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The Transition House, Inc.

Why gender-specific counseling and rehabilitation works 

gender roles in counseling
We all know that men and women have their differences – you know, Mars, Venus, etc. These differences – whether they be emotional, physical, or intellectual – are generally celebrated. They make us unique. So it should come as no surprise that treating men and women for addiction or substance abuse should be approached differently. Although separating men and women may seem unnatural or ineffective (as men and women sharing the same issues must eventually interact in real-world settings), studies have shown that addicts who complete a gender-specific rehabilitation program are significantly
more likely to stay sober once their treatment is complete. Here are a few reasons why gender-specific counseling is most effective for both sexes.

The addiction manifestation is different

The development of addiction amongst men and women is strikingly different. This makes treating both sexes simultaneously nearly impossible. The experience of addiction is unique due to the physiological differences in men and women. Typically women are of smaller stature than males, but they are consuming the same amount of substances, therefore developing a higher tolerance and becoming addicted faster than males. The estrogen in women's bodies also plays a part in the development of addiction. Estrogen causes the pleasure receptors in the brain to react more positively when using addictive substances.  Gender-specific therapy is important for these physiological differences. Doctors are able to treat men and women with the specific tools needed.

A sense of community

Addicts often times isolate themselves when abusing substances. It is important for the recovery process for individuals to develop a sense of community among ex-addicts. This would be challenging if both men and women were in the same therapy groups.  Studies have shown that friendships between men and women rarely stay platonic.  During this time, individuals should be focused on their recovery. Romantic relationships can be a distraction during a very unpredictable time in an ex-addict's life.

Limiting Distractions

This builds off of the last point. During the recovery process, men and women will seek outside stimuli in the absence of addiction. Therefore, sexual or romantic relationships amongst recovering addicts is not unusual. These relationships serve as a distraction from treatment and can leave individuals unequipped for the realities of sobriety. By separating the sexes, rehabilitation centers limit the amount of time or effort addicts may put into seeking out a relationship. Instead, they can focus entirely on their recovery.

Freedom to share

Arguably one of the most important aspects of the recovery process is sharing intimate details of your addiction. Men or women may be unable to do so if they feel judged or unsafe.  Each sex has very different experiences during their periods of addiction. Women are more susceptible to emotional or physical abuse, which, sadly, can lead to rape or unwanted pregnancy. On the other hand, men are often faced with more legal or financial issues.  Women may feel uncomfortable sharing these details with males due to their past experiences with men. Men might not experience this amount of trauma, but might feel unable to reveal their true deep emotions in front of women. "Masculine” male societal expectations can keep men from emotionally opening up in front of the opposite sex.

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