Gender-Specific Treatment

women and a childEffective treatment must be tailored to the unique needs of the individual’s gender, cultural identity, and sexual orientation. Gender differences exist in rates of substance use and dependence, which require consideration of the biological and social influences of development of a substance use disorder. Treatment should be responsive to the unique needs of women and men, such as providing a counselor of the same gender when possible. Gender-based and culturally responsive approaches should also take into consideration the unique and multiple roles of both women and men.

The following materials provide an overview of the general best practice guidelines for providing gender-specific treatment for substance use disorders.

Contact us at ncsacw@cffutures.org or 1(866) 493-2758 to learn more about best practices for providing gender-specific treatment.

Policy and Practice Resources

  • White Paper: Opioid Use, Misuse, and Overdose in Women
  • White Paper: Opioid Use, Misuse, and Overdose in Women (PDF 1.17 MB)
    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, 2016

    This resource explores what is currently known about the opioid epidemic and describes promising practices for addressing opioid use disorder prevention and treatment for women and identifies areas that are less well understood and may warrant further study.
  • TIP 51—Substance Abuse Treatment: Addressing the Specific Needs of Women
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2015

    This Treatment Improvement Protocol assists treatment providers in offering treatment to adult women with substance use disorders. It reviews gender-specific research and best practices, such as common patterns of initiation of substance use among women and specific treatment issues and strategies.
  • TIP 56: Addressing the Specific Behavioral Health Needs of Men
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014

    This Treatment Improvement Protocol addresses the specific treatment needs of adult men with substance use disorders. It reviews gender-specific research and best practices, such as common patterns of initiation of substance use among men and specific treatment issues and strategies.
  • TIP 56: Addressing the Specific Behavioral Health Needs of Men
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014

    This Treatment Improvement Protocol addresses the specific treatment needs of adult men with substance use disorders. It reviews gender-specific research and best practices, such as common patterns of initiation of substance use among men and specific treatment issues and strategies.

Additional Resources

  • Helping Women Recover: A Program for Treating Addiction
    Stephanie S. Covington, 2008

    This manual is a revised edition of Dr. Covington’s innovative, evidence-based program that integrates theories of women’s psychological development, trauma, and addiction to meet the needs of women with addictive disorders.

Related Research Articles

Brook, J. (2014). Clinician perspectives on relationship, therapeutic strategy, and gender responsiveness in child welfare substance abuse settings.Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 14(4), 359-377.

Choi, S., Adams, S. M., Morse, S. A., & MacMaster, S. (2015). Gender differences in treatment retention among individuals with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders. Substance Use & Misuse, 50(5), 653-663.

Einbinder, S. D. (2010). A qualitative study of exodus graduates: Family-focused residential substance abuse treatment as an option for mothers to retain or regain custody and sobriety in Los Angeles, CA. Child Welfare, 89(4), 29-45.

Greenfield, S. F., Back, S. E., Lawson, K., & Brady, K. T. (2010). Substance abuse in women. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 33(2), 339-355.

Guerrero, E. G., Marsh, J. C., Cao, D., Shin, H. C., & Andrews, C. (2014).Gender disparities in utilization and outcome of comprehensive substance abuse treatment among racial/ethnic groups. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 46(5), 584-559.

Icenhower, K. (2015). The SHIELDS for families “Exodus” programme. In Liquori, A., & Lucas, J. (Eds). Promoting a gender responsive approach to addiction, 346-351. Turin, Italy: UNICRI Publication No. 104.

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