The Benefits of Gender-Specific Treatment

By March 26, 2024May 2nd, 2024Gender-Specific Treatment
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What is Gender-Specific Treatment?

Treatment of drug and alcohol addiction can be significantly more effective when women and men are separated into same-sex cohorts, sort of like all-boys or all-girls schools.

Being placed in a cohort of peers of your same-sex has many positive impacts on recovery, especially for women.

When sharing vulnerably about the deep hurts that give rise to self-damaging behaviors, it is helpful to be among our gender, at least for certain chapters and phases of our recovery lives.

Gender-specific treatment programs like Villa Kali Ma’s are built to take into account the differences in life experiences that generally exist between men and women.

For example, many more women than men have experienced sexual assault, incest, and childhood sexual abuse. Certain co-occurring mental health issues, like self-harm and eating disorders, occur more frequently in women, as well.

Independent of specific trauma history or diagnosis, each woman has a personal understanding of what it’s like to be a woman in a man’s world, and all that that entails for us. Likewise, many topics that affect men would be harder for men to share in the presence of women.

Recovery thrives in an environment of sisterly or brotherly love, rather than romantic, sexual, or even marital love, which tends to be more complicated and fraught. The cure for the loneliness of addiction is in fellowship, belonging to a community of peers.

For women in early recovery, our complicated feelings, wounds, desires, and preoccupations about the opposite sex get in the way of our ability to focus on recovery. Wounds around the topic of men are present for women who are not attracted to them as sexual partners, too. (Though the LGBTQ+ community may find they feel even greater support among similarly-identifying recovering addicts. There are LGBTQ+ specific AA meetings offered in many cities for this purpose, which can be attended as supplemental support).

In sum, it is generally more protective for women starting or restarting their healing path to be in an all-female space, where they can learn what it’s like to be supported as a woman, by women.

What are the benefits of gender specific treatment?


Gender-specific treatment offers many benefits that positively support treatment goals like sobriety, healing of traumatization, and stabilization of mental health.

Gender-specific treatment is usually more tailored and more customizable to each woman’s experience and has special recognition of the types of underlying issues that feed into an addiction pattern.

1. Addresses Gender Specific Topics

In the case of women, sexual trauma is a huge topic, so a gender specific treatment program will be ready to address the sexual traumatization that is so likely to be a factor.

Topics like motherhood, financial independence, and domestic violence are also of high importance in gender specific treatment for women.

In general, women often have safety needs to address and are vulnerable in a way that is specific to women.

Facilities that are dedicated exclusively to the treatment of women, like Villa Kali Ma, will naturally focus more on topics that are important for women to be safe and to recover their power to protect, love, and care for themselves.

2. Improved Relatability About Substance Use

One key part of recovery is shared experience, and relating to one another. Through the mechanism of holding up a mirror to each other, we are able to recognize the presence and influence of addiction affecting us.

For an addict starting her recovery, it’s important to hear many stories in which we recognize ourselves. When we have that “Yeah, me too” moment, that relating is what helps build the bond of community connection.

The bond of relating not only helps us feel less alone but helps us recognize the real danger of the foe we are collectively facing, in part through seeing it reflected in another person’s life. Through this mechanism of relating to one another about a specific kind of experience, we can also be spared many tragedies that might have affected our lives too, if we kept going with our disease.

For women who are sober now, it’s an important part of staying sober to regularly hear about, and bear compassionate witness to, the pain and negative consequences affecting another woman because of alcohol or drugs. In this way we also remember the adage, “There for the grace for God go I”- that could be me, too, if it weren’t for my sobriety.

In the case of recovery from drugs and alcohol, men and women tend to have rather different patterns of use. A lot of times men and women won’t relate to each other as strongly, in terms of shared experiences and recognition of addiction at work in our lives.

Generally, women’s substance abuse may appear to be less overtly, and problematic than men’s, as it tends to be less externalized in visible ways. Men are twice as likely to engage in binge drinking than women. Women are less likely to become violent when they drink, to get in physical fights or car crashes than men are.

While men often relate to using drugs or alcohol to deal with issues relating to anger and aggression, women may relate more to using drugs and alcohol specifically as a way to cope with fear, panic, and anxiety (a disorder that is diagnosed much more often in women than men). Women are also more likely to become addicted to prescriptions that suppress the symptoms of anxiety and trauma, such as sedatives.

In the end, these differences can impact the ability to relate and recognize addiction at play in one’s own life, and to also connect to the emotions, thoughts, and stories that are shared in recovery circles.

Being in a group of women who all know what it is like to be addicted to substances and to face the many challenges specifically associated with being a woman in this world, can powerfully amplify the feeling of unity.

3. Better Relatability in General

Beyond relating about the actual patterns of use – sharing stories like “I once did this while under the influence…” – it’s also an important part of recovery to just deeply relate to the underlying emotions, thought patterns, and even societal roles we have borne because these wounds and burdens are directly related to how and why we use substances.

Here again, men and women are different, facing different kinds of challenges and using different strategies for coping. For example, only women know what pregnancy is like, how menstruation affects our mood, and how important emotions and close bonds of relationship are to our sense of identity.

Only women know first-hand the special pain associated with being valued primarily for our appearances. Women experience the invisibility around emotional nurturing we tend to provide automatically for others. Women who have tried their hand at leadership or competing in a male-dominated field understand the ways that women’s authority is resisted in the world.

Among women we understand better the special challenges of dual roles, having to be sexually attractive to all men, and participate in sex whether we want to or not, but on the other hand not be too promiscuous or sexually empowered. We know what it is like to be groomed from birth to be tolerant of all manner of body boundary breaches, and yet never, under any circumstances, be seen getting angry.

The wounds that exist in women’s relationships with each other – the hidden competition, the mean girl social trauma we may carry, tend to be largely comprehended only by another woman, who knows just what we’re talking about.

All in all, certain aspects of a woman’s path to healing may be best supported by a period of time spent in a communal healing effort, by and for women.

Villa Kali Ma Offers Gender Specific Treatment for Addiction, Trauma, and Mental Illness


At Villa Kali Ma, our treatment programs are all gender-specific. We exist specifically to serve women.

We specialize in healing, re-empowering, unearthing joy, and restoring the rights of all women, everywhere, to be our true selves here in this world, freed from the heartbreaking pain of addiction, trauma, and mental illness.

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