Special Challenges of Women’s Rehab

A growing number of people are seeking rehab treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Many of these are women, including those with children. Recovery for women requires a different approach than for men.

According to an Elements Behavioral Health post about the special needs of women with substance abuse problems… “Treatment experts agree that substance abuse treatment for women needs to be approached from the perspective that includes the context of the women’s lives. These include her relationships with family, extended family, and support systems, social and economic environment, and the impact of gender and culture”. Here are some of the unique needs of women in recovery from substance abuse.

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Many moms in crisis feel the stigma of addiction more intensely than men. They sense a stronger cultural bias against women addicts than male addiction.

Because of the traditional stereotype imposed on females that they are more docile and self-controlled than their male counterparts, women who become addicted to drugs or alcohol often experience a high degree of shame and guilt, which must be factored in the treatment plan.


Mothers looking for women-focused help must provide childcare for underage children. This can be difficult or expensive if family members or close friends are unable to help.

Moms in rehab also worry about how their children and their friends will perceive them, possibly viewing women with addictions as weak or undeserving of respect. While this is often not the case for kids of addicts, nurturing mothers are concerned about the effects of their addiction on offspring.

Caregiver Duties

Caring for other family members in addition to or in lieu of children is another responsibility to be delegated when women enter rehab. Aging parents, wayward siblings, or extended family relatives who look to the addicted mother for support of any kind will feel her loss.

The mother herself may feel as though she has disappointed or abandoned those who depend on her even casually, adding to her guilt and depression. Cooking, cleaning, and transporting children and loved ones must be delegated to others while in rehab.

Biological Health

In addition to the loss of self-worth and the pressure of family duties, women in rehab must deal with other health conditions beyond addiction. Menstrual cycles, especially if irregular or under treatment for problems such as erratic menses, can complicate treatment scheduling and activities.

Birth control might need consideration depending on whether a woman is using the pill, an IUD, or another method. Women who are pregnant will likely need special attention, depending on which trimester she is in, along with any attending issues or complications.

Mental Health

Addiction treatment sometimes includes a dual diagnosis component since mental health issues are frequently linked to substance abuse problems.

Depression, anxiety, and bipolar are some of the common diagnoses that must be addressed when going through rehab. Although not unique to women, mental health sometimes correlates to family conflicts like domestic violence, sexual abuse, and spousal demands.

For these and other reasons, rehab for women should consider a number of factors that do not directly impact men. We live in a complex society, and women’s roles should not be generalized or downplayed, especially in a life-changing program like addiction rehab.