inpatient hospitalization settings, including seclusion issues.
• The context and needs of women's daily lives.
A report from the National Women's Resource Center reviews the recent literature on gender-specific programming and finds that these models have many basic tenets in common. The overarching principle appears to be that comprehensive services and Treatment must be based on understanding the context and needs of women's daily lives. Such services:
• Identify and build on women's strengths;
• Avoid confrontational approaches;
• Teach coping strategies, based on women's experiences, with a willingness to explore women's appraisals of stressful situations;
• Arrange for the daily needs of women, such as childcare;
• Have a strong female presence on staff;
• Promote bonding among women.
Finkelstein (1996) emphasizes the importance of reconceptualizing models for women to understand the importance of relationships in their lives. For example:
• Being married to a person with a substance abuse problem is a more substantial risk factor in developing substance abuse problems for women than men.
• Women with children often avoid substance abuse and homeless services out of legitimate concern that they may lose custody of their children.
• Women are much more likely to be lost because of relationship issues than men.
The substance abuse field has been a leader in understanding that a woman's relationships with her children or substance-abusing partner, for example, can influence both recovery and relapse (Clark, 1999). However, mental health researchers, clinicians, and survivors have informed the field of the impact of abuse on mental health symptoms. Programs for women with dual disorders are coming more and more to see that interventions are only a tiny part of a woman's life. To be successful, she must know the woman concerning herself, her family and her community.
When feeling overwhelmed with the many issues to consider in designing or providing Treatment, trauma, mental health, substance abuse, gender, ethnicity, I find it helpful to follow a simple maxim: Listen to the client. Let the women tell you the realities of their lives and their use to reach recovery. Their voice is our most powerful tool.
Ben Lesser is one of the most sought-after experts in health, fitness and medicine. His articles impress with unique research work as well as field-tested skills. He is a freelance medical writer specializing in creating content to improve public awareness of health topics. We are honored to have Ben writing exclusively for Dualdiagnosis.org.