6 Benefits of Gender-Specific Therapy Sessions During Addiction Treatment

gender-specific therapy in addiction treatment

Men and women experience addiction differently and have varying unique needs when it comes to treatment. While some treatment facilities are gender-specific, treating only one gender at a time, most addiction treatment centers in the United States are co-ed, meaning they will treat both men and women. Facilities that are co-ed acknowledge that addiction affects the two genders differently, so many offer gender-specific therapy sessions to address the unique issues men and women face.

Gender-specific therapy sessions involve small or large groups of only men or only women. These sessions are designed to promote a safe, secure, and understanding environment for healing. Here are 5 key benefits of using gender-specific therapy sessions in addiction treatment.

1. Increased Comfort

Both men and women may feel uneasy when sharing intimate life experiences such as trauma, grief and loss, or mental health with the opposite gender. Getting vulnerable with a group of people who are the same gender provides an increased level of comfort due to shared experiences and societal pressures. 

Comfort is essential when it comes to therapy and counseling because comfort encourages honesty and transparency, both of which are essential components of the healing process. If clients don’t feel comfortable in a therapeutic setting, they won’t be able to benefit as much from the session, and can get held back from growth.

2. Peer Understanding and Support

Another key component of addiction recovery is peer support. While people can gain support from the opposite gender, same-gender support is more powerful due to shared life experiences and culture. Men and women may not understand everything the other gender goes through, but women can support women and men can support men fully and whole-heartedly.

Gender-specific therapy sessions also promote the popular 12-Step idea of “Men with men and women with women.” This idea often refers to sponsorship, as members of 12-Step fellowships typically work with a sponsor who is the same gender.

3. Address Gender-Specific Issues

Men and women often have differing gender-specific issues that inspired their addiction and brought them to treatment. For example, women are more likely to go to treatment after being encouraged to do so by family members and are more likely to struggle with a co-occurring mental health condition. Men, on the other hand, typically start treatment later and experience addiction longer. 

Clients receive more individually tailored care by allocating more time for gender-specific issues. They can also address issues that affect men or women differently without fear of being judged or misunderstood by the opposite gender.

4. Discuss Sensitive Topics Openly

Healing from addiction means healing from trauma, coping with mental health, and overcoming negative perspectives. However, that also means therapy must address sensitive topics surrounding trauma, mental health, and personal beliefs. 

There are certain sensitive topics that one gender may not feel comfortable talking about with the other gender. For example, women who have been the victims of domestic violence or abuse at the hands of a male partner may feel uncomfortable discussing their trauma in front of men. On the other hand, men struggling with mental health issues may be fearful of being viewed as “weak” or “unmasculine” if they discuss these personal issues with women. 

One of the greatest benefits of gender-specific therapy sessions during addiction treatment is that they provide both men and women with a safe space to discuss potentially sensitive issues openly and honestly. This kind of environment cultivates true healing and recovery.

5. More Focused, Individually-Tailored Care

Between having more time to focus on gender-specific issues, creating a safe environment for sensitive topics, and increasing client comfort, there are many advantages of women’s-only and men’s-only therapy groups. Another benefit is that the use of gender-specific care facilitates more focused, individually-tailored care.

Rather than spending time in treatment focusing on issues that don’t pertain to one gender, gender-specific groups get to focus more time on the most pertinent issues at hand. This also gives therapists more time to dive deep into issues affecting individual clients.

6. Fewer Distractions

In early recovery, it is vital that clients are focused on their physical and mental health, self-improvement, and personal growth. Clients are encouraged to put 100% of their effort into their therapy sessions. However, for some, being in a group with members of the opposite gender can be distracting. This type of distraction can hinder a person’s growth and recovery. 

By removing the opposite gender from therapy sessions, unnecessary distractions are also removed.

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