What Does a Gender-Specific Treatment Approach Look Like?

Gender-specific addiction treatment offers separate programming for men and women, taking a tailored approach in order to explore key issues around the root causes of addiction for each gender.

While treatment follows a similar path, it’s modified to account for the shared experiences that men and women face, making group programming more effective in dealing with these issues. For example, while both men and women receive evidence-based techniques to cope with addiction, women are often the primary caregivers for children, and they need support for these relationships.

How a Gender-Specific Treatment Program Can Address the Root Causes of Addiction

Individuals with addiction and substance use disorders experience shame, which can be a fundamental barrier to receiving help. How shame is processed and expressed can be different for men and women, and treatment programs can accommodate for this to help break down those barriers.

Women tend to navigate family dynamics and relationships, and a key source of trauma is abuse from men. As a result, women can feel highly vulnerable with little control over their lives, having a history of not putting themselves first and taking on roles that give them little sense of self.

Shame surfaces as wanting to hide oneself, and addiction behaviours can help cope with a life that does not feel satisfying. Treatment programming emphasizes self-esteem and self-compassion to address self-judgement.

On the other hand, men deal with shame differently, often reacting aggressively instead of turning inward. To address this, treatment programming for males also includes an anger management component.

Each of these program components—self-compassion, anger management—can be offered regardless of gender, and it’s important to note that self-deprecation and anger are not innate, gender-based responses.

Instead, it’s often part of social conditioning for men and women, and gender-based treatment can anticipate specific challenges that come from this conditioning in order to create a more effective treatment approach.

The Most Significant Benefit of Gender-Based Addiction Treatment: Developing Meaningful Relationships

One of the single most important benefits of gender-specific addiction treatment is that the client creates meaningful relationships with others in the program.

For example, sexual abuse is one of the common roots of substance abuse for women, and these experiences are often relegated to secrecy; in the group environment, it may be the first time a client has the opportunity to share their experience in a safe and trusting environment.

Developing meaningful relationships with other women can be a watershed moment—it may be the first meaningful relationship with another woman that a client develops, and it provides an opportunity for them to see themselves in other women, thriving and progressing through treatment and recovery.

For men, being in a gender-specific environment can remove the competitive and performative behaviours that can emerge amongst males in the company of women. This change often leads to the ability to develop deep connections with other men, sometimes for the first time in a male client’s life.

It’s Good to Have the Option

Though it can be significantly helpful for some, not every person entering addiction treatment requires a gender-specific facility or programming.

To explore if it may be right for you or someone you care about, read Is Gender-Specific Addiction Treatment Right For You?.

​​How Ledgehill’s Gender-Based Treatment Programs Can Help You

Ledgehill’s two facilities in Annapolis County, Nova Scotia, provide gender-specific treatment for men and women who need to heal in a peaceful, supportive environment free from fear or distraction. If you’d like to learn more about the addiction and mental health treatment programs provided by Ledgehill, enrol yourself in one of our programs, or refer someone else, please call us at 1-800-676-3393.