Guardian IOP 
Gender-Specific Therapeutic Groups

When it comes to alcohol and drug dependency, addiction doesn’t discriminate. Individuals from every demographic can struggle with addiction no matter their age, gender, race, sexual preference, religion or socioeconomic background. Additionally, there’s not a one-size-fits-all addiction treatment program. The programs offered at Guardian Intensive Outpatient consist of a wide variety of treatment methodologies that allow individuals to personalize their recovery to meet their individual needs. This includes gender-specific treatment groups that address the gender-specific needs of each client. Gender-specific therapeutic groups offer clients the opportunity to be vulnerable, discuss challenges specific to their gender and bond with their peers and therapists.

The Importance of Gender-Specific Treatment Groups

In older treatment models, men and women who struggled with addiction were placed in the same treatment programs and participated in the same group sessions. It has since been discovered that addiction presents differently in men and women, and the distinctive experiences of each gender contribute significantly to the development and persistence of substance abuse and dependency. Men and women experience a unique set of challenges when it comes to addiction recovery, and it has been found that each gender has varying experiences while active in addiction. For this reason, gender-specific treatment groups are extremely important. At Guardian IOP we offer male and female treatment groups so that each of our clients gets the most possible out of his or her addiction recovery experience.

There are numerous benefits to gender-specific treatment groups, including the ability to focus on gender-specific issues and challenges, the elimination of unnecessary distractions that can occur between members of the opposite sex and an increased level of comfortability in discussing personal experiences openly and honestly in a group setting. Over the course of our intensive outpatient program, clients undergo individual and group therapy sessions while actively developing the relapse prevention and life skills necessary to maintain sobriety for years to come. Clients learn how to effectively communicate with one another, offer peer support and forge meaningful, healthy relationships.

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Why Gender-Specific Groups are Needed

There is growing research seeking to identify underlying mechanisms and causes for neurological disorders, such as addiction. According to experts in the field, the circumstances, events and thought processes that contribute to the development of a substance abuse disorder are different for women and men, which is why gender-specific groups are crucial for individuals to receive the individualized care they need to recover.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, substance use disorders generally progress very differently for women than they do for men. Women have shown to begin abusing substances at much lower doses than men, but women increase or escalate dosage much more rapidly than men. Additionally, women have shown greater rates of relapse than men after an initial period of sobriety. Women tend to become physically and psychologically dependent on substances more quickly than their male counterparts, and they often enter substance abuse treatment with additional underlying issues, such as eating disorders or other mental health concerns. However, there are more men than women currently in treatment for a substance abuse disorder. This is partially because of the traditional matriarchal role that women often feel obligated to fulfill. Women often believe they cannot leave their families for any extended period of time, even when it comes to seeking the professional addiction treatment they so desperately need.

On the other hand, men face a unique set of challenges when it comes to openly seeking professional substance abuse treatment. Many men feel as if they should be able to handle their own affairs without assistance. The social construct of masculinity and the related set of behaviors, attributes and roles associated with masculinity, can prevent men from seeking the help they need. Many men grow up believing that asking for help is a sign of weakness, therefore they avoid seeking treatment and work to hide the fact (from themselves and from their families and peers) that they cannot overcome addiction on their own.

These unique, gender-specific challenges (in addition to many others) contribute to the need for gender-specific treatment groups during every phase of the long-term addiction recovery process.

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Gender Needs in Addiction Treatment

Although rates of addiction tend to be higher for men than women, there are a number of other statistics that illustrate the differences in men’s and women’s treatment needs when in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. For instance, women who suffer from major depression are seven times more likely to also suffer from alcoholism than women who do not suffer from major depression. In fact, symptoms of depression, anxiety, eating disorders and borderline personality disorder tend to be significantly common among women suffering from substance abuse disorders.

Research also tends to show, however, that women tend to experience shorter periods of active addiction before seeking treatment. They are also prone to higher rates of relapse and repeat rehabilitation. On the other hand, men suffer from alcohol and drug dependency at higher rates and tend to be more reluctant to seek treatment. Men are two to three times more likely to abuse a chemical substance than women. Men, more so than women, also tend to be poly-drug users, meaning they use multiple substances at the same time.

Women’s Addiction Treatment Groups

Many women who suffer at the hands of a substance abuse disorder have also been diagnosed with an additional mental health concern. For this reason, it is essential that women are placed in recovery programs that focus on dual diagnosis treatment. It is crucial that both substance abuse and mental health disorders are treated simultaneously, improving the likelihood of long-term success in recovery. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, women are more likely to suffer from mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. Because women tend to be more vulnerable to sexual abuse, domestic violence and numerous other forms of trauma, the most effective therapeutic group sessions offer women the opportunity to discuss these topics openly.

Female-specific topics we cover in our therapeutic group sessions include:

  • The impact of divorce and other marital issues on the development and continuation of substance abuse disorders
  • The grief that goes hand-in-hand with the loss of a child or a romantic partner
  • The pressures that go hand-in-hand with societal expectations of women, and the stressors involved in raising a family
  • Body image issues, including disordered eating patterns like anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder
  • Past sexual, physical or emotional trauma, and the development of post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Substance abuse among pregnant women

For more information on our female-specific addiction recovery groups, feel free to reach out at any point in time. While addiction is far from a one-size-fits-all disease, women can often relate to members of the same sex when it comes to a variety of the recovery-related challenges they face on a daily basis.

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Men’s Addiction Treatment Groups

While it is true that more men seek treatment on an annual basis than women, the cultural expectations placed on men make it more difficult to admit they need help. In most households, the males are expected to be self-sufficient and invulnerable while simultaneously supporting their loved ones. For this reason, they may have a difficult time identifying areas that require improvement and admitting that they need help when it comes to overcoming substance abuse disorders. It is generally far more difficult for men to openly discuss their feelings and emotions as they relate to substance abuse and dependency. Being in group therapy sessions with other men facilitates the understanding that all humans are fallible to the insidious disease of addiction, and that gender-related expectations are a barrier to recovery. Our men’s treatment groups focus on a variety of male-specific challenges that men are liable to face during early recovery.

Male-specific topics we cover in our therapeutic group sessions include:

  • Societal expectations relating to men and masculinity, and overcoming gender stereotypes and biases
  • Effectively processing emotions and reacting appropriately rather than with anger
  • Tuning in to feelings and emotions
  • An openness to receiving advice and support from members of the same sex
  • Developing and maintaining close friendships with members of the same sex
  • Understanding that participation in addiction treatment is more a sign of courage and strength than a sign of weakness

Our male-specific treatment groups are geared toward providing men of all ages with comprehensive and highly individualized care. For more information contact us today.

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Guardian IOP’s Treatment Program

At Guardian IOP our addiction treatment groups meet approximately 3-5 days a week for several hours at a time. Our locations often offer both daytime and nighttime treatment tracks, which allows individuals to find a treatment schedule that works for them. In most cases, we recommend that individuals participate in our IOP program once they have completed a higher level of care, such as a medically-monitored detox or residential inpatient addiction treatment program. However, IOP can be a standalone treatment option in some cases. If you would like to discover if our program is a good fit for you or your loved one, contact us today. Our compassionate Treatment Advisors are available 24/7 to answer your questions and help you create a strategic plan for recovery.